Even before the coronavirus pandemic fundamentally changed how we work, the way leaders motivated employees and looked to positively impact performance was changing. The annual performance review has lost its lustre, with a Mercer survey finding that only 2% of HR leaders believe their current performance management programmes are effective. Instead, many organisations are turning to continuous performance management.

With a focus on frequent feedback, recognition, goal-setting, and check-ins, ongoing performance management is also now the perfect framework for supporting employees in these difficult times. Here are the best ways to use this framework most effectively:

1.   Positivity

Gratitude, trust, and a positive outlook are at the heart of effective performance management. The most comprehensive way to bolster these attributes in the workplace is through a social recognition programme, which allows employees to recognise each other’s work and show their appreciation for a job well done through a social platform. In turn, trust increases as employees feel comfortable sharing feedback with their colleagues and managers through a positive, shared experience.

Some other ways to enhance this positivity, particularly during this pandemic, include checking in with employees on a regular basis and putting an emphasis at the beginning of the meeting on what’s gone well this week. In the same vein, start video conferences with a moment of gratitude or by sharing an uplifting anecdote that sets the tone. Don’t forget to keep in mind that many people find this period challenging, so be sure to balance enthusiasm with the realities of what employees could be facing.

2.   Flexible goals

Business certainly isn’t as usual. As organisations evolve top-level strategies and long-term plans to survive these challenging times, managers should help employees navigate the changes. On the performance and productivity side, this means realistically adjusting goals to fit evolving strategies and external impacts on work.

Indeed, employee targets must take into consideration how the coronavirus pandemic has impacted employees’ work. With many working remotely, productivity and engagement are in flux as people juggle home and work life. Look to adjust goals accordingly, even reassigning tasks or adjusting priorities. When it comes to individual goals, organisations need to be in sync with their employees, checking in with them frequently to ensure personal and organisational goals align.

3.   Frequent check-ins

An increase in remote work has had many ripple effects, one of which is that many employees are starting to feel a sense of isolation without the usual office camaraderie and water-cooler chat. For managers, it’s vital to check in frequently with employees, whether over video, phone, or email, not only to scope out how they’re coping with their workload, but also to keep an eye on their mental well-being. If you sense someone might be struggling, don’t shy away from empathy and look at ways you can help, whether adjusting their workload or giving them someone to talk to.

Simply asking “How are you,” “What’s gone well this week for you,” or having a quick discussion about goals that might have changed can make all the difference to an employee who may be feeling the pangs of isolation, anxiety, or burnout. Since these emotions can negatively affect productivity and engagement, and ultimately impact the organisation’s ability to thrive, managers need to be equipped to navigate the stress employees are under as part of the check-in. For HR leaders, provide managers with guidance on how best to handle tricky subjects so everyone feels heard.

4.   Uplifting feedback

Understandably, many people worry about the uncertainty COVID-19 has brought about. So, when it comes to reviewing performance, now might not be the best time for continuous constructive feedback, especially since it can evoke a fight-or-flight response in some people.

Instead, managers should work on building trust and engagement with individuals and teams through friendly check-ins, adjustable goals, and frequent recognition. Nudge employees toward self-reflection and getting feedback from peers on their performance, as this not only reduces the stress involved when getting feedback, but it also empowers workers to take control of their own development.

5. Employee-focused leaders

Employee morale and organisational success go hand-in-hand, especially in these uncertain times. If leaders can make sure their employees are able to bring their best selves to work, then this can only mean good things for the business. As we emerge from the current crisis, this will hopefully mean a change for the better when it comes to manager-employee relationships.

Indeed, as the world of work changes around us, leaders are recognising the power of happy, healthy employees. The future workplace will hopefully be one with employee-focused leaders who recognise we’re all in this together.

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