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Stuart Hearn

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Five trends that will steer performance success in 2019


How will HR practitioners looking to stay ahead of the curve evolve their performance management strategy in 2019?

Regardless of whether an organisation has five or 5,000 employees, ensuring that these people are engaged and performing well is critically important to overall outcomes.

According to Gallup, a staggering 87% of employees around the world are not engaged. With this concerning statistic in mind, and given unemployment is currently low and demand for skills is rising, businesses that are not optimising both employee engagement and people performance will need to act fast or risk losing market share.

Now that the new year has arrived – a time when many HR professionals look to forge new strategic approaches and plans for the year ahead – here are five trends that we can expect to see top of the performance management agenda in 2019:  

1. A shift from engagement to performance and productivity

At the UNLEASH conference in October 2018, Josh Bersin explained how HR technology is evolving from its beginnings as an employee engagement measurement tool to its now more active role in optimising performance and productivity.

There is now an abundance of engagement technology available and, indeed, adoption of this technology has risen dramatically over the last few years – a wholly positive step forward for the HR industry. This isn’t enough though.

Now that HR teams have so much more insight into employee engagement levels within their organisations, the next step needs to be taking informed action to make performance improvements where and when needed.  

According to Gallup, the biggest factor in engagement is the employee’s manager. As such, organisations need to invest in better performance management techniques (most often tech-led) as these will support managers with managing their people in a more optimal way that empowers them to self-motivate, perform better and be more productive.

Engagement is important, but is has to positively impact performance and productivity too.

2. The combination of frequent feedback with coaching

Although some HR commentators and software providers have recently suggested that giving employees frequent feedback is the ‘silver bullet’ for effective performance management, it’s clear that frequent feedback alone does not result in high performance.

It needs to be combined with regular coaching conversations whereby the employee and manager can pause and reflect on the feedback that has been given, and then draw out learnings and areas for development. Combining conversations and coaching will encourage better performance in both the short and long term.

3. More meaningful conversations

The words ‘meaningful’ and ‘human’ are being used more and more in discussions about performance, and that’s a great thing because it shows that the HR industry is lending increased weight to the need for authenticity and honest communication and coaching.

Legacy performance management technology is failing to achieve this, primarily because it focuses on data capture and measurement rather than guiding managers on how to have effective conversations.

Encouragingly, new performance management technology is changing this for the better.

4. Further focus on employee wellbeing

Employee wellbeing strategies and initiatives have become increasingly prevalent in recent years, and that’s no surprise with research showing that people are more stressed now than ever before.

To tackle this, forward thinking organisations are including wellbeing questions within their regular employee and manager performance conversations to ensure any mental health concerns and/or workplace stress can be identified and addressed early on – early intervention being the key to avoiding dips in performance and productivity.

5. Acceleration of AI adoption and machine learning

You’d have to have been living under a rock for the past couple of years not to know that artificial intelligence (AI) is having a huge impact in the HR industry, with significant innovation creating an exciting technology-led future for the industry.

In 2019, attention will turn to AI within performance management, and for organisations that have made the move to continuous conversations and feedback, AI will be used to draw actionable insights from large amounts of qualitative data.

Although in the early stages of adoption, some HR innovators are not only already using AI for performance improvement, but gaining real business benefits from it too.

New opportunities on this front include coaching employees and managers in real-time based on feedback, and being able to predict future high performers based on patterns arising from the content of feedback being requested and received, as well as goals being set and achieved.


One Response

  1. Hi Stuart
    Hi Stuart
    Thank you for your article. You are absolutely right: a lot of employees are not engaged and they are more stressed than ever before. In my opinion employee wellbeing is one of the mightiest instruments to change this. It is a matter of course that wellbeing is not yoga and mindfulness sessions only but it encompasses culture, meaningful work, fun, esteem and recognition (to name but a few).
    I referenced and linked your article in my blog post

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Stuart Hearn

Founder & CEO

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