How performance management may change in the post-Covid era

Whether it is a good or a bad time, performance has to be documented and feedback has to be given. How different can the approach be?

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The Covid-19 virus has been a game changer and a disruptor. It’s unprecedented, and has forced us to relook at the way we live and the way we work.

Going by the same rule, it will also influence the way performance is managed.

Recently, a friend who works for one of the large management consultants shared, that during the pre-appraisal meeting, the team leaders were asked to be considerate with the ratings while appraising their team members—the reason being, work from home is tough on everyone. While many may be trying their best to deliver, sometimes, the results are just not visible enough. Employees may also find it difficult to highlight their work or be vocal about it.

Companies may defer salaries and increments, but performance appraisal is bound to happen. As Anil Mishra, CHRO, Magicbricks, says, “Whether it is a good or a bad time, performance has to be documented and feedback has to be given. Everybody deserves to know how they performed in a certain time period.”

The question is how different can it be?

Managers will re-craft goals to suit the current crisis

Employees will not be judged on their functional responsibilities alone. The situation at the moment is different. Not all roles have work and most have much less load than they would have had on a usual workday. Moreover, in many cases, employees are going out of their way to support the organisation.

Anil Misra

Everybody knows what they are expected to do. Even during this lockdown period, in functions such as HR, everybody has been pushed very hard to quantify productivity

 

Rohit Kumar, CHRO, Kellogg India and South Asia, explains how employees in sales are now supporting supply-chain management to ensure last-mile delivery to retailers. Also, employees in the plants, who work in the assembly line are helping out with loading and unloading of goods as they are short staffed.

On the other hand, employees may be asked to take on more, in case they have the time to do so. For instance, the talent acquisition department will not have a full day’s work at the moment. Leaders may ask them to work on building a pipeline and identify 50 potentials instead of the five they would have probably done in a month. This is also a way to measure the efficacy of the employees. “Everybody knows what they are expected to do. Even during this lockdown period, in functions such as HR, everybody has been pushed very hard to quantify productivity,” adds Mishra.

Compassion and empathy will play a role

While measuring performance, trust and accountability will be the newfound values organisations will incorporate.

However, Mishra also points out that there has to be a clear demarcation between a personal and professional approach. A manager can be humane and empathetic to his colleagues, but will still have to take strong decisions, which may not be in favour of the employees. Professionally, even a close friend and team member may have to be let go of, but personally, the manager will have to give him a few leads for his next job.

Passive and retro-active workers will stick out like sore thumbs

In every industry, no matter what the functional responsibility, every worker is playing a business role. This is because, organisations across sectors are focussing on staying afloat and on moving forward, an inch at a time. There are instances of employees going above and beyond their call of duty, to make the lives of their superiors easier and support the business.

There are also employees who will not venture beyond their silos to lend a helping hand even though they have a lot less on their plate than others. At a time when companies are dependent on proactivity, people who have chosen not to go the extra mile may be questioned on their contribution and this will reflect on their appraisal.

Feedback? Yes. Increments? Maybe

Due to the current business reality, organisations are not equipped to dole out increments, promotions or bonuses as per performance. This is the time for administrative decisions— such as promotions to be taken care of —and most organisations will be grappling with the issue. While these decisions may be deferred, the feedback process, in itself, will continue.

Rohit Kumar

The decisions will rest on the management on how to be more economical, and also reinforce talent at the same time

 

Magicbricks, which usually announces promotions and bonuses around April, has deferred the process till later in the year. However, feedback on performance is ongoing. “We have not stopped the annual performance-management process, because if we delay it, then the objectivity suffers. Moreover, managers may not remember who performed how after two or three months,”explains Mishra.

It depends on the industry as well. For instance, the aviation sector will not go through with promotions or increments, as paying regular salaries itself has become a huge challenge. However, businesses, which are running, will have a tougher time as they are not yet running on full steam. “The decisions will rest on the management on how to be more economical, and also reinforce talent at the same time,” elucidates Kumar.

Whatever is happening, is going to last for some time. As the way of doing business and the manner of working change, the way of evaluating the work does too.

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