What Performance Management Trends are You Noticing in the New Normal?

Dave Mortell

The prevalence of remote work in 2021 and beyond requires leaders to adapt how they work with their people. The question, of course, is how you can make that happen?

Let’s explore some of today’s biggest challenges and discuss how they’re impacting performance management and HR.

The New Remote Landscape

Though telework has been around for years, it was generally limited to short periods and a limited number of remote employees. However, spring and summer of 2020 presented a complete shift in how we work—company offices became vacant, travel was halted and many workers transitioned to working remotely on a full-time basis.

This new remote culture has changed how employees interact with colleagues and managers. Water cooler talk is no longer a thing. It’s a lot harder for managers to track sentiment and behavior when communications are email-only. Annual reviews are a lot more challenging, too, because you haven’t seen an employee in months.

Naturally, fully remote work has presented a different look at performance management. With less direct communication and conversation between co-workers, superiors, and direct reports, it’s a lot harder to track some of a performance review’s underlying components. Pair this with the ongoing dissatisfaction with traditional performance management and companies are facing an inflection point.

The Biggest Challenges of Remote Work

For many organizations, the traditional performance management approach was convenient—with an appraisal of each employee once or twice a year. As a manager, you document what you would like to change or improve, use this information to create an annual review rating, and designate a day to speak with the reviewee. Then you use all of that information to determine compensation, employment status, development plans, and organizational talent analyses.

It’s convenient, it’s cost-effective, and it’s heavily embedded into your company. It helps you establish company goals, standardize expectations and identify room for improvement.

The traditional performance management process is also found to be demotivating by management and employees and is considered ineffective by HR managers. It ignores what’s on the horizon and focuses on backward-looking performance, making it challenging to build a holistic and accurate review. This ultimately creates a stressful environment for all those involved.

Criticism of annual performance reviews is not a new phenomenon—it’s taken a new normal to bring this methodology’s weaknesses into the spotlight. With fewer in-person interactions, it’s a lot harder to track engagement, solicit feedback or understand whether your people are aligned.

The Rise of Ongoing and Informal Reviews

To address this, many companies have decided to look beyond the traditional (and highly criticized) annual review. Instead, organizations are using the current landscape to increase the frequency of reviews to stay connected with employees.

Ongoing, informal reviews are becoming more popular as part of a larger continuous engagement initiative. Not only do they provide recognition at a time when employees are worried about the future but also they rely on up-to-date and future-looking information. At a time when HR managers are making tough decisions and management teams are seeking increased productivity, shorter review timeframes can provide companies with a clearer picture of their business.

How Companies Benefit from Check-ins and Continuous Feedback

Though there are many reasons to embrace the quarterly review model or replace formal reviews with more frequent check-ins or 1:1 performance meetings, the following reasons stand out:

Reduce Employee Angst – Maybe you’ve heard the phrase "scared chickens don’t lay eggs." As employees read about recessions, businesses being shut down and more, they need you to lead. Your team wants to know things are moving smoothly and that the business is going to be around.

Provide Recognition – 69 percent of employees say they would work harder if they felt their efforts were better recognized. Recognition is the number one way to inspire great work. How long does this feeling of recognition last? Not long—certainly not a whole year. A shift from annual reviews to more frequent ones can deliver this recognition and increase engagement.

Increase Accountability – It’s a lot harder to keep track of your employees when they’re not around the office. Accountability and engagement are intertwined here. But it’s a lot easier for a disengaged employee to deliver just enough when there are limited person-to-person discussions. This is doubly so when said employee knows that they won’t have to answer this until review season. With shorter timeframes and less formality, you can develop a clearer picture of accountability and engagement.

New Tools Deliver Efficiency, Transparency, and Accuracy

For better or worse, the early stages of the pandemic changed the way employees worked and communicated. Although you may have read about or even experienced "Zoom burnout," many have found that the new communications tools used to manage the move to work from home provided a wide range of benefits:

More Efficient and Effective Communications – Rather than taking time out of your day to meet or discuss projects, a well-built message board or corporate social media platform allows employees to communicate more quickly and effectively.

More Transparent Communications – The home is now the office. The virtual water cooler conversation leaves room for more discussion areas and at least one friendship has formed over mutual interests discovered by a Zoom background. Simply put, it’s easier to broaden the conversation and understand how employees are doing because you’re both in a more personal setting.

More Informed Employees – The implementation of new communications tools has presented companies with another benefit—it’s easier to share information. Now, rather than a disconnected process of pushing down information, internal communications have become timelier and more transparent.

Though 2020 has introduced you to new platforms, companies have provided more communication channels to employees for years. The only difference is that instead of simply looking at or using the tools, your employees rely on them. As these platforms become more deeply embedded, this new normal will provide your staff with more fluid and accurate communications.

Rising Focus on Engagement Provides Outstanding Results

2020 has presented a lot of unprecedented challenges for companies and their employees, and it might have been the shock to the system that leaders needed. With new tools in place and a new focus on connection with employees, many businesses have found opportunities for improvement that were previously overlooked.

From communications to performance management, HR is creating new programs built to facilitate conversations, encourage connection, and build engagement—often seeing outstanding results. According to Best Place to Work data meta-analysis, 2020 has seen employee engagement skyrocket, up 11 percent over the high water mark set in 2019.

In fact, the survey from Josh Bersin notes that 83 percent of employees feel better supported by management, 77 percent feel their organization is providing up-to-date and transparent communications and has found that engagement programs are working.

More Work to Do: Engagement Programs Need Continued Improvement

There’s still a lot of work on the horizon. Getting from adjusting to the new normal to advancing your business into it will require a mentality that shifts and accommodates change. Now is the time to focus on engagement program results and implement new methods focused on morale.

The Role of Continuous Feedback in Performance Management, Employee Engagement, and Morale

With communication taking place more efficiently, information being shared more transparently and check-ins becoming more frequent, a focus on continuous engagement can deliver results. Feedback and recognition connect employees and managers, establishes a common goal and connects processes, helping your organization:

Solidify and reinforce connections between managers and employees. When feedback and recognition are provided by indirect managers or across departments, previously unknown insights emerge, helping your employees feel valued and motivated (especially if they are working between different departments or clinical facilities).

Take noticeable steps toward a workplace culture where others are not only recognized but heard.

Increase engagement with the talent platform(s) you’re already invested in.

Gauge how your employees are doing by implementing employee pulse surveys. These surveys can help employees share where they are professionally and personally. The companies can also use them to find ways to recognize employee dedication and hard work when the lines are blurred between work and home.

Cornerstone and Educe: Learning, Thriving and Performing

Performance Management has always been a challenge. But with recent events, many have risen to this challenge.

Much like the transition to work in the new normal, the operating landscape will require the right tools, tactics and processes to get where you want to be. If you’re looking to put your business in a position for long-term success, Cornerstone and the Educe Group can help. By relying on a leading service provider to implement one of the world’s most powerful talent management platforms, you can empower your users and make the most of your Cornerstone investment.

As a Cornerstone partner for over five years, Educe helps organizations at every level better understand and fully leverage Cornerstone’s powerful talent management capabilities.

To keep learning more about emerging performance management trends, watch this video of Stacie Grasberger, associate at The Educe Group, and Hendrik Thomas, senior product manager at Cornerstone, discussing what you can do to be prepared for these trends and how to handle their challenges.

Contact us to learn more about how Educe can help you make the most of your Cornerstone investment.



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