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What Performance Management Trends Can Leaders Implement in the New Normal?
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What Performance Management Trends Can Leaders Implement in the New Normal?

Dave Mortell

MARCH 25, 2021

The past year has left an indelible mark on the workplace. Employee relationships are changing, goals have to be reset and companies have relied on an increasing number of communication channels. How has this changed the way we work? How can managers take steps to lead employees through the continued change?

After discussing some of the most common trends noticed by leaders navigating the new normal—an increase in ongoing and informal reviews, a broadening variety of communication styles and channels, and a diversifying selection of engagement programs—we’re pivoting our attention to succeeding in this environment.

Whether it’s through rethinking the way you measure employee morale, increasing the number of check-ins with employees, or implementing new systems to understand performance or recalibrate goals, how you adapt to the new normal requires HR leaders to go beyond the traditional practices that worked in an office environment.

So here’s how can you adapt your day-to-day, week-to-week and month-to-month initiatives to increase engagement, performance and morale.

Focus on Employee Morale Management

In general, employees thrive on stability—and a stable office can go a long way to keeping morale from dropping. Changes—ranging from a small update to the break policy to a major shift in the business model—can be a distraction, or worse, a detriment.

The Unending Pace of Change in Employee Morale and Engagement

Throughout 2020, studies have shown a roller coaster of engagement and morale. Scroll through Gallup polls, and you’ll see a historic drop in employee engagement a month after they report a historic rise and twenty days before they report that employee engagement has hit an all-time high.

This continued roller coaster in engagement is likely paired with the adjustment but also demonstrates an incredibly volatile environment. Job stability continues to be a concern even with a recovering economy. Work-life balance has become a challenge when work and life happen in the same location. And even after six months, some of your employees might not be used to having to move the office so they can eat dinner.

But morale concerns among management and employees go a lot deeper. Has someone gotten cut off in a Zoom call because the interrupter was oblivious to the conversation? Worse, has someone taken credit for a project because of the challenge in team tracking? Is an employee still panicking over an email that looked a bit more curt than normal?

Rumination over negative emotional stress lasts a lot longer than the fleeting emotional bump that comes from praise.

Focusing on Morale: More Important Today Than Ever

As a leader, finding ways to keep morale steady and growing is more important than ever. Employees will remember if they weren’t treated as well as they deserved. And if they were, they’ll be the first on the way out.

That’s why a focus on employee morale today can go a long way to not only bring the most out of your staff but keep them productive throughout the recovery and return to normalcy. That said, you can’t manage without measurement—and your job is to understand whose morale is trending in which direction.

As the employment landscape continues to shift, employers should explore new, virtual ways to motivate and engage their employees. Whether it’s helping your employees spotlight and discuss the things they’re passionate about, reinvigorating focus on mentorship, or establishing smarter two-way communication, every small step in the right direction helps keep morale up.

The Power of Check-Ins

Companies that move from scheduled and formal review processes to informal check-ins and continuous performance management can reduce stress and increase performance.

Check-ins are designed to provide informal and growth-focused guidance to employees. Part of an initiative focused on continuous performance management, check-ins can keep recognition in the mind of employees, make employees feel more welcome and help show a tighter connection between employee activities and company goals.

The Anatomy of a Check-In

While they vary by organization, check-ins are typically informal performance conversations initiated by either the manager or the employee. Relying on a shorter timeframe than annual or even quarterly reviews, both employees and managers can upload documentation and track progress easily—without the recency bias or anxiety that goes into the alternative.

In turn, a move to provide check-ins give employees a platform to ask for help and discuss concerns and frustrations directly with their manager.

How to Shift from Formal to Frequent

Understandably, the thought of unscheduled and informal discussions might petrify managers and employees alike, but a well-communicated and well-sold shift can show everyone why frequency can benefit both sides.

By communicating the positive aspects to the employees and upper management, you can increase the likelihood of buy-in and adoption, while beginning to push this strategy towards larger continuous engagement strategies.

Recalibrating KPIs and Goals

Along with the increased focus on check-ins and engagement, you’ll need to rethink what this all means as well. Though the traditional performance review process relied on large initiatives, it left a lot to be desired when it came to the progress and growth that companies need from employees.

These smaller goals must be easy to set and aligned with the company initiatives. Not only will this help employees see a light at the end of the tunnel, but the increased number of check-ins will also help them understand how their work impacts the company.

Aligning Goals: Your Path to Engagement

With one of the biggest reasons for disengagement being a feeling of disconnection, your ability to link tasks to goals without micromanaging employees can put both sides of a check-in on better footing.

As discussed in the Educe Group whitepaper Transforming Performance Management,

"The purpose of goal alignment is to showcase how each employee in an organization is directly affecting the firm. This creates synergy within a company as individuals work collectively toward a common objective. It also ensures that employees create relevant goals that are meaningful to the organization. Providing visibility into what is important to the company and how the individual can contribute, assures the employee that the work they are doing is meaningful."

A New Approach to Measurement

The increase in the frequency of check-ins should be paired with a move from big-time to bite-sized. Managers and employees will explore the small steps in the right direction that each can take to achieve long-term goals.

To achieve this, you need to move away from traditional, stuffy, measurement metrics. Key performance indicators (KPIs) are designed to combine a variety of data points into metrics that highlight not only basic performance but the underlying drivers of it as well. This helps management understand the actions employees are taking and helps them better coach employees.

Cornerstone and Educe: Learning, Thriving and Performing

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

But much like the transition to work in the new normal, the landscape for operating in it 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 out of your Cornerstone investment.

As a Cornerstone partner for over 5 years, the Educe Group helps organizations at every level better understand and fully leverage Cornerstone’s powerful talent management capabilities.

To keep learning more about preparing for emerging performance management trends, watch this video of Stacie Grasberger, associate at The Educe Group, and Hendrik Thomas, senior product manager at Cornerstone, discussing how shifting your organization to a continuous performance review process can prepare you for any new trend.

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

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