Ina Opperman

By Ina Opperman

Business Journalist

How companies can do performance management in hybrid times

Our way of work has changed, so are performance management systems still efficient, and are they even necessary?

Performance management in hybrid times, where people split their time between working at home and office, has become a very important issue for employers and employees as our world of work changed tremendously over the past three years.

Now the question is whether performance management systems are still in place and are they even necessary?

Organisations do performance management to drive organisational outcomes, improve performance on the present job, provide for employee development, reward high performance, strengthen the relationship between managers and employees, provide management with current data for use in its organisational planning and provide performance feedback for employees.

“Companies have performance management systems in place to get better results from the organisation, its teams and individuals by understanding and managing performance within an agreed framework of planned goals, objectives and standards,” Penny Petrou, general manager for the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal, and Christine Janse van Rensburg, executive director at 21st Century, say.

But what if?

Covid-19 has changed the way of work with most companies adopting a hybrid model for some of their employees, but are their performance management policies, procedures and practices updated to accommodate these changes?

Are annual or bi-annual performance reviews sufficient for employees to succeed in their current roles and achieve the company’s goals and strategy?

“In the past, performance management systems were fixed around predetermined key performance areas (KPAs) and timelines, but now these systems need to be more flexible and adaptable as our environment as well as people have evolved,” Petrou says.

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Remote working and performance management

Janse van Rensburg adds that people are no longer required to come to the office daily and many are feeling disengaged.

“Performance management needs to be more flexible, personalised and more frequent. A company can only succeed if it has the right people with the right attitude working towards a common goal. People are the number one success factor to any company succeeding.”

Factors that determine a robust successful new performance management system? Janse van Rensburg and Petrou say companies must:

  • Re-evaluate KPAs and determine if they are still valid or need to be realigned.
  • Determine if KPAs measure outputs or input, as people can no longer be measured on the hours spent at the office.
  • See if the job descriptions are updated or realigned to the new way of work.
  • Set clear objectives that speak to the individual’s end goals as well as those of the company.
  • Set CSMART goals: Challenging, Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Relevant and Time-bound.
  • Focus on quality and regular performance conversations to facilitate engagement, purpose and performance.
  • Provide regular feedback, which is very important as traditionally in the past, it was one-sided with the manager evaluating the employee’s performance. Now performance reviews need to shift to being more conversational with a two-way conversation taking place between managers and employees, using the sandwich technique where the manager mentions areas in need of improvement in the employee’s work between positive aspects.
  • Be aware and show interest in the employee’s individual circumstances and experience.
  • Include personal development plans in the conversation, offer help and provide coaching and mentoring where required.
  • Trust their employees that they are doing what they are supposed to be doing.

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Why is performance management important?

“Performance management is vital for companies to succeed as employees need to have direction and be recognised for their work. In addition, it is extremely important to engage employees that understand how they fit into the ‘bigger picture’,” Janse van Rensburg says. 

“This will result in retention and encourage growth. Employees want to feel like they belong and with the hybrid model, it is easy to miss out on achieving that sense of belonging and the performance management review sessions are import if a company wants to succeed financially,” Petrou says.

“Jack Welch said there are only three measurements that tell you nearly everything you need to know about your organisation’s overall performance: employee engagement, customer satisfaction and cash flow. It goes without saying that no company, small or large, can win over the long run without energised employees who believe in the mission and understand how to achieve it.”

Performance management can be a strategic tool for managers to achieve exactly this, they say.

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