Performance Management in the New Work Environment

by Rici van Schalkwyk | January 27, 2021

And then everything changed overnight…….

This sounds like the beginning of a movie or novel, but it is the reality of the global working community. No one has been left untouched by the pandemic. The effects, positive and negative, will be seen and felt for years to come.

Businesses had to adjust quickly to a distributed workforce. To protect employees and the continuity of their businesses, employers were forced to provide remote working options where possible. This sudden shift forced transformations that many business processes were not prepared for. Including performance management.

Why focus on performance management?

In a time of crisis, it is critical to protect your assets and investments. People are the biggest asset and arguably the greatest differentiator in business. It is thus crucial to maximize the investment in this asset. With the sudden shift from an office-based workforce to a remote workforce or even a hybrid workforce, performance management must adapt.

Various challenges arise due to the sudden changes. These include lack of policies, lack of personal connection, difficulty collaborating, lower employee engagement and tracking of performance measurements.

Here are a few guidelines that can be followed to ease the transition and manage performance:

Remote working policies and procedures

Developing and implementing remote working policies and procedures provide structure to the virtual environment. The policies and procedures need to clearly outline what will be expected from employees while working remotely, as well as their rights and obligations. Policies should also include privacy and confidentiality matters, and the security of company assets used at the remote location.

The understanding of these expectations can improve employee morale and productivity.

Clear objectives

Set clear objectives for employees of what the goals are. Understanding the objective and what their role is gives the employee a sense of purpose. In the remote environment it is easy to get disconnected from what the company goals are and the role of the employee in achieving these goals.

Managers need to give guidance to assist employees in prioritizing their tasks. Communicating clearly on objectives and timelines for the immediate future creates deliverables and tasks that can be completed. This will give employees a sense of purpose and achievement.

Frequent team meetings

Schedule frequent meetings with the immediate team. The regular interactions with employees keep them connected and engaged.

Frequent team meetings provide the opportunity for planning, prioritizing, status updates, clarifying objectives, enhancing collaboration and early detection of challenges. It provides the platform for employees to engage with one-another, learning about each other’s challenges, providing solutions, and thus building trust. A short structured daily team meeting is an undervalued performance management tool.

Weekly Check-Ins

Have a weekly scheduled one-on-one check-in with every member of your team. This is a quick check-in on the employee’s wellbeing, priorities, workload, and challenges for the coming week. It provides the opportunity for them to ask questions, raise concerns or voice development needs. It also allows to course correct when it is needed.

The conversation is forward looking and focused on development. These check-ins make the employee feel valued and part of something bigger.

Coaching approach

Adopt a coaching approach to performance management. With a coaching mindset performance management will focus on the needs and strengths of the employees and their performance objectives. Assisting the employee to set SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time bound) goals and apply the GROW model (Goal, Reality, Options, Will) on their performance objectives, greatly improve success.

Each conversation thus becomes a coaching platform for development. The coaching approach provides the foundation for the support, encouragement and accountability needed for sustainable performance growth for each employee.

Skill set development

Analyse the skills gap in your workforce. There are various online platforms that provide training to improve employee skill sets. This allows for customized development plans for employees. Remote working creates the flexibility and reduced cost options that is difficult to accomplish with on-location training.

Values, understanding and trust

The key to successful performance management in the new work environment is trust and understanding. Employees are more productive and motivated when the work environment is supportive, trustworthy, and respectful. This starts with the core values of the business. When the core values are reflected in the everyday work of leaders and remote workers, the business is successful and will outperform the industry.

When working at an office, employees physically leave their home life. Remote working does not allow this physical separation of work and home. This creates distractions, new challenges, and a feeling of being unproductive but always busy working. Employees need to feel trusted and supported. Some level of understanding should be provided to assist with the transition into the new working environment. If employees need more support, employers can connect them with the right resources.

Performance management can be a difficult task regardless of the location of the workforce, but the new working environment provides opportunities for a new generation of performance management tools.

As Winston Churchill said: ‘Never let a good crisis go to waste.’


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