The Covid-19 pandemic has shaken the workplaces worldwide like never before. The months of uncertainty and the second wave of the pandemic creating further havoc, unforeseeable stretched lockdowns disrupting how organizations perform or even survive. Remote working became the new normal and the majority of the organizations were considering the hybrid work model.
Due to the pandemic like all other metrics, performance management systems also much have been thrown into this chaos. With remote working, the legacy metrics are unhelpful in the current uncertain scenario. They no longer fit the purpose and capture the disjointed realities of digital workflows.
Organizations across the world are driving to improve organizational performance regardless of the size of the organization or the industry. Managers within the organization measure performance, perhaps by comparing it against a benchmark. They analyze and assess their findings and design their controls accordingly to advance the organization’s performance.
Though managing a multinational business is different from managing owner-driven, even SME’s or start-ups, but as a business leader, one has a key responsibility for the economic performance of the business. The management of an organization is accountable to the owners of the business for the performance and the achievements of the organization. Managers can perform well and justify their authority only if they produce the desired commercial results, for instance, the profits they have desired to achieve in a period of time. Management often uses the operation’s excellence to maximize the profit, yield, utilization, and performance of the workforce. The management of an organization usually creates a measurement system to set targets for change and measure organizational performance.
Johnson, Scholes, and Whittington have rightly said, “Poor performance might be the result of an inappropriate configuration for the situation or inconsistency between structure, processes, and relationships”. The success of an organization largely depends on how well employees perform their assignments. Yet, one would not be the first one to struggle with defining what that looks like for peak performance, organizations need a workforce development approach that considers both the dynamic nature of work and the equally dynamic potential of workers to reinvent themselves. Knowing how to maximize employee potential may seem just as foggy, even while morale suffers and turnover is at peak levels. Flipping those dynamics may involve several different solutions. Before acting on one solution, it is pertinent to understand why employees are underperforming first.
WHY DO EMPLOYEES UNDERPERFORM
Every individual employee in an organization contributes to the success (or failure) of the business in some way or another. Of course, the goal is to continuously improve the quality and efficiency of your workforce. But without a clear understanding of which factors influence employee performance, it will be difficult to sustain success. The best place to start is that, when you want to know why are the employees underperforming and how to improve employee performance, and start the process of gaining an understanding. There are always valid reasons why employees do not perform at their optimal level in any organization. Once you get a handle on what is causing employees to underperform, you can target solutions to address those issues. Some reasons can be valid and hold clues for fixing those issues without recruiting replacements for some, the organization might need to take tough calls. Keeping an open mind without jumping to conclusions is always humane. The most important part is to keep the door of communication remain open to all the concerned employees so that the concerns are discussed and addressed directly.
SIX ‘CS’ TO IMPROVING EMPLOYEE PERFORMANCE
High-performing and engaged employees can take your organization to new heights. But employee performance isn’t a dial you can turn up or down at your own will. Many factors determine how productive your employees are, and they vary from position to position or even individual to individual. This makes measuring employee performance, let alone improving it, a real challenge. Here are six ideas that might help you manage and improve employees to achieve peak performance in your organization:
1. COMMUNICATING CLEAR EXPECTATIONS.
Communicating clear goals and expectations to your employees always helps you in putting things in the right perspective. The majority of employees want to be a part of a compelling future and a successful organization. They would want to know what is most important at work and what excellence would look like if they perform well. A robust performance metrics and management system empower employees to set challenging goals that are directly aligned to organizational objectives. This ensures that everyone is working towards the shared vision and are driven for the same outcomes. With trust and transparency, remote workforce monitoring will always appear to be non-intrusive and non-exploitative. For targets to be meaningful and effective in motivating employees, they must be tied to larger organizational ambitions. Making sure employees are clear about their work assignments. The organization needs to continue to manage what is expected through frequent communications. If employees can explain objectives in their own words, it is a good chance that they know what to do and how to get it done. Transparency and placement to Organizational Objectives are the keys. Hence if employees are not aware of an organization’s vision, core values, and objectives it might turn out to be a bigger implication on the organization’s success and results. As it is it becomes further pronounced in a remote working environment. With, transparency and trust, tracking can authentically be branded and experienced as data-driven workforce support. Increasingly, monitoring and measuring morale — qualitatively, as well as quantitatively — matters and has positive outcomes.
2. CONSISTENT PERFORMANCE APPRAISALS.
As a result of the uncertainty that the Covid-19 pandemic has posed on every individual life, performance management can significantly ensure employees feel that their contribution is valued. It provides some stability and motivation for moving forward. Employees will be encouraged with the adjustment in performance management processes. According to Maslow’s hierarchy of motivational factors, people will be driven to work if their targets of achievement are associated with the desired outcome. Regular and timely appraisals ensure employees know where they stand at all times. Conducting performance appraisals regularly also keeps goals at the forefront of daily tasks. Feedback is two-way communication. It is the opportunity to share opinions and find solutions. To me, it should be a daily occurrence. Creating times to have regular meetings and discussions – perhaps not waiting until performance appraisal day – to talk about areas of concern. Carrying on with the pre-pandemic performance management process without any amendments will likely lead to negative experiences for your employees and biased information to make decisions on, such as decreasing short- and long-term motivation, increasing burnout, declines in the perception of fairness, and could even result in managers holding back critical feedback. Performance evaluation and career progression can be key motivating factors for the employees to work effectively and efficiently. Thus, increasing employees and overall organizational performance. Compensation and Benefits systems should be amended so that the rewards to the employees are based on performance targets that are consistent with the requirements of the change. Employees should be rewarded for performance based on the desired behavior and results.
3. CONTINUOUS PRIORITY TO LEARNING AND DEVELOPMENT.
Every organization has its own objectives for developing employees. Learning and development have always been an important part of doing business, but practices have shifted since the pandemic. Learning and development empower employees by allowing them to improve their skill sets which can improve performance or set them up for the new challenges which they are facing due to the new ways of working. Employees will be more engaged in professional development if the process is simple and user-friendly. This will also help drive better business performance. Encouraging them to tell their own stories about what they are doing to support company strategies or embody organizational values can also be used as energizers in gloomy times. If they are, maybe also be a good time to readdress those goals and plan accordingly through the learning interventions. Working to close any skills and knowledge gaps that will not only help them achieve long-term goals but will also benefit the organization when apt skills can be utilized to help fulfill business objectives. You can support employee growth by providing education and learning opportunities, cross-training, coaching, mentoring and any other interactions that support employees’ personal development. Mentoring programs for younger workforces in remote positions will help them feel supported and part of the inclusive company culture. Success begets success.
4. CREATING A CULTURE OF EMPATHY AND COLLABORATION
According to a survey of nearly 1,500 people by the Harvard Business Review, the vast majority of us are struggling with workplace well-being as the pandemic continues to rage. Some of the key predictors of burnout are an unsustainable workload, the absence of a supportive community, and the feeling that you don’t have control over your life and work. When employees get the idea that their manager or leader is the one who has to solve all the problems, it takes away from their sense of empowerment, and ultimately is likely to decrease engagement over time. Encourage team members to take responsibility, and work through problems or issues on their own, or collaboratively. Employees who understand how their role helps the company succeed are often more willing to do their very best. Social distancing may continue to be the mantra of 2021 but it is not the case when it comes to social support. Most good organizations have adopted the “employee first” approach to the pandemic. By demonstrating concern, showing empathy, and sharing their vulnerabilities, they have maintained or sometimes even strengthened their work relationships, and productivity, and performance. With so many employees feeling such emotional exhaustion leaders and organizations must not be complacent and create a culture of empathy and resilience to build a better future for their organization.
5. CONFIDENCE-BUILDING EFFORTS TO BUILD EMPOWERED TEAMS
A confidence-building measure is an action that reflects goodwill towards your employees and hence creates an empowered team. The purpose of such measures is to lower the level of misunderstanding, tension, fear, anxiety, and conflict within your organization by emphasizing trust. One of the most important roles leaders play is to bring out the best of their teams. It is also not just building a great team, but encouraging collaboration and empowering employees. We achieve this success by helping individuals improve their confidence and make them see that their contributions and talents matter. The rewards are big—from improved employee engagement and performance to increased productivity. Confidence building at the workplace is a combination of what your employees know, what they are willing to learn, and their own internal beliefs. Empowering employees can take on many forms as they gain the authority to make decisions that have a huge impact on their success. Whether it is giving them input on goals and objectives, or allowing them to access their data without going to HR, minor roadblocks will not impede their progress. They have the resources they need, yet know they are held accountable without being micromanaged.
6. COMMISSION AND UTILIZE THE RIGHT TECHNOLOGIES.
In today’s scenario, increasingly more people are working remotely and because many companies have multiple offices, technology like zoom, Microsoft office, and other popular platforms help keep teams connected. Co-working or remote working are the buzzwords and seem like more viable options. Being able to hop on a video conference call and talk things out with a co-worker across the globe is not only incredible but decreases the chances of miscommunication that could become expensive in terms of money and time. If a team is large and spread out, leaders must provide and invest in the right technology to allow their employees to connect at the right times. “From facilitating communication across distances to utilizing new digital solutions in the workplace, the opportunities provided by technology are endless, and are positioned to harness its full potential,” Increasing workplace productivity will only be possible when the right tools are used. Organizations should get it right that the use of technology is not all about having super internet connections and hardware facilities, It requires thorough research on the kind of help that you need in your daily endeavors and the right hardware and software solutions to carry you through. Implementing and investing in technology platforms that drive performance and engagement daily is crucial for managing today’s workforce, especially if you have a decentralized employee base. Integrated solutions will greatly help improve productivity at the workplace; they help link employees especially those working from remote /different geographical locations.
The uncertainty that the Covid-19 pandemic has posed on every individual life will continue for some more time with the talks of the third wave. Waiting until your organization experiences a massive impact is the worst time to swing into action. Begin early, at the first sign of trouble, to determine the most effective ways to transform an underperforming workforce into a solid successful team. Last but not least, celebrate both financial and non-financial achievements, Employees need to feel validated and that they are a valued part of the organization. Leadership needs to show how much they care for their employees and show recognition for their efforts. It provides some stability and motivation for moving forward. Employees will be encouraged if the management shows empathy during these tough times. The pandemic taught companies many things. For one, the business environment can change overnight. So, get prepared and stay positive.
Dr Ghosal is Managing Director of Match Board (Business transformation and board practices).