As the global economy is struggling to cope, we can already feel the impact on key business and people processes. While hardships are encountered at various levels, Human Resources (HR) is no exception. HR is pulled in several directions, from managing communications and crisis response and planning to maintain some level of continuity in business operations.

The business performance of the organization is going to have a direct impact on salary hikes, bonus payout, new hires, talent retention, and so on.

Is Performance Evaluation Necessary During the Pandemic

The question on the minds of many employers is about how to evaluate performance and manage appraisals at a time when economic ripples are being felt constantly. This comes in the light of several giants taking a wait and watch approach.

Companies such as Google have confirmed that they will be delaying performance reviews and promotions due to the pandemic whereas  Apollo Tyres has announced that its top management will take a cut in compensation in the range of 15% to 25% while Air India to has announced a reduction in allowances.

Employees are stressed, separated, and challenged to do more with less and thus require greater insight into how they are doing. Performance evaluation is a great way in this direction.

However, the evaluation must inspire and motivate in order to engage the employee better. In order to do this, organizations must remember that pre-COVID-19 workplace analytics is no longer the correct fit. Recalibrating Key Performance Indicators (KPI) are essential for the new normal.

Performance Evaluation During the Pandemic – Steps to Success

Be Proactive and Maintain Transparency

The onus lies with the employer to be proactive and maintain transparency with regard to issues such as the current state of finances, sales, and profitability of the business.  It will help to justify any adjustments/compensation made while keeping the workforce engaged and motivated. 

Discussion Related to Appraisal Should Not Be Put on Hold

Talking about incentives and appraisals can help keep employees motivated and engaged.

Revise Deliverables

The goals and objectives of almost every organization have had to be rethought and revised in the face of the COVID 19 pandemic. It is therefore only fair for the employees’ objectives and priorities to be modified in keeping with these challenging times. 

Reflect on the Purpose

Focus on resilience and the ability to adapt rather than only weeding out poor performers. The purpose should focus on strengthening your organization’s culture and reinforcing its values. How the company treats its employees during a time of crisis will make or break an organization. 

Approach the Review with Empathy

Managers need to bear in mind while giving feedback that not all employees are on the same footing and might have faced different hardships. This could be in the form of health issues of family members or care of elderly family members due to altered work situations, or a woman having to manage dual duties of home and office due to the hardships imposed by a lockdown. 

Recognition and Rewards

Effective recognition can work in wonderful ways to motivate employees to perform better.  Many employees are today working longer hours, covering for their colleagues who are unwell and submitting their work well before deadlines.

Such instances should be recognized and acknowledged. If monetary rewards are not possible in the present circumstances, public acknowledgment, tokens of appreciation, or options for upskilling can be given out. 

Get Face to Face

Conducted performance evaluation discussions over a video call. This allows the manager and the employee to look out for visual cues as to how the interaction is progressing and make necessary adjustments if/where required. Since this is the best time to focus on growth and appreciation of work done, it should be conducted with care and thought.

It is extremely important to remember and set the expectation that this performance appraisal exercise is unusual and does not set a precedent.

End on an Upbeat Note

If the performance appraisal ends on a negative note, the employee might be nervous with regards to job security, making him less productive and he will by no means have an outlet for sharing his concerns on account of working from home.  Therefore end these discussions a positive note to boost your team member’s self-esteem and performance. 

Follow Up in Writing

Put down in writing all that was discussed especially if sensitive topics such as salary and bonus are discussed. There should be no ambiguity about the commitments made on behalf of the organization or from the employee

Performance Appraisals in Future

Since work from home seems to be the new normal for the foreseeable future it might be a good idea for organizations to think about how they want this exercise to shape up in the future. An important point for consideration could be shorter more frequent appraisals which give a better chance for making adjustments and recalibrating working styles.

Evolving Role of Managers

Great managers have always been invaluable more so in the current scenario. The COVID 19 situation dictates that managers need to quickly evolve from mere managers to coach/mentor.

Discussing points of improvement just once or twice in a year which existed in the pre COVID scenario no longer holds good. It is becoming increasingly evident that employees, their managers, and the whole organization need help and from one another. 

Managers must learn to equip, inspire, and enable employees with ongoing coaching conversations. This can be a great opportunity for those managers who have not established a rapport with their team, to set right.

In a survey conducted by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), it was found that amongst the various aspects of performance management, aligning performance metrics to the new environment was one of the highest-rated factors for HR to consider along with engagement and learning and development.

Their findings suggest that a crisis is a perfect time to recalibrate the performance management systems to the long term business goals of the organization. 

It is very critical to ensure that employees feel equipped to adapt to both their daily work and long term business goals to the new situation as well as a mission to work towards.

Changing the performance management philosophy to align with the changing times and adopting a performance management software that enables the organization to do this becomes critical for organizations to continue to succeed.