Performance Management

Performance Management: Traditional approach challenged by Covid-19

A collaboration between Karlien Kruger: HR practitioner and Mpumelelo Mthembu: Research practitioner 

The onset of COVID-19 redefined the world of work.  Organisations and teams are now mostly working remotely, providing new challenges in managing individual and organisational performance. 

Traditional Approach

Traditionally perceptions about work performance were formed on the physical presence of employees.  Employees arriving at work early and leaving late were perceived to be better performers.  In the pre-COVID world of work, Managers often articulated this as the reasons to motivate for salary adjustments and incentives for such employees.  The perception being that those who spend long hours at work were the better performers.

The Lockdown

During the COVID lockdown many Managers confessed to being frustrated when they were unable to immediately contact employees, when employees did not answer their phones or respond to text messages immediately.  The attitude being that employees are supposed to be at work from 8 am to 5 pm and therefore they should be available during those hours and, in some cases, even after hours.

Remote Work

The idea of remote work has long since been discussed, but a clearer need to understand how to manage remote work was forced upon business with the onset of the COVID-19 virus.  This leaves the question whether employers now understand that their attitudes towards measuring employees’ performance need to change? 

Many an employee and Manager commented that their productivity and performance increased during the lockdown period.  When asked why, they noted that they do not loose time travelling to work and from meeting-to-meeting as they are conducting most meetings online, indicating that meetings were more focused and productive. 

If 75% of the workday is spent on online meetings, when is the physical work actually done?  When asked about this, answers from Managers are vague, indicating once again, that meetings are a gauge of productivity and performance.

Similarly, employees commented that their personal and work lives have now combined into a big blur of activity as they struggle to obtain work-life balance.  Whilst employees view the freedom to work independently as an opportunity to take responsibility for their own performance and to produce high quality work in the planned timeframes, they are required to better plan their days, weeks and months.

Thus, it forces us to re-examine how performance is measured, especially since employees are not necessarily physically present. The systems, preparation and planning of business, organisation and individual performance therefore needs to be investigated, together with the impact of various organisational, team and job linkages and interdepencies.

Conclusion

The world of work has changed forever.  Managers and employees must change their attitudes towards measuring performance, rising above the traditional perceptions of physical presence as a requirement.  It requires of Managers and employees alike to approach the preparation and planning of performance measurement with emotional intelligence and maturity.

Performance Management: Much more than just a once a year …

A collaboration between Karlien Kruger: HR practitioner and Mpumelelo Mthembu: Research practitioner 

The efficacy of performance measurement is often questioned. Organisations often experience major resistance to performance management systems, due to employees harbouring negative sentiments informed by prior experiences. 

The Mundane Tool

Employees view the annual performance review as a mundane tool wielded once a year with the intent to deny them salary adjustment / increases and/or bonuses. The experience becomes a scarring tug of war between management and employees because of the differing perceptions in what individual ratings should be.

Bearing in mind that employees see their performance ratings as the main driver of remuneration-related and other decisions, can performance management be utilised in a manner that is viewed as a positive and true performance driving process?

The Purpose

An understanding of the purpose of managing performance and how it links to business strategy is critical for a positive experience for individuals.  Taking into consideration that making those linkages and understanding the interdependencies is not always easy at the lower levels of an organisation. 

Management’s ability to communicate these linkages and interdependencies is critical to create a positive and well received performance management system.  Often, employees are unsure or do not understand how their individual performance affects the team, the organization and ultimately the business performance. 

Performance management systems are used for a multitude of reasons

  • Pay reviews
  • Bonuses / incentives
  • Poor performance management

For these reasons it is critical that Objectives are specific, measurable, realistic and timebound.  However, the linkages of these objectives to the rest of the organisation is often not scrutinized.  Leaving employees with a poor understanding of the horizontal, diagonal, and vertical linkages and interdependencies. An understanding of the above also allows for the identification of core and, what is deemed as, peripheral tasks.

Frequency of Performance Reviews

Following the ongoing communication at Executive and Senior Management level of strategic outputs to be achieved, frequent reviews of performance create a better understanding about the linkages and interdependencies affecting individual, team, and organization performance. 

Managers all too often see performance reviews as a task needing attention just prior to annual salary reviews and bonus payments, spending all their time on capturing it on the performance management system, rather than focusing on the quality of the discussion with the employee.

Conclusion

Progressing from the once a year performance review to more frequent, regular, and high-quality discussions with employees may lead Managers to better understand the cause and effect of changes in performance.  Employees will be informed, understand how their position links to the achievement of strategy and how it impacts the team, organisation, and business.

Performance Management: Creating A Holistic Understanding

A collaboration between Karlien Kruger: HR practitioner and Mpumelelo Mthembu: Research practitioner 

The challenge with human resource performance management systems is that performance is an outcome of various factors and inputs. The question is whether an organisation’s measurement program takes as many of these factors and inputs into consideration.

THE CHALLENGE

Beyond identifying contributors to performance there is also a need to understand the nature of each input and factor in relation to performance. Some factors have a direct impact on performance and others an indirect one. Moreover, how do the inputs and factors affect each other? Is the net effect of the interaction between these inputs and factors optimal performance? Just from these questions it becomes obvious that a performance measurement system is very intricate.    

The questions noted above also speak to the linkages and how they impact performance. In an organisational context, linkage is a structural phenomenon referring to the joining together of two or more objects. These linkages must be understood.   

THE RESOURCE

In their book, Organizational Linkages: The Productivity Paradox, the National Research Council in Washington DC discuss these different types of linkages.  The book also closely examines inter-role linkages, intra-role linkages and the complexity of such linkages and what its impact is on organisations.

INTERROLE LINKAGES

Interrole linkages refer to connections among roles. The connections could be between roles within a group, between groups, between organizational units, or between people and machines. These linkages contribute to understanding and tracing how roles affect each other with regards to performance. Interrole linkages can highlight activities outside the employee’s control that affect their performance. 

INTRAROLE LINKAGES

Intrarole linkages are defined as linkages within any role and its subtasks. It is possible that productivity increases in some subtasks may not affect (be linked with) the performance of other subtasks within that role.

LINKAGES CAN BE DESCRIBED IN TERMS OF MULTIPLE DIMENSIONS

Linkages can also vary in terms of complexity, that is, the number of links in any organizational context. The more linkages in an organization, the more complex the environment for tracing impact on performance. The degree of interdependence in a linkage condition also varies. One can conceptualize an organizational system in which all the objects are highly interdependent versus one in which objects are more loosely coupled.

CONCLUSION

A role of an employee in any organisation is complex and their performance too multidetermined. Paying close attention to all the factors and inputs contributes to building a comprehensive, effective, and fair performance management system.  Especially, where performance measurement outcomes are used both as an input and an output to business change.

As research and HR practitioners we can partner with you in building a comprehensive people performance measurement system.    

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