Managing employee performance in 2021 and beyond

Implementing continuous feedback is not enough; we need to think more strategically about how we manage employees in 2021.

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managing employees

The events of 2020 has forever changed they way we work. The majority of employees were either forced to work at home or forced to adopt some sort of flexible workplace schedule. The rapidly changing work environment, war for top talent, and the advances in new technologies have caused organizations to truly evolve the way they manage employees and conduct work in the last year.

Changing how we manage employees

1) Feedback has to be more than just continuous. Performance management has evolved meaningfully in the last few decades. Most organizations have shifted from the once annual reviews to quarterly check-ins and/or implemented continuous feedback. Now, don’t get me wrong. Continuous feedback is great – it helps eliminate the most common workplace unconscious biases and it truly better develops your employees. It is a great first step. But in this day and age, feedback has to be more than just continuous. Feedback needs to be constructive. Constructive feedback is focused on behaviors (not traits). Behaviors can be changed, improved upon, and repeated. Traits cannot. Constructive feedback is also forward looking. Research shows that forward-looking feedback, not backward-looking, can improve employee performance by as much as 13%.

Effective feedback must also be direct and kind. It can be tempting to sugar coat developmental feedback. But at the end of the day, if you want someone to act on your feedback, you need to be say it openly, honestly, and kindly. It is also important to document all the feedback that you are giving. Employees want to grow and they want to see their progression – a performance management tool can be great to help keep all feedback in one place. One tip is to make sure that the tool is simple and easy. In addition, make sure to have the right education around feedback; for example how should you give feedback? What does effective feedback look like? How can you effectively receive feedback?, etc

2) We need to showcase company values. Most, if not all, companies have corporate values. However, most employees do not know what their company values are. Research indicates that only 27 percent of employees strongly believe in their company’s values, and less than half strongly agree that they know what makes their organization stands for and what makes it different. Company values can be incorporated into the employee performance management process by integrating them into existing feedback and recognition programs. If employees are not acting in accordance with values, they should be given feedback. Remember that values are the guiding principles and beliefs of your organization. We need to do a better job at making sure employees are living them out every single day.

3) We need to manage projects and goals better. Like performance management, there is a long history of project management that has been shaped by many changes in the workforce over the last century. However, the sudden change to remote work in 2020 has accelerated change as it forced companies to rethink how they manage projects and performance with distributed teams. For example, the remote work environment forces leaders to measure performance and productivity by specific deliverables (not just time spent at desk). Project leaders and managers need to continue to set clear metrics and deadlines, communicate effectively and efficiently with their teams, and be ready to adapt goals if need be.

As the world continues to adapt and the workplace continues to evolve, we need to make sure that our talent strategies and workflows change with it. It’s time to embrace the change.

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