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As we write this, the world has already witnessed over a million COVID-19 positive cases and thousands of deaths.
The World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic, causing a huge impact on people’s lives, families, and communities. Besides the world grappling with this alarming health crisis, it has come as a blow to the global economy.
As per CIO India’s recent survey on ‘Business Continuity amid COVID-19,’ there is a 23% spike in the number of CIOs who believe that the COVID-19 pandemic, as it stands today, will have a significant impact on business. It is also clear that this pandemic will bring about some far reaching and possibly permanent changes to our work practices.
With COVID-19 hitting the world of work from multiple directions, organizations are presented with new challenges like closed offices, scaling down business operations and the need for employees to work remotely. This changed business environment calls for organizations to be agile and adaptive.
Organizations around the globe are restructuring their business operations to enable employees to work from home and are looking for an efficient technology stack to manage the new dynamics of work from home reality. The concept of work-from-home is not something new and has been slowly on the rise globally, enabled by technology. However, work-from-home is no longer an option but a necessity for organizations and it is here to stay in the post Covid-19 scenario.
Check our blog : Employee Performance Management System – A Buyer’s Guide
Remote working offers the flexibility to professionals to work from outside their office. This has been feasible for the last few years and is slowly becoming mainstream now.
Remote working is not a new concept but it wasn’t accepted (and still not easily accepted) by organizations in the early stages. Businesses believed that the employees would be easily distracted in external environments as their managers would not be able to monitor their respective reportees. The major concern most employers had for working remotely was a loss of productivity.
There were very few instances of remote working a decade ago. Work from home was usually allowed only as special arrangements to accommodate specific cases. Earlier remote working was considered only for specific roles like telemarketing or customer service positions which are low impact roles. It rarely was connecting with high impact positions or full-time roles. In fact, work from home was seen as a perk given to specific employees.
However, teleconferencing and telework technology have advanced to the point where some businesses thrive with completely remote teams. In fact, it’s not uncommon now for businesses to allow their employees to work from home once or twice a week.
We, as a digital native organization, believe that working remotely is not only effective, but also more productive provided you put into practice correctly, with right technology and process enablement for your workforce.
Though working remotely isn’t a new concept, most people are accustomed to one day of work at home every once in a while. But with the current state of the COVID-19 pandemic that is proving to be disruptive to the organization’s continuity of operations, work from home has become the new reality for most of us.
While some of the employees will be engaging in full-time remote working for the first time, organizations are probably discovering that it’s not easy managing effective work with the entire workforce working from home. Similarly, employees may find themselves floundering a bit to stay productive right from figuring out how to stay on task in a new environment and to manage everything on their own.
So, here are a few tips on how to make telecommuting work in this time of uncertainty from a slew of people who do this regularly:
As it’s a cultural shift, the leaders and managers need to help employees adapt to this work style and deliver results.
We believe that organizations need to change their philosophy of performance management to be able to bring about this change of culture of work from home and manage it well, without affecting the overall organizational performance. Here are some essential elements that organizations must incorporate in their performance management systems to set up your organization for work from home and deliver business outcomes:
Clear communication is the key to delivery of effective outcomes in a work from home scenario. The ineffectiveness of remote teams is rarely because they aren’t being monitored in person. Instead, the lack of clear expectations leads individuals to make assumptions about what his or her manager wants. If expectations are set upfront between managers and team members, both parties will find they can focus on their work while still feeling appropriately connected to each other. Unless the employee knows what exactly is expected from him, he won’t be able to manage the day and wrap it effectively. Use all available methods like chats, video calls, emails, phone to keep in touch with remote workers. Make sure to use live virtual face to face calls daily, even if just to check in just on “how things are going”.
Even the most accustomed ones at times may feel WFH unstructured and isolating. So, establishing a daily call with remote employees is what makes the atmosphere lively, keep away situations like “out of mind” or “out of sight,” and make them believe that their concerns and questions will be heard. People need to feel they aren’t isolated or forgotten during these days of separation from each other.”
Email alone isn’t sufficient for effective communication. One can benefit more with richer tools like video conferencing. It enables teams to collaborate with co-workers as if they were face-to-face. They can share the screen to carry out complex conversations.
Additionally, mobile-enabled individual/group messaging functionality like Slack, Skype, and more can be leveraged for simpler, less formal conversations, as well as time-sensitive ones.
Remote working becomes more efficient when you have the clarity about timing of communication and delivery for your teams. Work from home needs to be run like effective project management with various inter-dependencies between individuals and teams.
In the context of an abrupt shift to remote work due to the COVID-19 crisis, leaders/managers must acknowledge employees’ stress, listen to their concerns, and empathize with the struggles, more than they would do normally. With improved engagement, employees are more likely to work with a sense of focus and purpose.
Given that work from home is not just a trend but is here to stay, it becomes critical to enable managers to effectively manage their team and their performance. It also becomes increasingly important to set and monitor clear objectives aligned to organizational priorities for each team, team member and then evaluate them on a real-time basis. We believe this approach will go a long way in keeping the workforce engaged and also drive the desired outcomes.
Highlighted below are some of the key components of a modern PMS that help this new working paradigm for organizations:
OKR or Objective and Key Results, is a popular leadership technique that helps organizations set, communicate, and track their goals. It is a holistic approach towards management of goals and performance levels of employees at every level of the enterprise. It helps in creating better alignment and engagement around measurable goals.
Employees are often not aware of an organizational vision, core values and objectives. This becomes further pronounced in a remote working environment. A modern OKR based PMS empowers 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.
Employees are more engaged when this alignment is clear and when it transparently shows how an employee goals are contributing to his manager goals and how the manager goals are contributing up to the larger outcomes for the organization.
The idea of goals is to help employees improve their performance. It is therefore equally important that the goals are understood and defined clearly. Poorly defined goals lead to confusion and poor performance. It is, therefore, important that the goals are Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Relevant, and Time-bound (SMART). SMART goals bring in the much-needed clarity, inspire commitment, and provide employees with a sense of ownership in achieving their goals. SMART goals define clearly what needs to be achieved (specific), remove subjectivity (how to measure it), outline what needs to be done (actionable), set achievement (relevant), and set a time frame for achievement (time-bound).
Times like these warrant that managers are not just reviewing overall goal progress but also the underlying tasks/activities and regular updates on the same. This is important to ensure that employees are consistently focusing on these inputs which would determine attainment of outcomes (Goal).
Your undivided attention is important for every team member. So, ensure that you conduct one-on-ones regularly. This will not only keep you updated but also provide your team members to speak directly about their problems and successes. Moreover, you can give constant feedback and discuss their progress with upcoming goals or tasks.
Tracking your employee’s progress regularly will help you understand and identify any troubles early on. Such identification can help course correction if needed. Reviewing long-term and short-term goals weekly, even of high-performing employees, can make them more dynamic and involved. They need ongoing feedback and coaching from their managers, especially with challenging goals or in tasks that they are doing for the first time. Managers can stay updated on the performance and deploy effective feedback processes with a proper employee performance management system. It also helps to keep track of employees’ performance and identify where they are in achieving the goals.
Annual reviews are a thing of the past. A continuous performance management system is what keeps an organization’s and its distributed employees’ on the same page. While you give feedback, make sure you have clarity in your messages. Be specific about what’s working and what’s not, and ensure you discuss things not going well and about improvising on it. Features for manager and employee to do real-time conversational chats at each goal level ensures continuous and timely feedback.
Most organizations fail to explicitly consider employee’s competencies in the context of the goals assigned to them. Different goals need different competencies at different employee levels. Competency-based goal setting can help managers (and organizations) develop organization-wide competencies. They can link it to employees’ performance as well as career development. This way, you can link their competencies with the organizational goals and help them achieve work goals.
As humans we are impacted with latency and recency effects which tends to impact employee assessments. Modern platforms allow managers to record all positive and negative observations specific to employee performance as a ready reckoner for objective year end assessment.
As the COVID-19 disruption has forced organizations to roll out mandatory work from home policies, they find themselves in different phases of managing its impact. While the challenges vary by industry and business maturity, identifying and implementing the right employee policies and smart approaches to remote working is the key to managing this change effectively. As there is so much uncertainty about how 2020 will play out, it’s on us business leaders to help our workforce with the right tools and resources to sustain the situation and face the challenge. We believe that changing your performance management philosophy to align with this change and adopting a performance management software that enables you to do this becomes critical for organizations to continue to succeed.