By Eunice Leons
Social organisations are having to pivot their planned activities as a response to ensuring organisational continuity during COVID-19. This is a unique challenge in the face of a pandemic threatening our organisational capacity and functioning. Responding to these challenges in a befitting manner often does not address employees’ ability to focus on their work.
The significant impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on employees’ personal and work lives is leading to employee anxiety, frustration and burnout. There is a dire need to focus on employees’ emotions and state of mind to ensure productivity during these trying times. But how do organisations manage to do this? This article aims to provide some thoughts around managing employee performance during the COVID-19 era.
Nandlal Narayanan from Mind Mentor uses the anecdotal reference of performance management in schools. He says, no school needs to have a performance evaluation system to motivate, develop, inspire and promote teachers. It is rather beneficial to find teachers who are inspired to be teachers and to motivate them by giving them a positive environment, treating them with respect and rewarding them for their commitment. Similarly, hiring the right talent, providing engaging work, recognising the outcomes and continuously encouraging learning to be relevant, and having a strategic overview at the organisation to upgrade talent is more critical than reviewing performance. At Mind Mentor, they believe that it’s not about thinking out of the box but to remove the box.
Keeping this in mind, here are a few best practices of remote performance management systems:
I. Working From Home
Set guidelines and modes of communication: Establish what communication modes are used, whether it is email, messages or any team communication software (like Google Hangouts, Slack or Basecamp), to streamline internal communication. In a period where we are over-communicating, it is important to be cognizant that we don’t use multiple sources to maintain order and efficiency. Our partners at World Resource Institute use Standout as their talent management software, for check-ins, employee engagement and performance management.
Technology that suits all: Use the best tools available for everyone in the team. You can use Google Hangouts for a team video call, Slack or similar tools for communicating. Project management tools like Asana and Zoho that are easily available and accessible, can help achieve team outcomes. To organize your projects and notes personally Trello, To-doist and Evernote can be of great help even beyond the lockdown. It is also important to acknowledge those members who do not/cannot have access to these resources or have limited connectivity. Use the good old phone calls to check on their progress.
Calendar control: Simply updating a shared calendar with different tasks for the day not only enables discipline for yourself but also helps your team members know when you are occupied. Managers can easily view your different deliverables and activities without having to check on you.
Set protocols and process for meetings and catch-ups: Pre-defining meeting agendas and criteria, helps in preparedness and saves time. Set aside time daily, once in two days or biweekly with your team to understand their challenges and address progress on a regular basis. This can bring a rhythm and routine to working with maximum productivity.
II. Performance Appraisals:
With organizations rapidly shifting their operations virtually, appraisals meetings and performance assessments are no different. Institute for Financial Management and Research – Krea University has gone ahead with their 360-degree assessment in March without a glitch, as most of the assessment process is facilitated online through their project management system SalesForce. They have executed it seamlessly without the need for human interaction. Here is an article of some do’s and don’t of virtual performance appraisals, observing the nuances between virtual and in-person interactions.
III. Offline sessions:
Let’s face it, we are not working from home, we are at home during a crisis trying to work. In the constant banter of worry, depressing news and the uncertainty of the future, our brains need a breather. In the absence of personal interaction, we may be isolated, feel low or just uncomfortable. It is possible to increase the morale in the organisation with small acts that would otherwise happen in the office. For instance: Atma and Accountability Initiative hold coffee/tea chats, where the team gets together virtually over a cup of tea/coffee. Arthan hosted a virtual lunch gathering and has created an online space for peers to share interesting non-work materials. Institute for Financial Management and Research – Krea University hosts ‘Knowledge Barter’ every week, where an external speaker talks about innovative ways to work in this scenario – a week ago they had a session on Data Collection without in-person interactions, using phones, GIS etc. These sessions help keep the employees engaged beyond everyday work.
There are no perfect solutions in this scenario. We can, however, adopt guidelines, tips and suggestions to navigate the situation in the best way possible. There are ways we can learn from each other as a community. Performance management needs a little extra thought and work, but adapting to the circumstances with available resources can make it simple and straightforward for both the leaders and the employees. In the post-pandemic world, our efforts now to combat our challenges will enable us to recover better and be more resilient for the future.
We would like to thank Nandlal Narayanan (Mind Mentor), Chaitra Mehra (World Resource Institute), Anup Roy (IFMR, Krea University), Avani Kapur (Accountability Initiative) and Sneha Arora (Atma) for sharing their experiences, knowledge, and processes with us.