Performance management in a hybrid workplace

In this post we’re going to be looking at the latest research on a really important human capital topic, that of performance management in a hybrid workplace. We’re not being prescriptive about what we mean when we refer to the hybrid workplace.For the purposes of this post, it will mean wherever there is a mix of work that might be going on at home and wherever your work’s place or space is: that might be an office, but it might of course be in a wide range of other contexts. It’s just wherever that blend exists.

From our many sources we selected three key findings we thought you might find interesting. 

Importance of Human Resources in Organisational Performance

The first is, that HR processes and systems and the interventions that you put in place, definitely can have a positive strategic impact on the performance of the organisation and the motivations of individuals (Petre & Tudor, 2022.) So, there’s a really important role for HR to play, in the performance of the organisation. Whilst that’s a really positive thing to consider it comes with a small health warning, which is: How do you ensure that motivating people to perform and performance management process itself, in whatever form you currently execute it, isn’t seen as just something that HR is doing to the organisation?

There’s a constant tension here, I think, between putting in all the support and the processes and systems, whilst ensuring that everybody owns their own performance and that leaders and managers are supporting that through engaging in performance conversations on a regular basis.

When HR Technology and Humans meet

The second piece of research that we wanted to share with you is this work by Robert, Giuliani and Gurau (2022) who looked at the idea that in the modern workplace, including hybrid contexts,  performance management is often supported by technology platforms. The interface between the human and technology can be really helpful, especially of course, in the hybrid workplace where you’ve got people at a distance. It is helpful to gather gather data, to capture feedback, and then for leaders and followers to be able to have performance conversations supported by the data presented from the platforms. What the researches found is that whilst there clearly is potential, if the system is going to break down anywhere, or if there are going to be inconsistencies, it will be in the human element, rather than in the technology.

The challenge for your organisation and for HR who tend to lead in the setting up of these processes, is how do you ensure that that you get consistency across all actors, both the leaders and managers and the followers/the frontline employees. This was something, in conversation with our own HR network, they hadn’t fully considered in quite the way that at least this research suggests would be helpful.

Beware the paradox of performance and wellbeing

Finally, we looked at work by Santos, Stull and Born (2022) who discovered a paradox between performance management and wellbeing.  They discovered that there is a dynamic present for all parties, suggesting that performance management can both generate anxiety and therefore have a negative impact on wellbeing and yet it also improves wellbeing or can improve wellbeing for a number of different reasons. 

Anxiety tends to go up for many reasons but we might acknowledge that in relation specifically to performance at work it increases when: 

  • There is sense of unfairness
  • There’s uncertainty of high levels of unknowns
  • When there is fear of failure and judgment. 

So those would be some factors that raise anxiety, whereas actually performance management also can have positive impacts on wellbeing by:

  • Providing a sense of certainty, and clarity
  • Connecting individuals to something much larger to themselves
  • Feeling part of a team
  • Increased sense of of self-efficacy.

So some real positives that could come from performance management when executed effectively. 

This research is important when you consider how much time and resource has been invested in workplace wellbeing, especially with the advent of so much more homeworking for people. Yet, inadvertently, some of that investment maybe being diluted because of the way your performance management system increases anxiety. 

The challenge for HR, if you are planning to change your performance management process, is how could you minimise the anxiety that it might generate and how do you maximise the well-being elements in your new approach to managing performance in your organisation.

Considerations for developing high quality performance management for a hybrid workplace

Aside from introducing technology to support performance management and building a strong  feedback culture, leaders and managers will need support to ensure they are consistent in the behaviours they demonstrate with performance conversations and the frequency with which they have them. Where inconsistency exists, it negatively affects several areas of this system and then not only is your business failing to get the performance you need, but actually that it could be driving some really negative elements into the culture of the organisation. where it’s not being done or if it is being done badly.

In order to arrive at a place where performance management is no longer executed via a  formulaic approach but rather through regular, collaborative, feedback-centred and developmental focused discussion all parties will need support. A leader-as-coach skill set could be developed so managers are able to take a person-centred approach to the conversations whilst remaining performance and outcome oriented. This can require quite a shift for front line employees too, so readying them for changes in approach will be key. 

Many elements of highly effective performance management that were true before the pandemic remain applicable today but if anything hybrid work means the level of difficulty has risen, with people out of sight for much of the day, “busy-ness” levels having skyrocketed and so many new technology platforms introduced that it can be challenging to use them all successfully. However, people remain at the centre of an organisation’s performance. Human beings deliver impacts whilst other human beings direct and facilitate their performance. They regularly review results together. So, whilst investing in IT is vital, investing in those who deliver the impacts is a key element too and well designed and consistent, regular performance conversations remain the keys that unlock great results.  

Exigence works with organisations to deliver full-stack HR leadership development solutions, from Executive and senior team coaching to Concise Coaching and Team Coaching. If you would like to discuss how we can help you deliver quantifiable impacts for your organisation, we’d love to hear from you – just contact us here.

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