www.economictimes.com | April 21, 2021
At the end of three months of the year 2021, with no immediate signs of a quick recovery yet, organisations are figuring out ways to effectively design their PMS in this uncertain present and unpredictable future.
By Prof Diganta Chakrabarti
Some of the terms used to describe the major disruption that the Covid-19 pandemic caused to organisational systems and processes were “utter chaos”, “complete disorder”, “total disarray” and “absolute turmoil”, among others. As the fight to survive against the pandemic is still ongoing across the world, there is no denying that one of the worst casualties of the situation was the performance management system (PMS), a crucial function in the organisation process. The sheer panic and confusion forced some organisations to suspend, even cancel their annual performance review exercises last year – some responded by coming up with contingency solutions like an informal or abridged review. At the end of three months of the year 2021, with no immediate signs of a quick recovery yet, organisations are figuring out ways to effectively design their PMS in this uncertain present and unpredictable future. What kind of trends can we expect?
The setting of goals and expectations is at the core of any successful PMS. It is abundantly evident that the orthodox method of setting annual KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) or OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) for employees and teams would no longer meet the need of the hour. To survive and compete, organisations will most likely resort to goals that are more agile, flexible, and responsive to the demands of the external and internal context. A continuous review and modification of individual and team goals would be critical to align them with the dynamic nature of organisational goals. It won’t be surprising to see a major exercise to customize the principles of ‘SMART’ goals to the immediate needs and requirements of the organisation.
Tracking and measuring performance is undoubtedly a complex challenge now and it is likely to remain so for the foreseeable future as a significant part of the workforce will continue to work remotely. Organisations would continue to invest in advanced technological platforms, digital dashboards, and workforce analytics to maintain high performance. To sustain a high level of overall productivity, they will have to come up with tracking mechanisms with the optimum balance of ‘Results’ and ‘Behaviours’, keeping in mind factors like digital accountability as well as digital fatigue.
The role of continuous feedback or regular ‘check-ins’ was emphasized extensively in the last few years. It is considered to be more important than ever in the current scenario. Despite the lack of face-to-face conversations, managers will be expected to offer feedback that is constructive, actionable, and impactful. This will also ask for more importance assigned to the culture of coaching and mentoring in the organisations and this trend is likely to stay even after the pandemic. This will also go a long way in establishing an environment of total transparency and trust within the organisation. Organisations are well aware of the difficulties faced by both remote workers and frontline workers in maintaining their engagement level even in normal times. The pandemic has offered an opportunity to address this issue through intensive coaching and mentoring initiatives. Organisations that will be innovative enough to grab this opportunity for a major revamp of their culture and value systems – will be the winners in the long run.
Talking about finding opportunities in the midst of crisis, the pandemic has also highlighted the importance of aligning the PMS with associated people management functions like learning and development (L&D), workforce planning, talent acquisition, and reward management. We can expect organisations to go back to the drawing board and review their plans on the end-to-end human resource policies and practices. As an optimistic note from the strategic human resource management perspective, we will possibly witness significant modifications and innovations in the way organisations will attract, engage, develop, reward, and retain people in the post-pandemic world. As many people say these days, “things will never be the same again...” hopefully it would reflect in human resource practices that are much more adaptable to sudden changes and shocks, more resilient, and sustainable.
To conclude, let us refer to a Gartner report, ‘Reset Your Business Strategy in Covid-19 Recovery’, which serves as a template or guideline for these times. Gartner offered a response strategy for the pandemic in three phases: a) Respond - Immediate actions focused on keeping people safe and essential business functions operating (Short-term measure), b) Recover - More organised/coordinated effort to stabilize operations. (Medium duration), c) Renew - Extended period marked by strategic, durable execution across the organisation. In the context of PMS, it is safe to say that we are already through with the first two stages after more than a year of pandemic. Let us be hopeful about the positive changes that the ‘Renew’ phase will bring about.
The author, Prof Diganta Chakrabarti, is Associate Professor, Department of Human Resources at FLAME University.