Performance Management for a Hybrid World

August 17th, 2021

Why We Care

Performance management (PM) is critical, even in the most ordinary of times. It’s one of the few talent practices that touches every single employee in the organization. It helps employees set goals, receive feedback, and adjust their daily work practices. Performance assessments impact compensation, promotion, and a host of other job-related opportunities. Whether it’s formal, informal, carefully designed, or ad-hoc, some form of PM is happening in every organization every day.

Given the foundational nature of PM, it’s unsurprising that it significantly impacts key organizational outcomes. For example, in our Fall 2019 study of Modern Performance Management, we identified “3 Cs” that drive performance—culture, capability of managers, and clarity. In that study, orgs that scored high on:

  • Culture—were 32% more likely to experience high employee engagement and 97% more likely to experience high organizational performance
  • Capability of managers—were 12% more likely to experience high individual performance
  • Clarity—were 28% more likely to experience high employee engagement

But we live in a different world now from 2019. Lots of articles have been written about how PM needs to change to better fit a hybrid world. We even recently wrote one—leveraging our 3Cs model from the 2019 study1 and applying insights from how best to manage hybrid workers (see Figure 1).

Figure 1: Performance Management Practices for a Hybrid World | Source: RedThread Research, 2021.

But you all know—we love our data. So, while we firmly stand behind the model in Figure 1, we want current data to help us understand what’s happening with PM today—and to contrast that with what we knew about PM right before the pandemic hit.

Our Hypotheses

We have a number of hypotheses for this research—some of the primary ones include:

  • The 3 Cs model will remain intact. Culture, clarity, and capability of managers will remain critical to how we should be managing performance in a hybrid world of work.
  • Capability of managers will be more important. Given that employees—working in hybrid environments—are likely to be less directly exposed to some of the visible aspects of culture (offices, broader team dynamics, etc.), we think capability of managers will be more important than ever in enabling effective performance. In particular, skills such as coaching and managing difficult conversations are likely to become far more critical skills for managers.
  • The importance of clarityand specifically datawill also increase. While it seems relatively obvious that employees and managers will need to talk more about goals, progress, and adjustment, we believe there’s more to it than that. Specifically, we think that providing data-based insights to employees and managers will be key to both groups asynchronously understanding their performance and making adjustments more quickly.
  • Trust in PM is at risk. Given the ad-hoc nature of many orgs’ approaches during the pandemic, we may see an increase in people not believing that their org’s PM is objective. Fairness in an org’s PM process is crucial for orgs to gain and retain their employees’ trust—otherwise, lack of employee trust can trigger turnover.
  • Underrepresented minorities will have a less favorable view of PM. In our previous study, we found that women had a significantly worse perception of PM. In this current study, we’re collecting more demographic data so we’ll be able to compare different groups’ experiences more effectively.

What We’ll Research

Through this research, we’re looking to answer the following questions:

  • How has PM changed prior to the start of the pandemic, in terms of philosophies, practices, and systems?
  • What should managers be doing differently to supervise workers in a hybrid world? How can orgs support them?
  • What broader practices and systems should orgs adjust or implement to enable PM to work more effectively in a hybrid world?
  • How should orgs adjust their practices to ensure equity for underrepresented minorities?
  • What are some examples of how orgs have adjusted their PM approaches?

How to Participate

We’ll be conducting this research over the next 4 months and invite you to participate in the study in the following 3 ways:

    1. Join the conversation. We’re conducting a roundtable on this subject on September 22, 1 pm ET. You can click here to register and join the waitlist.
  1. Take the survey. We rely on responses from our community to help us provide insights to you.
  2. Let us interview you. If you're working on PM at your company and are willing to talk to us about this topic for 30-45 minutes, reach out to us at [email protected] and we’ll schedule a discussion at your convenience.
  3. Share your thoughts. Read our research and tell us what you think! Shoot us a note at [email protected]. Your comments make us smarter and the research better.

More Resources

You might be thinking, “Love that you’re doing this study, but I need help NOW.” No problem, we’ve got you covered with a host of RedThread resources that can help you get started:

Stacia Garr Redthread Research
Stacia Garr
Co-Founder & Principal Analyst
Priyanka photo
Priyanka Mehrotra
Research Lead at RedThread Research


  1. The Makings of Modern Performance Management, RedThread Research / Stacia Garr, Dani Johnson & Emily Sanders, 2019.