Rethinking Performance Management: Areas of Focus for a Hybrid Work Environment
September 20th, 2022
In September 2022, we convened a roundtable for leaders to discuss how organizations should rethink their performance management practices within a hybrid work environment. This session was part of our ongoing study on modern performance management.
Thank you to all who participated, shared your experiences, and learned from one another!
The state of work
We started the discussion by setting a context around
- Changing employee expectations
- The struggles faced by managers
- Falling employee engagement levels
- The continuing challenges around retention and turnover
We shared our latest research on the topic, using our framework to help organizations think about performance management for a hybrid work environment—the “3C” framework.
Organizations should focus on culture, capability of managers, and connection.
Figure 1: The “3C” model for performance management in a hybrid work environment | RedThread Research, 2022
The overall discussion resulted in rich insights. To help understand how organizations should rethink performance management as they build long-term hybrid work policies, we focused on 3 areas:
- Culture: What is the role of culture in enabling employee performance in a hybrid work environment? How should organizations rethink their culture?
- Connection: What’s the role of connection between managers and employees in driving performance in a hybrid workplace? How can organizations enable such connections?
- Capability of managers: How has the role of managers changed, now that they are enabling performance in a hybrid workplace? How can organizations support managers in this role?
The roundtable generated a number of insights we thought worth highlighting. Here are our top 4 takeaways.
Understand the “Why” behind your performance management
A major theme was that leaders need to understand the purpose behind their performance management practices. Participants agreed that it was important for organizations to go back to their value proposition and be clear about what kind of organization they want to be. As one participant explained,
“Culture is where you start—not something where you add. You have to start with what culture you are enabling and what process or system you use to enable that culture. So often we do it backwards.”
Participants also discussed the powerful role culture plays in reinforcing desired behaviors and mitigating those that are not. By designing performance management practices around the culture and values important to the organization, leaders can drive employee engagement, enable constructive feedback, and provide deeper meaning and understanding of what they do.
Individuals have just as much responsibility for managing performance as managers
The role of individuals in their own performance management was a topic that came up frequently. Participants shared that managers and individuals need to be on the same page about taking equal responsibility for driving performance. As one of the participants put it,
“The age-old notion that the ownership of performance lies solely with managers needs to change.”
Individuals should also be accountable for building their connections. Participants agreed that while an organization can help identify which critical connections need to be built, individuals are responsible for building them.
Connections need to be intentional
Participants shared how connections have become integral to performance management in a remote work environment. Several of them spoke about practices that they have adopted to make connection building a part of their performance management and, as a result, part of their overall culture.
One of the participants explained,
“When we’re remote we tend to go straight to work. We need to be more intentional about how we’re spending our time and how we’re connecting.”
One of the leaders shared that their organization has created accountability maps that identify and tag the people that an individual needs to know to be successful in their role.
Technology can help build connections, but cannot be a substitute for meaningful conversations
Participants shared how they are using technology to drive opportunities for connection. For example, one of the leaders is leveraging tools to nudge people to have regular 1:1s and remind leaders if too much time has passed since they last connected with employees. Organizational network analysis was shared as an example of technology that can help organizations drive connections and uses metrics that show their impact on the business. One of the leaders explained,
“Organizations need to embrace the power of technology in helping drive connections and opportunities. With high burnout, relying on individuals to make connections can easily fall by the wayside.”
Another participant shared an example of a framework their company introduced to help managers establish trust and transparency and remove barriers that prevent employees from achieving their goals. They embedded the framework as part of existing processes through their technology, so that people don’t see it as an extra thing they need to do.
We were grateful for the open and vulnerable discussion during this roundtable. We welcome your suggestions, thoughts, and feedback at [email protected].