Great time to change performance management

Working from home has produced another by-product of the Covid crisis.

The most talked-about workplace adjustment erupting from the Covid-19 pandemic has been the success of working from home (WFH), but HR thought leader David Fairhurst sees another focus rising to the fore in WFH’s wake: performance management (PM).

Traditional methods of PM were on shaky ground even before the pandemic struck, but physical distance between many managers and employees for extended periods has accelerated the quest for more relevant and pragmatic PM thinking. Citing a survey by the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) in the US, Fairhurst told the Excellence in Leadership virtual conference in November that 92% of managers want to review their organisations’ approach to PM within the next 12 months. 

“The appetite for change is huge,” said Fairhurst, currently an independent consultant and previously executive vice president, global people officer for McDonald’s.

As part of moving toward new ways of working, Fairhurst is calling for PM to now reflect a different attitude: performance motivation. “What would that look like?” he asked. “This is about reimagining the whole thing.”

Fuelling and influencing new ways of working are the growing need for what Fairhurst called AND Leadership, meaning leaders who can simultaneously manage two conflicting requirements and move “away from short-term decisions that reflect medium-term disasters”.

Contributing to the rush to new ways of working is “a driving need for new skills”, Fairhurst said, as a recent McKinsey report that contends a third of the workforce will need retraining. 

Also, employee wellbeing is becoming such a priority that some companies have created a position of chief wellbeing officer, Fairhurst said. With teams spread out more widely across geographies, improved communications channels are needed, and companies do need to pay greater attention to staff wellbeing. “Many [companies] are self-congratulatory” about their health & wellbeing offerings, Fairhurst said, “but are often misguided” when it comes to understanding what their employees need and want.

And the role of the office is evolving into “a periodic meeting and collaborative space” from the place where people spend their days from 9 to 5 five days a week, he said.

Fairhurst also dismissed any future place for 'Big Brother’-style measures of monitoring employees in the new world of work.

In spite of the adaptations and evolutions demanded by the new ways of working and the ongoing Covid crisis, Fairhurst declared this “a great time, a great opportunity… to positively shape the future of work”.

Fairhurst shared the podium with Andy Parsley, the two being part of a team of HR experts collectively known as OrgShakers.

Image credit | iStock

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