Annual performance reviews where staff have their performance assessed and rated are traditionally how businesses measure how well staff are doing their jobs – but, like most things ‘traditional’, a shift in thinking is necessary to cater to dynamic workforces.

With some employees working from home, some in the office, and some doing a mix of both, managing performance in the modern workplace might seem like a juggling act. In a hybrid working situation, regular two-way communication is key to ensuring everyone is on task and working to their optimal potential – and managers must also be prepared to put in the time and be flexible.


Responding to change

A common topic in HR circles today – and coincidentally the subject of our last blog post – is the Great Resignation. Employees around the world are looking to achieve greater satisfaction from their working life, leading to many companies losing good staff.

Due to the magnitude of this change in mindset, it may be helpful to look at performance reviews as a future-focused, two-way communication street, rather than a simple rear-view-mirror performance assessment. Not only are you reviewing the current performance of your staff (not that from 12 months ago), but you are also discussing:

  • How they are finding working for you and with their team
  • How they feel about their ongoing career satisfaction
  • What do they need to improve their performance moving forward?
  • Are they achieving what they hoped for in their roles and do they have the skills / support / ability to do so?
  • Are they reaching their goals, and in turn, helping the company to reach theirs?

Daniel Pink identified the 3 key elements of intrinsic motivation as:

  1. autonomy
  2. mastery
  3. purpose.

If you need to motivate and engage with your staff, once they have their basic needs of fair remuneration being met, you can best do this by supporting them to become masters of their role, allowing them autonomy to make decisions on how and when they perform their daily tasks, and help them understand how their role supports the overall needs of the business so they know their purpose. Two-way, regular communication is key to this, and with a hybrid workforce, more important than ever since your ability to see the person is negatively impacted.


Taking pulse checks

As we’ve said, traditional performance reviews are conducted annually, meaning they can be more of a memory test and a debate with the employee focused on achieving (arguing) a high rating, than a productive review of achievement with the aim of future growth and development. Issues that occurred months earlier may need to be dredged up, resulting in stress for both parties and likely disagreement over details. They are also often linked closely with remuneration increases, which, as we know from the Great Resignation and Daniel Pink’s motivation elements, are not always the modern worker’s highest motivation, and often means honesty and openness around development needs is negatively impacted.

Instead of waiting a year, regular informal ‘pulse checks’ are a great solution. These can be short, discussions held monthly or fortnightly, covering job satisfaction and including a check to see whether the current priorities or KPIs (Key Performance Indicators or goals) of the employee’s role are still front of mind and relevant.

If there are issues that need to be discussed, these regular check-ins are a less confronting way to address them. It’s possible to stay objective and get right to the point when you are not faced with a formal sit-down and a lot of paperwork. And don’t forget, your staff need to know when they’re going a good job, so regular check-ins ensure you can capture these too. It’s important you’re not just commenting on negative concerns; you need to recognise your staff when they’re doing what they should be doing as well. At the same time, the other side of that 2-way communication street allows staff to have the same opportunity to address anything they find is working well for them, or that they deem unsatisfactory or challenging in their work, so any issues can be rectified before they seem overwhelming and unfixable.


Free range productivity

Whether you are conducting a formal or informal performance check-up, productivity is probably still your key measure. Highly productive staff will be clear about the results they need to achieve. They will know what their goals are and have definitive deadlines to achieve them by. Ensuring these details are in place will make for more productive staff, no matter if their office is a corner suite in a high rise building or a desk in their spare room.

Remember, even more so with remote and hybrid employees: hours at a desk do not necessarily equate to productivity. Without the distractions of co-workers or perhaps motivated by the possibility of free time, remote workers can get a lot done in much less time than office-bound staff. This can be furthered by a rewards system that focuses on results, rather than traditional time-based honours.


Transparency for the win

If progress is tracked regularly and communication between all employees, remote or otherwise, is encouraged and regularly maintained, reviewing performance should simply be a regular day-to-day activity just like turning up for work – a way to show that everyone is on the same page and working towards an achievable goal.

Keeping company goals transparent and sharing them with all staff so that they become the goals of all employees, will keep motivation levels high. Having a sense of achievement as a group, with rewards to boot, will also give remote workers a sense of community and drive.

With this shift in focus, managers will find that keeping track of performance with a hybrid workforce doesn’t have to be difficult, but if you require help making the shift work for your business, get in touch with us at Freerange Works.

Image: (L-R) Kerryn Strong, Co-Founder Freerange Works and Laura Moloney, HR Consultant, multi-tasking while having their regular ‘check-in’ discussion.