We asked our live audience this question to evaluate current challenges being experienced by HR professionals. Here are some responses people shared:
Yes, I think performance during the pandemic is really fascinating. When we started out, we didn't know what would happen with performance. But against all odds performance actually went up in early phases of the pandemic. Dr. Vivienne Ming did a lot of work around this issue to find out what happened. What Vivienne and her team found out is that in the early days, performance went up for everyone, but then it sort of dropped off for many people.
For people who had high levels of performance and continued to have high levels of performance were the people who were very self driven and very self organised who actually thrived in a collaborative office environment. However, what they actually found is these people's performance dropped, and sometimes even dropped beyond the levels of performance that they had before.
As a whole, I would say that most companies and employees actually showed high level or solid levels of performance throughout the pandemic. But the challenge is not necessarily how did we or did we actually perform for the pandemic? But how did we get there. And the problem is that we banked on all those connections, that social capital that we actually built before the pandemic, to help us thrive during that time.
Now we have fatigue, mental health issues, we have disengagement, we have disconnection across the board. Getting performance that way is just no longer sustainable. We created what we call 'people debt'. The way that we got to performance is no longer sustainable for people.
Yes, absolutely. We used to talk about work life blending. When we initially talked about that before, we recognised we were going to take some work home with us, or work away from the office, but we never expected we would live where we work. It's a very different dynamic. We are now slowly trying to figure out what this new hybrid world is going to look like? So how are we going to leverage technology to help us get better? Where do we need to actually come together and collaborate together?
I'm afraid the systems are not going to handle it very well. The problem is the way performance management systems have been designed in most organisations. They were built for a world that no longer exists after the pandemic. What we need to understand is the new world that we operate in, and what good performance management looks like for that world.
When we talk about the history of performance management or how performance management started, it was really created for a world that had high task certainty, low dynamics, low self control, so it was all top down. It was the organisation as a machine working like a Swiss clockwork. Every piece of the machine of the engine had to do a part and if they did, the company was successful. You have your script, you have your job description, these are the things that you need to do, you follow that script, you take those boxes, and everything is going to be fine.
However, that's no longer the world that we live in. The world that we live in is messy and it is fast paced, changing rapidly. We have high task uncertainty, and we have high dynamics, and we need to have high autonomy to actually thrive. Organisations need to become more like ecosystems, an organism that is complex and adaptive.
Performance is about creating value. It's not about completing tasks. And we also need that collaborative power of teams to be creative and to be innovative. So if you think about the sports team, so I'm a huge hockey fan, so forgive me, I'm going to use hockey analogies. In hockey, you have a role that is called the Enforcer. who is someone that defends the team who stands up for the team. The enforcer can change the dynamic the flow of the game single handedly even though it is an unofficial role and doesn't exist.
So in business, we call that person the glue. It's the person who always shows up for the teams, who does the uncomfortable jobs, is someone who helps everyone else on the team be high value contributors. How do you value the performance of this type of person in an a traditional way. The role no longer exists, because it is team that collaborate, it's more than one person.
We're no longer in the industrial nor the information era, we are in the augmented era. We are in the human economy. It leads us to the question what are we humans intently good at?
We always thought that the jobs that would disappear were the routine shops, such as the manufacturing person sitting there on the conveyor belt doing the same movement day in day out. Today even shops are disappearing, that they never thought that technology would take over. It's paralegals, its accountant, translator all these jobs are changing because of technology.
It leaves us with the question, what are the jobs that we're going to do? Are these the jobs where it needs creativity, powerful ideation or social collaboration, because that's what we need to invest into.
Our performance management system has to leverage team dynamics, developing individuals, helping them build off their strengths, all the stuff that conventional performance management systems are not giving us.
Yes, but the question is, are they measuring the right things and are they taking the right actions?
It's in our nature to measure the stuff that is easy to measure, but because it's easy to measure it doesn't mean it's the right thing to measure. For example billable hours is easy to measure, but it may not give us a full picture. It's the same when we talk about workplace health and safety.
When we talk about diversity, equity and inclusion, dashboards with data can really help us get there. If we don't change the underlying system, if we don't change the environment, we're not going to get any significant changes done.
We need to ensure we are measuring the right things
So we're in a very interesting spot right now, because we're actually inventing or reinventing the future of work. Hybrid work is going to stay. We have to figure out what's the right balance. The right balance doesn't mean spending at least 50% of your time in the office. That's being very prescriptive, mandating it, that's not going to help anyone, it's just going to create resistance.
A lot of companies do a terrible job of inviting people back to the office. We need to show people the value of going into the office. Going to the office might mean an opportunity to socialise with colleagues, access an innovative space to help creativity, or a space to collaborate and share ideas together. These are the types of environments that you want to create so that people have a motivation to actually come to the office.
The question is about what types of jobs people do? What space or environments do they need access so they can work as a team?
The first thing we have to understand is that you cannot manage performance in this new world of work. The second thing is we need to understand what the definition of performance means?
How do we shift from task orientation to value contribution? Do we want to be managing performance or accelerating performance? Making that shift is going to provide a whole new understanding of what we want to do. We are interacting with different parts of HR:
In team sports we have seen how you can have an amazing player or manager, but it just doesn't click with the team. It doesn't mean that that person is not not good at what they're doing. It's just it just didn't click. If we compare this to the business world, we hardly ever take that into consideration. We just look at their job, resume, do they tick those boxes? We don't really see is whether they are a good fit?
If the person isn't a good fit, how quickly can we actually take corrective measures and make changes. All of that starts by understanding what is performance and how do we get performance acceleration?
The key is people are only engaged in performance, they want to do good work. The vast majority of people are intrinsically motivated. They want to do good work, especially if they feel cherished, get the right feedback, fast feedback, personalised feedback, get an environment where they can thrive, and where they have a personalised approach to their growth. If they have all these things they are going to do excellent work.
The engagement part is taken care of if we have the right environment and right setting.
How can we create that environment where we can leverage and accelerate that performance? But it starts by understanding or redefining what is performance? And I can tell you from experience, that's a hard discussion to have. Because we're challenging existing leadership philosophies.
Further insights Into the research, practical tips and tools for HR functions, including leaders in organisational development and learning and development