Recalibrating & Managing Performance During a Crisis

Several of our clients are quickly realizing they can’t expect that same level of “Superstar” performance from their employees right now. Parents might be working from home with their younger children who regularly require their attention. Other team members who live in smaller apartments may not have ideal office space, not to mention other roommates who are also working from home in that confined space. And this doesn’t even speak to everyone’s increased anxiety and our understandable distractions from constantly looking for and listening to news reports, community updates, and the like as the Coronavirus crisis continues.

Separate from these individual situations and concerns, most organizations are also now rethinking their strategic goals for the year. They aren’t likely to achieve what they planned for and budgeted at the beginning of the year, so many are recalibrating around a new set of more realistic and practical objectives, or completely different strategic goals altogether.

What does this all mean for managing employee performance then? The following are several key principles for considering how best to engage employees in your business-critical work and provide the feedback and direction they need to be successful during the continued crisis:

  • Performance management is an always, ongoing process, not a once-a-year HR task. It’s designed to help you define individual performance expectations, identify any development needs, and evaluate performance with your team members throughout the year.
  • Especially in these conditions with many working from home and those who are able to work onsite doing so with strict physical distancing guidelines in place, it is essential for you to give your employees both Positive and Constructive feedback on a regular basis to keep them on track.
  • The feedback you share with your employees should be based on clear roles and responsibilities, including those basic tasks on their job descriptions and any other performance goals you may have established. We regularly talk about “SMART goals,” which are specific and measurable goals tied to a specific timeline for completion. Your team members need to know what those specific goals are if you are going to evaluate them on their performance.
  • Be sure to help your employees identify appropriate leading indicators, which highlight if they’re making progress. They’ll also need lagging indicators to demonstrate whether or not they’ve achieved their true objectives.
  • Your employees also need a visible scoreboard to monitor whether or not they’re winning or losing the game before it’s over. As humans, we’re all competitive and play very differently if we’re winning vs. losing.
  • Another key piece of performance management is to catch people doing something right rather than focus exclusively on mistakes or what people might be doing wrong. It’s about making deposits into people’s emotional piggy banks, so you have reserves available to make those emotional withdrawals when you need to.
  • To that end, not everybody likes to be appreciated in the same way. Chapman and White describe five distinct forms of appreciation in their book “The Five Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace.” Check it out to see the difference between saying “Thank you” vs. spending quality time with your employees vs. offering tangible gifts to them like free lunches.
  • As you’re offering your team members feedback and providing them with direct coaching, consider convening Team Huddles which are great for giving group feedback and recognizing individual and team performance. You can use your 1:1 Meetings for positive reinforcement too, but these are safer spaces for sharing developmental and constructive feedback with individuals away from the larger group.

Performance management is about aligning our teams to our business objectives and keeping people in their lanes to avoid accidents from happening down the road. With your organization likely recalibrating in this unprecedented climate and resetting now at mid-year, it’s imperative to assess the impact of any new direction on your employees’ performance objectives. This could mean easing up on some goals or perhaps doubling down on others.

Some leaders say this is too much or too hard or that they’re too busy to do all of this. We would offer it’s the only way to get continuously better results and assure your people are working on the right things. It’s simply about giving your team members the feedback they need to succeed in their current roles, and hopefully to get to the next level. If you want your team members to succeed, you need to help them manage their performance – both in what they do and how they do it. You can’t expect them to do it on their own.

Are you wondering how hard to push your employees right now? Want to discuss how best to reset and recalibrate your strategic objectives for the rest of the year? Give us a call at 310.589.4610 or email us today to review some powerful approaches that could help. You can also visit the Talent Management page of our website for more information on how we enable our clients to inspire their employees and achieve better business results. That may be your best strategy for leading your organization through this crisis!

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