COVID-19 impact: Effective performance management in the new normal

Performance management, often seen as an HR process, is actually a key business process that ensures individual and team goals dovetail into organisational goals.

8th Jul 2020
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performance management

Today, the role of human resource (HR) has undergone a sea change from just focusing on operational and personnel management to being a strategic business partner and simultaneously ensuring employees feel valued in the organisation.


One of the key roles of HR includes ensuring continued performance while maintaining employee motivation and engagement. A well designed and relevant performance management system is key to this.


Performance management, often seen just as an HR process, comprises of forms to fill. Many, unfortunately, still confuse between appraisals and increments. While HR remains the custodian of ensuring that the process is run in letter and in spirit, it is actually a business process.


It is a key process that ensures that individual and team goals dovetail into organisational goals and businesses drive and reward organisation-wide performance.


Over the years, there have been several models that organisations have implemented, and different organisations have found different methods relevant. From management by objectives, to balanced scorecards, and bell curves, some organisations also prefer annual or six-monthly or quarterly methods.


More recently, the concept of ongoing feedback and delinking compensation from performance, and linking it to market trends was gathering prevalence.


  • Effective performance management creates a shared understanding of what individuals or teams must achieve, and in the process learn new skills to be successful and keep the business going.
  • It is an ongoing communication process carried between employers and employees throughout the year.
  • Performance evaluations help measure employee’s achievements against goals and determine standards across different types of roles, levels, and jobs.
  • Moreover, performance management is a useful tool to differentiate between low and high performing employees.


With the outbreak of coronavirus and the resulting impact on the economy, business continuity, and employment, performance management processes will once again bear the burden of ensuring business performance happens, while ensuring employees remain motivated, with minimal cost impact.


HR leaders will be tasked to revisit appraisal processes, frequency, KPIs, what will be rewarded in new normal and what not.


Performance management will be a central business process that will support restructuring and reorganisation, talent assessment and retention, employee cost optimisation, and learning and development (L&D) spends.


Performance management system in changing times

COVID-19 has proved to be the biggest game-changer and a disruptor across the global economy. As HR function across organisations revisits priorities to leap out of the current crisis, it will need to ensure a robust performance management system in place, which manages and evaluates employee performance in a remote and virtual working environment effectively.


There is a need for the right approach that will go a long way in keeping the workforce engaged and also drive the desired end result.


Performance management for work from home (WFH) will need extra thought to align with the current situation. With the right approach and tools, it can be a game-changer and effective for employees and the organisation in times to come.


Let us see the key components of a modern performance management system that can help ensure productivity in a remote workplace.

Re-craft goals and KPIs to meet current needs

Given the unique situation we are in, not all roles have the same workload as others. Hence, realigning roles and respective KPIs will be vital where employees are able to support cross-functionally.


Moreover, employees will not be evaluated on their functional responsibilities alone.

OKRs methodology

A performance management system based on “Objective and Key Results” methodology can be used by organisations in setting, communicating, and tracking their goals. 


It is an overall approach towards the management of goals and performance levels of employees at every level of the organisation. It can help bring in more accountability and autonomy around goals that are measurable.

Cliched but still relevant — SMART Goals

In the current times, it is extremely important for organisations to redefine goals that can be measured in a remote working environment. Poorly defined goals lead to confusion or misunderstanding and bad performance.


It is, therefore, especially important that the goals at the organisation and employee level are “Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Relevant, and Time-bound”, i.e. SMART. These goals will bring in clarity, commitment, and provide employees with a sense of ownership.

Communication is crucial

Difficult times like these have created fear amongst employees around their performance, evaluation, ratings, increments, etc.


At this moment, it would be ideal for managers to regularly connect with employees in teams or one on one and communicate. Keep them updated and give them the opportunity to speak directly about their progress on upcoming tasks and goals.




Continuous feedback

Annual reviews are a thing of the past. A continuous performance management system is what will keep an organisation and its employees on the same page during times of uncertainty and doubt.


Being specific about what is working and what is not, ensuring discussion on improvement areas will go a long way in improving the productivity of employees.

Trust your employees

In a remote working scenario, if some employees are not meeting a deadline or are not responsive, it would be incorrect to assume that they are inefficient and judge their performance.


Instead, it is important to trust them and reach out to them as they might be overwhelmed or might be dealing with a personal matter. Such things are hard to know when you are working virtually.

(Edited by Saheli Sen Gupta)

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)

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