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Employee Engagement

Nick Gallimore, director of innovation at Advanced

As businesses pass the two-year anniversary of the first Covid-19 lockdown, it’s natural to take stock and assess how the landscape has changed, both in the way businesses operate externally and in the way they engage with their employees.

As the year gathers momentum and with new external pressures like the Ukraine war plunging us collectively further into global uncertainty, business will need to continue to be able to adapt and quickly respond to the needs of their customers and their employees. While two years of on-off remote working has led to many employers shift to a hybrid work setting, the next phase is key for harmonious employee relations: making the permanent changes that employees want to see.

A new managerial approach

Because the way people are working has changed, so too must the way they are managed evolve. For many businesses, remote working management has been learned by doing over the last two years, but it is vital that these practices are reviewed, analysed and adapted now that we can recognise the permanence of remote or hybrid working.

And, this needs to be implemented quickly – because employees are voting with their feet. Forty-one per cent of the global workforce is likely to consider leaving their current employer within the next year.[1] How they are managed is a major factor in whether they stay or go. More research shows that it takes a pay rise in excess of 20% to lure employees away from a manager who engages them, and very little to tempt away the more disengaged workers.[2]

These statistics alone should be enough to prompt your organisation to reassess its approach to management.

Performance management at the heart of successful engagement

A critical part of achieving active employee engagement is performance and development. People need to know whether they’re doing a good job, and how they can improve. They want to learn, develop, grow their careers and progress.

To effectively track performance and identify these opportunities, there has to be a renewed focus on performance management and development strategies for organisations – something that has been deprioritised over the last year. In a new study from Advanced, 65% of HR directors told us that their performance management process has been put on the back burner over this last year.

This is less surprising when we remember how performance management was generally approached pre-pandemic, with a focus on annual performance review cycles and standardised form-based appraisals. These simply aren’t agile enough to deliver results when employees aren’t 100% office based.

Having well engaged employees is critical now – making overlooking performance management a risk. Effective performance management covers off more than just important processes – it helps engage staff, checking their stress levels and supporting them during any difficulties. This makes it invaluable in the face of a mass exodus of the workforce towards more flexible, agile and supportive jobs.

What needs to change

‘Fixing’ performance management is easier said than done. Part of the issue lies in the apparent gap between what employees consider good performance management to look like, and what their managers think it is. Our study found that almost half (49%) of employees are not having regular performance conversations with their line managers, but that 67% of managers say they have performance conversations with their teams at least once a month. There’s a clear discrepancy here.

Performance management is not a box to be ticked. Ongoing performance management required managers to recognise the humanity of their team – to have real conversations with them on a regular basis and understand how they are feeling. This side of effective performance management is just as important as the formal reviews, one-to-ones and planned in conversations.

Having these conversations on a regular basis is the best way to keep productivity up, engagement and motivation levels high, and tackle burn out issues before they become a real problem.

Getting board buy-in

If businesses want to keep hold of their skilled and valued employees, there needs to be a top-to-bottom commitment from the business to make performance management a real focus this year. The pandemic presented a once-in-a-lifetime systematic shift in the way we work; it’s time that systems and processes evolved to keep up with that.

Companies that commit to making performance management a focus and changing how they deliver it to reflect their new, more hybrid ways of working, will be the ones that reap the rewards. Now is the time to start getting back on track with great continuous performance management, in order to support, engage and grow the talented employees who make organisations what they are.

[1] https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/worklab/work-trend-index/hybrid-work

[2] https://www.gallup.com/workplace/351545/great-resignation-really-great-discontent.aspx

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