Coronavirus (COVID-19), Learning & Development

Why Performance Conversations During a Pandemic Are Important for Driving Growth

For managers and employees, the thought of conducting performance reviews during a global pandemic might be a source of high stress. As the future of work transforms, the need to redefine learning and performance conversations is more apparent than ever.

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How do factors brought on by a remote workforce weigh into performance conversations? Are business leaders able to create connection, alignment, and growth virtually? In order to effectively have learning and performance management conversations, there needs to be one unified approach.

First, ask yourself: “What is the purpose of my discussion with my employee?” Traditionally, managers and employees view performance conversations as an annual meeting to determine salary increase. That is the old-school way of thinking and limits the potential for a meaningful discussion between manager and employee.

Gallup reports that only 14% of employees strongly agree that their performance review inspires growth. The new era of learning and performance conversations challenges managers to discuss performance gaps and successes without the looming pressure of also discussing salary and compensation.

Managers play a crucial role in employee engagement. When it comes to employee development, companies get what they give. Today’s workforce must embrace a blended approach to learning and performance management.

According to LinkedIn, 90% of professionals say they would stay at a company that invested in their growth longer. But while companies have long understood that learning and development (L&D) is tied to retention, it’s often left to HR managers to figure out performance.

As a result of COVID-19, the context of work has forever changed. Many individuals now face unforeseen challenges of working from home. For working parents, multitasking now includes teaching online school. Others might be struggling with feelings of isolation or fear of uncertainty. Managers need to summon compassion and objectivity when evaluating pre-pandemic key performance indicators (KPIs).

Frequent one-on-one conversations with employees can shine a valuable light on the well-being of your employee. It is important to align and grow your employees to help fill the gap between what their current skills are and what your organization needs. With that purpose in mind, we recommend following a few one-on-one best practices:

Hold Weekly, Scheduled Check-Ins

During times of change, employees want to know how they will be individually impacted and what is expected of them. Regular check-ins between managers and employees provide opportunities to align strategy and explain essential priorities. Managers need to be empowered to provide strategic guidance while allowing each individual to perform with autonomy.

Have an Agenda That Is Shared

Both employee and manager should be able to access the agenda throughout the week; shift priorities; assign learning, tasks, and goals; and make comments where appropriate. This information should be saved and easily accessible throughout the week to ensure both managers and employees stay connected and on the same page.

Review Project Statuses and Celebrate Wins

When an agenda is created and easily accessible, the actual one-on-one becomes a far more efficient experience, given that the manager can check in on task progress and project statuses ahead of time and come to the one-on-one prepared with specific questions to discuss.

Employees are able to discuss what drives them and explore plans for desired skills and career growth, while managers can help identify learning opportunities. Additionally, take time to celebrate wins, which, according to a recent study by Bersin & Associates, has led companies to “31% lower turnover rates than those who don’t.”

Be Human and Take Time to Connect

One-on-ones shouldn’t always be formal, especially during times of stress and change. Employees need to feel comfortable and cared for and understand that their manager is invested in their overall well-being.

I’ll never forget a one-on-one shortly after we began working from home. Typically, this person is laser-focused and dependable. When we started to work from home, I noticed a shift and checked in. The employee shared that working from home with a toddler whose day care was closed and a spouse who continued to work outside the home was difficult as the person tried to work the typical nine-to-five job. At that moment, I realized why a weekly cadence of one-on-ones has become more necessary than ever.

Simply stated, people matter most. The future of work depends on incorporating a thoughtful approach to learning and performance management. As business leaders, we must strive to provide our people with the tools necessary to connect, align, and grow together while working apart.

John Knotwell serves as the General Manager (GM) of Bridge by Instructure. As GM, he is responsible for the people, customers, and operations of the Global Bridge business. He is the champion of Bridge’s mission to help people transform their organizations through connection, alignment, and growth.