The power of performance management and being digital


Insight author headshot

Michael Esau

Global HR Advisor

Insight author headshot

Simon Humphreys

Global Solution Architect

In the last 5 to 10 years, there has been much debate about the merits and direction of performance management. We have seen a move to more “continuous” conversations, the removal of ratings as part of an annual review and a mixture of all approaches. Questions that are not always asked though – what does the employee want and what do they need?

The topic of performance management has always been hotly debated. For many it is an outdated concept, for others it is a lengthy and time-consuming process that rarely delivers meaningful outcomes, but as we continue into the third year of the pandemic and a shift in our working experience, the importance of performance management should never be marginalised.

In April 2021, we launched The Human Factor Podcast Series by SAP to really delve into the topics and themes that are truly impacting the world of work today. The series to date has been a fascinating journey into the minds of our guests as we unpick the evolving world of work and what it means to the people working in our organisations today. Central to many of the conversations has been the topic of performance and the factors that influence it.

What have we learned from the pandemic? Firstly, people have changed jobs. In the United States 4.4 million people changed job in November 2021. There have been many column inches talking about “The Great Resignation”, “The Great Departure”, “The Great Realisation” – so why have people decided to leave? Well, the common consensus is linked to culture, experience and how it felt to work in the organisation. We know from countless pieces of research from organisations such as Gallup that engagement globally has been tragically low for the last 10 years, so this has been coming – I think the pandemic just shone a great big light on it and people decided enough was enough and voted with their feet.


So, what are we learning from “The Great Resignation” and how have we evolved our working practices in the last 24 months?

  • Fundamentals REALLY matter. It has been one of the constant themes in every episode of the podcast. During our conversation with Damian Hughes, Professor of Organisational Psychology and Change, best-selling author and co-host of The High Performance Podcast, who spoke about the importance of purpose1 and building a “commitment model” that provided a clear sense of mission to all employees. He spoke passionately about the importance of a growth mindset – and focusing on being better EVERY day.
  • Clarity is a SUPERPOWER – we were privileged to spend time with David Hieatt (co-founder of Hiut Denim) who stressed the importance of clarity for everyone in his organisation. How can you do great work without having clarity on what you are doing? David regularly runs “15-minute clarity” sessions with his teams asking them “what do you need to know?” – with nothing more than a wall, a set of post it notes and a pen. He shared it is one of the most powerful things he does. The episode with David will be released on the 14th April.
  • The role of the leader is fundamental to future success. David Williams, founder and CEO of Impact International spoke to us about “the future role of the leader2 and the need for organisations to truly invest in preparing leaders for a hybrid working model that requires leaders to build skills around collaboration, communication, empathy and feedback. The emphasis being placed on providing clarity when people were remote and checking in to ensure team members had everything they needed and to provide feedback.
  • A feedback culture is paramount to growth, retention, and success. In a great conversation with John Amaechi OBE, Founder of APS Intelligence and Michiel Verhoeven, Managing Director, SAP UK & Ireland, about the power of a feedback culture3 and how it is essential to not only facilitating growth, but creating a culture of integrity, compassion, learning and challenge. Observations over the last 100 years have told us – that a human being wants to achieve every day. They want to make a difference, accomplish something new or unique – there is a relativity to what that means to every human, but what is irrefutable is everyone wants to achieve.

So, what is the conclusion to take from all of these insights when we consider the “role” of performance management in our organisations? We know that the attraction of talent is going to get harder – this is an observation shared by many. Therefore, our ability to grow and retain our talent is going to become a strategic priority if it isn’t already. To do this we must consider the following:

  • Do the basics brilliantly – provide maximum clarity on goals, expectations, standards – our employees need to know this and WANT to know this.
  • Your Employee Value Proposition must be compelling to the people you are looking to attract and to those who are already working for you. Defining your vision and purpose enables employees to align more easily and by default perform with greater confidence
  • Build autonomy into the employee experience – we curate our own experiences outside of work, how can we take greater ownership in the workplace, enable empowerment, and drive greater accountability for the attainment of performance goals?
  • Feedback, Feedback, and more Feedback – make a concerted effort to build this into your culture, your ways of working - don’t make it hierarchical, anyone should be able to provide feedback but make sure it is helpful and never cruel to the recipient.
  • Recognition and Rewards – recognise effort, excellence and results – a “thank you” undoubtably matters.

I believe organisations will continue to redesign their performance processes for the foreseeable future and we will see new variations emerge – but undoubtably this is more than just a process we execute at various intervals in the year. There is a human at the end of the process who needs certain things to happen for them to excel and when they don’t happen, they disengage and leave.

Jason Averbook, founder and CEO of Leapgen provided a perceptive insight when discussing “The Future World of Work”, and it very much encapsulates the need to execute the basic fundamentals of performance management. Over the last 30 years we have been “doing digital” and putting the emphasis on design and the roll-out of process, often seeing mixed results in terms of adoption and outcomes. This podcast episode is to be released on the 18th March.

As the world of work continues to shift on its axis and we feel the “tension” of the people leaving organisations, the emphasis today has to be on “being digital”. As Jason commented "being digital means I'm constantly improving. I’m treating my digital capabilities like a pet, not like a rock. I must walk it daily. Water it daily. Clean up after it daily. Pet it daily."

That digital capability is our people.

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