From performance appraisal to human resource development, every aspect of work will need to change in the new reality.
The future of work arrived much sooner than any of us expected. Overnight, we have swapped conference rooms for living rooms, cubicles for coffee tables, and water-cooler chats for messaging apps. Once we settled into this new routine, however, deeper questions have arisen.
Do I need to change how I showcase my work value? How is my performance being measured? What does my path for career growth now look like? These questions underscore how, just as we swiftly transformed to ensure business continuity, we must also transform our approach to career development so that our people can also continue to grow and thrive.
It is tempting to put aside thoughts of career progression as a luxury to revisit when working conditions return to normal, but increasingly, it looks like many of these workplace changes are here to stay. Therefore, rethinking career development and team performance in a hybrid work environment needs to be top-of-mind for all managers and employees.
Technology is great at measuring activity but not necessarily the value that someone brings to the organization. We need new tools, policies, and behavioral standards for people development that take our new reality into account.
Blending of work and personal life
Let us start with the basics. Managers and employees need to schedule frequent virtual check-ins. Email and chat messages will not cut it—face-to-face interaction is a must. Video chats are getting richer, livelier, and more inclusive. In fact, Microsoft reported that total video calls in Microsoft Teams grew by over 1,000% in March 2020 alone. This has spurred a host of new features such as Together mode, that shows participants in a common virtual space.
Rapid digital transformation also offers new ways to measure productivity and health. Workplace analytics, performed according to principles of privacy and trust, will yield important insights into work habits and trends.
For instance, a manager could see how much time she is spending with her direct reports and if any gaps need attention. The level and intensity of online interactions between employees could also offer a measure of team health. As Jared Spataro, CVP of Microsoft 365, put it recently: “We see this blending of work and life as a durable workplace trend with potential for technology to help ease some of the challenges that come with it. You’ll see us continuing to innovate in the areas of organizational analytics and employee wellbeing in the near future.”
New measures of success
In acknowledging the changing workplace dynamics, organizations also need to reassess how performance will be measured. Work cultures that traditionally placed a premium on physical presence in an office—something common across Asia—have had to adjust expectations.
Extroverts who thrive on personal contact and frequent communication may struggle while introverts who value quiet time may find they can contribute more. In addition, the traditional 9–5 working-hour boundaries have crumbled with a doubling of work chats after hours in the last six months.
On the positive side, remote work can also feel more inclusive. Over half of people polled had said they felt more valued in remote meetings because everyone shared the same virtual room. Moreover, two-thirds of workers said they were more productive working from home, and 77% said they wanted flexibility in how and where they work in the future.
These changes point to the need to revisit how to evaluate employees and recognize them for their work. Managers can start by reviewing existing measurements of success and key performance indicators (KPIs). For instance, in the past, a marketer may have had a target of visiting a certain number of clients in-person every month. Today, it might make more sense for them to host a certain number of in-depth video calls focused on particular topics. Landing on the best way to measure performance may take some time and can only happen through those frequent manager-employee conversations.
Embracing continual learning
Finally, organizations need to help employees stay relevant amid a world that is still changing rapidly. Continual learning and upskilling are necessary for employees to future-proof themselves and stay economically relevant.
More than two thirds (69%) of employees polled said that ongoing support and training in digital and remote-working skills will be important beyond the pandemic. Resources like LinkedIn can show workers what skills are needed in their industries and provide related learning content. With team collaboration platforms, employees interested in a new topic can look across an entire organization to identify internal experts and existing content.
Sometimes it feels like the pandemic has forced us to hit pause on our lives; but it is vital to keep career discussions at the forefront. Managers and employees need to have frequent and open conversations and set clear expectations. Get rid of outdated goals and performance metrics and be creative in setting new ones. Use technology to glean insights and embrace learning opportunities. Most of all, remember that a career is just another one of life’s many journeys, so let us have empathy for each other as we navigate these uncharted waters.