Subir Sinha is a Senior HR Professional with over 30 years of experience in Human Resource function in Manufacturing, FMCG, ITeS, Retail, Telecom and EdTech sectors. He has worked with the likes of Creative Group, Arvind, Reliance Retail, ITC Agrotech (Conagra Foods), MOTIF (ttec), Reliance Communications, RSPL Ltd. and NetCom Learning etc. Currently, he is based in Delhi NCR and working as a Freelance HR Consultant helping Startups, SMEs and MSMEs in building robust HR systems and Practices. His current clients include Niine, Ace Turtle, House Joy, Magic Billion, Zypp, Adosphere, Eko, Leo Network, Equitas Bank, Forever New etc. Subir can be reached on email@example.com.
Here are his key experiences in the industry in relation to the current COVID-19 pandemic and WFH situation.
What is your opinion on the impact the pandemic situation had on employee performance?
We are going through unprecedented times. No one had imagined or had an experience of a pandemic of this magnitude. Corporates were unprepared and taken aback when it struck last year. It is natural that with all the fears looming around no one is in the right frame of mind. Employee performance has dipped for sure but with concerted efforts from organisations and especially HR it has come back to a level wherein 60-80% of performance expectations of employees are being harnessed. There is a great sense of job insecurity among employees, work from home has pluses and minuses and lack of F2F communication and working via virtual connectivity has its own challenges. All of these have definitely led to sub optimal performance by employees.
What are some proactive measures that can be taken to maintain employee performance?
Corporates have taken a lot of steps to minimise productivity loss of employees. Companies which had been using technology and were digital have had an advantage in the last two years. Work from Home which was prevalent in IT companies earlier has now extended to many sectors including FMCG and manufacturing. Companies have to ensure that IT infra is available with their employees to WFH. Since last year many companies have provided all support to their employees to WFH. What is more important to ensure employee performance to expected levels is clarity of expectations from them in an ongoing way. What I mean is since managers are not in physical proximity of employees they have to daily share their expectations with the remote employee. Have at least two to three meetings daily to assign tasks in the morning, have a meeting in the afternoon to see if the work assigned is on track and have a closing meeting in the evening to check accomplishments in the day. Provide them with all guidance and support to complete the tasks assigned. Connect them with other employees if the task is interdependent. Managers have to keep the team engaged through intermittent check-ins and having informal sessions with them in groups or one on one to keep them involved, engaged and let them not feel isolated and lonely. For Service sector there is a bigger challenge but they have to find new ways to do their business and train their staff accordingly. Empathy, compassion are other things which managers have to demonstrate to their employees to give their best in these times of ongoing crisis.
What, in your opinion, is the ideal process that a company must follow to ensure effective performance evaluation during this scenario? Any best practices you would like to share.
In these crisis driven situations performance evaluation in many companies has been deferred. However, If companies had set in their annual Objectives / Goals earlier then employees need to be evaluated against them with moderation of the Targets and achievements. Suggest the use of Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) to evaluate the performance of employees. Since, we do not have the visibility of the entire year as to how things will pan up. Hence, OKRs are a better approach to manage organisational performance and in turn employees performance. Objective and Key Results expected need to be firmed up on a quarterly basis and they be monitored. People are rewarded based on their quarterly achievements. This may help enormously in managing and enhancing employees performance.
Do you think formalizing feedback and/or regular performance check-ins will make a difference?
Regular and ongoing feedback and regular performance Check-ins are the call of the day. I have already mentioned that. This is one critical way companies can manage their employee performance. In a virtual working world remote employees who are not seeing or interacting with their managers physically need to be monitored through regular check-ins and feedback then only the tasks given to them will be accomplished. It is the call of the day.
With employees and managers all away from each other, what steps can be taken to ensure clarity on work objectives/goals and their priorities?
Managers need to first be clear on what the organisation expects from them. They then need to be clearly articulating and listing down their expectations of the employees reporting to them. Managers have to put in extra efforts in explaining their expectations to their employees. Managers have to ensure that all resources required to complete the tasks by their employees are available to them. They have to coordinate with different employees if their tasks are interdependent. Managers need to clear all doubts etc. of their employees and be the mediator/coordinator between two employees who are working for a common task and provide them all support and guidance whatsoever. Managers have to engage with their employees regularly formally and informally and get their work done.