How to handle performance management with work from home

‘If you want to give some of that constructive feedback, or you’re going to have a performance review, get on video’

How to handle performance management with work from home

Despite the countless issues facing employers while the workforce is dispersed remotely during the pandemic, performance management must continue.

Canadian HR Reporter spoke with Arjun Dhir, associate lawyer at CCPartners in Brampton, Ont., on how to navigate the new world while keeping employee performance operating at an optimal level.

Q: How should performance management be handled differently?

A: “One of the key tips that we recommend is scheduled touchpoints: daily, weekly. These touchpoints should be formal outside of regular day-to-day correspondence and normal calls and emails. There should be a scheduled huddle of some sort, whether it’s daily or weekly... It should be adhered to because you want to give both sides an opportunity to touch base on key projects and voice any potential concerns before they evolve into a problem.

“One thing that is very effective while working remotely is using Zoom... A video gives participants a lot of visual cues that you don’t have over email or over text and there’s something to be said about being able to look someone in the eye and gauge their response when you give them feedback. While email is a great tool, it’s too formal. It’s hard to interpret what the tone of an email is because it’s just cut and dry, it’s just text. 

“When you’re on video, it does promote undivided attention; you can see if they’re distracted, and you can get their actual attention during that time. If you want to give some of that constructive feedback, or you’re going to have a performance review, get on video and that that’s as close as we’re going to get these days to face-to-face with an employee.”

Q: How should we deal with underperforming workers?

A: “If you start seeing that performance is suffering, that’s when performance management should be considered. It’s the same thing in a workplace when it was in person.

“At that point, you should be increasing the touchpoints to give an opportunity to work with this employee, even informally and just see why they are challenged. Are they distracted at home? Are they unsure of what’s expected of them? You should be trying to help them. But obviously, if there isn’t improvement, that should be documented and you can consider a performance improvement plan.

Arjun Dhir

“Literally, anything that you would do in the office really applies out of the office too and that’s one of the key things that employers should understand — just because the employee isn’t located down the hall anymore, doesn’t mean that you can’t still utilize those same strategies you used to use, you just have to move them to online now.

“That’s where utilizing video conferencing comes into play because you want to make sure that you’re controlling the communication, controlling the tone. And the only way to do that is them seeing you, seeing your voice and understanding that you’re here to support them.”

Q: What’s involved with a performance management investigation?

A: “Hopefully, while you’re doing those huddles and touchpoints, you are making notes as an employer, and you’re keeping a log of what’s being told to you. And again, this all comes down to the nature of work but one thing you can ask employees to do is to provide you with a weekly log like a status update. What’s going on with projects? It allows you to have oversight, it allows you to see why things are lagging and really nip the problem in the bud.

“But it also allows you to have documentation where, ‘Look, you told me for the last three weeks that you were 25, 50, 75 per cent done and we’re a couple weeks past that and you’re still at the same point, where did that lag?’

“You have some proof. If you note things down, if you’ve kept written documentation, to have some objective piece of documentation to look at... that’s obviously going to help you a lot when you’re performance managing.”

Q: What is the role for HR in managing performance?

A: “HR professionals play a huge role. They should be working hand-in-hand with managers. They should be the ones preparing the policies... They should be working with employers on those initial communications on setting expectations.

“Effective performance management is establishing and maintaining effective communication, so if the human resource department can assist with doing that, helping to create those touchpoints, making it uniform across all employees.

“HR plays a big role in communicating that it’s a two-way street. It’s a mutual benefit.”

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