How is Performance Management Evolving in 2021?

In response to the global pandemic, working style and general practices at offices and in small to large organizations have undergone a drastic transformation. As a consequence, how performance management is dealt with also needs to change.


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When we talk about performance management and appraisals, we know that they are created to help align employee performance with organizational goals. These also serve as a means to flag areas of improvement and facilitate employee engagement. 

Over the years, performance management has evolved, focusing more on employees taking responsibility for their professional development so that a balance is maintained between the employee and employer. Now to maintain this balance, there is a critical element that employers need to take into account- employees’ joy in performing. The joy or happiness an employee derives from their work is an unparalleled motivation that allows them to excel in tasks at hand. 

With performance management metrics designed to facilitate and monitor progress based on joy in performance, organizational growth can skyrocket. Now with more and more people having to work remotely, the time ahead will bring about a lot of changes in performance management; to name a few- 

Bringing Managers up to Pace

It is near to impossible to propose how the second half of the year 2021 will pan out. However, the remote working situation may continue for the remaining part of the year. If 2020 was all about coping with the challenges, then 2021 would be how to overcome these challenges. How effective the managers are in aligning team goals with organizational goals will be a key to the success of employees and the company.

Transforming 9 box grid 

Potential Improve With Guidance High PotentialStar Performers 
Lack StimulusCore Performer High Performers
Bad HiresThe Do-BettersWorkhorses


This is a general idea of a 9 box grid that is widely used to evaluate employees, their productivity, and alignment with the organization. Now the 9 box grid functions primarily on two factors- potential and performance; what it misses out on is the bridge between the two- motivation. 

The top right employees and top middle employees can be a great means to transform the 9 box grid. The foremost thing to do is identifying the pain points of top middle employees and help them navigate their way out of them. This can be done by recognizing the motivating factors for top right employees. Similarly, we can work our way down and develop an approach that motivates people to find joy in their work to drive up their performance. 

Management by objectives 

What can be better than translating organizational goals to individual goals and drive up organization-wide performance? Nothing! 

Management by objectives is a practice that has opened up the scope of performance management multifold. The term MBO was first coined by Peter Drucker in his book The Practice of Management in 1954 along with  the SMART (specific, measurable, acceptable, realistic, time-bound) model to help translate organizational objectives to employees. 

As per Harvard Business Review, 95% of a company’s employees are unaware of the organizational goals. A progressive strategy like MBO, a multi-layered practice, allows employees to define their objectives or personal goals in sync with their team, department, and finally, the organization. It is a realistic approach that encourages  progress while accommodating personal achievements that come with objective fulfillment. 

Performance Management and Beyond

The current scenario is bound to have lasting effects on the way companies ask their teams to work, and it puts work environments into a stronger focus than before. This should also include their health and wellbeing. Effective working means being able to bring yourself to work even while working at home independently. Checking up on employees and how to cope up with individual needs should be an integral part of any performance management strategy.

Accepting Employee Independence

Working remotely has its shortcomings. Colleagues and employees need to work as a team by being more self-reliant. They need to be more conscious about how they plan their day, when and how they work, and how their performance impacts the organization. This new style of working remotely is what brings joy, but it also adds up to how impactful and productive are the staff members.


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Employees need to adopt and adapt to such changes, and employers need to recognize and allow their employers to take control of their professional and personal development. Employees need to be provided with the necessary tools that would enable them to become more proactive so that they can plan their progression. For instance, building feedback loops in between review cycles can ensure more relevant and timely information sharing so the team can respond immediately to any changes.

Testing, Learning and Improving-A Feedback Based Approach 

Feedback and learning should not always be restricted to manager-subordinates. Instead, it should be a department or organization-wide approach to help widen the areas of feedback. According to a survey by PwC, more than 75% of respondents believe that feedback is valuable. About 45% of respondents also value feedback from their peers and clients or customers, yet less than 30% said they receive it. 

As per a survey by Zenger and Folkman, 92% of respondents agreed that “negative feedback, if delivered appropriately, is effective in improving performance.” Now we not only have to diversify the channels of receiving feedback but also improve the approach of giving it. Maintaining a neutral channel via a common platform can be a great idea to facilitate such practices. 

Parting words

While many have tried to predict the possible state of work culture after the pandemic,  outcomes are ever evolving and we’re yet to see the long term implications of this major shift. 

Considering the above situation, teams and organizations need to be prepared for constant changes in the near future. The company needs to establish proactive processes, regular feedback systems, adopt changes when traditional ways do not work, and offer support and an inclusive environment to team members to ensure that they understand their value and feel they are part of the system.  A well thought out performance management approach can make all the difference you need to excel in today’s hard-hit world.

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