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Three Clues to 2020 Performance Management

For many of us, 2020 management by objectives (MBO) went up in smoke around April 1 — the first days of the COVID-19 shutdown. In March, we knew what results to target and how we’d measure our success. A few weeks later, most of those targets had been disassembled, blown up or replaced. Timelines became guesses.


While we’re confident we’ll make progress, we are nonetheless scrambling to reframe our goals. Most of us know what team members and resources are available for projects, but the targets keep shifting as operational efficiency can get hit from all sides. This puts all of us — human resources, managers, employees — in a performance management environment that could become chaotic by the end of the year if we don’t keep an eye on things now.

Here are at least three things to think about — and plan for — given the current situation. I promise you that none of them will add more work to your busy to-do list. Instead, they offer a mindset that may bring method and organization to performance management efforts for the rest of the year.

Don’t Rely on Objectives
I have put it a little too bluntly, but I’d like to send a wake-up call. While revised MBOs may play a role in our work processes for the rest of the year, they will not be the stalwart foundation they have been in the past. Most of us have to adjust MBO details in a good year. This year, you may not keep up with the revisions. And, in fact, it may not be worth the trouble.

What is it that interests you about employee performance right now? It’s not just results. How employees behave in this turbulent environment has become more evident and more important to results than ever before. Can you rely on the employee? Do they try to be a problem solver? Are they able to adapt to quick shifts and disappointments? These behaviors are typically communicated through competencies. You know, that part of performance management that’s typically overlooked.

Lose the Attitude About Competencies
For the COVID-19 period, the employee contributions that will make the biggest impact will be observed behaviors like teamwork, reliability, creativity and communications. If you haven’t had use for competencies in the past, take a look around right now.

Given the way that we are working, don’t you think you’ll want to give employees feedback on these types of behaviors in the coming weeks, and at the end of the year? It’s not just you. This will be true for most managers who must be confused about performance priorities right now. Get yourself behind competencies and then coach managers how to use them. Recognize that the specific competencies to emphasize will vary, depending on the department and the specific challenges they are facing.

Celebrate Professional Growth
Acknowledge that the crazy environment that we are in is also a perfect setting for employee growth. Employees are taking on unaccustomed responsibilities and solving novel, complex problems. Competencies will help you talk with employees about their development and equip you to track high performers' readiness for a promotion.

About the Author

Margaret O'Hanlon Bio Image

Margaret O'Hanlon, CCP, is founder and principal at re:Think Consulting and a founding contributor of Compensation Café.

This article was first published at Compensation Café on May 27, 2020.

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