How to Conduct Fair and Transparent Performance Appraisals in a Hybrid Workplace

With hybrid work arrangements becoming more prevalent, employers need to re-evaluate how they assess their employees, to ensure a fair and transparent system. 

Even as Singapore gradually eases the curbs for employees to return to the office, more and more employers are choosing to make hybrid working a permanent fixture.

Hybrid working refers to the combination of working from home and office. Its flexibility allows staff to save time on commuting and balance their work with their lives. However, this new working model poses certain challenges for employers. For instance, how do managers monitor and assess their staff’s performance when they are not in the office?

This is one of the biggest challenges that companies like electronics manufacturing equipment and automation provider Tokimeku Pte Ltd grapple with in the new normal.

Elaborating, director Chia Xin Ling said: “As employees are not in the office, it is challenging to track if they are fulfilling sufficient productive work hours. This used to be monitored by the time that employees arrive and leave the workplace, and observing their time spent in the office.”

“Now, we are unable to tell if our staff is productive during working hours. Also, there are fewer opportunities to bump into one another to catch up on work progress.”

Besides that, some companies also rely heavily on in-person interactions to evaluate their staff’s soft skills.

“Assessing soft skills and personal development has become more challenging, given the lack of face-to-face interaction and ability to observe the employees’ interactions with different stakeholders,” said Ms Nicole Poon, senior vice-president of business operations, partnerships and strategic initiatives at financial tech firm MatchMove.

What this means is that employers need new ways to evaluate staff performance. They also need to ensure that the system is fair and transparent to employees so that they are recognised for their contributions. 

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Here are some methods companies can consider using to track their staff’s performance.

1. Set clear, measurable targets

In the absence of regular face time, one of the best ways to ensure that staff and management are on the same page is to set quantifiable goals. 

For Xin Ling’s company, this meant discussing and implementing a performance matrix and measurable targets for all work functions, so that everyone understands the expectations during remote working. Some of the targets include spelling out the number of cold calls the sales team had to make daily and the maximum turnaround time to respond to email enquiries. Additionally, each department also had to accomplish a set of quarterly projects. 

Elaborating on the effectiveness of the measures, Xin Ling shared: “Our employees responded well. The clear expectations that were agreed upon ensured that our staff were engaged and in control of their contributions. It also helped to reduce potential misunderstandings about their perceived versus actual performance, which helped with work motivation.”

2. Conduct regular reviews

With clear key performance indicators in place, it’s also important for companies to schedule regular reviews to see how their workers are coping. 

According to Xin Ling, every department in her company holds weekly internal meetings to keep track of employees’ progress.

“We review our targets monthly. Our projects are reviewed either monthly or quarterly, where our staff and their supervisors have an informal discussion on their progress and performance,” she shared.

During these sessions, Xin Ling’s team also discuss what work activities are unnecessary or can be improved on, and what tasks are critical to their work functions, so that they can be monitored. 

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Besides that, companies can take a leaf from tech companies’ books by holding weekly or daily “stand-up” meetings where team members share their accomplishments, progress, what they are working on for the day, as well as their challenges. These meetings will help supervisors keep track of their team’s workload and provide guidance, where required, without being perceived as micromanaging.  

3. Create opportunities for staff to shine

Another great way for companies to assess how their staff is doing is by encouraging them to share achievements.

Xin Ling suggests that these can be done during weekly departmental meetings or include these achievements in newsletters so that they can get the recognition they deserve.

Offering staff a platform to highlight their achievements allows them to be recognised at a public forum. It also reminds employers about their staff’s achievements so that they can take it into account during performance appraisals.

4. Leverage on tech tools

Today’s companies have the advantage of tapping on a variety of tech tools to monitor staff progress. For example, project management tool Trello allows supervisors to see what tasks each team member is working on, provide feedback and assign tasks to their employees. 

Such tools make it more convenient for supervisors to step in promptly to provide guidance when problems occur.  

Performance appraisals play a critical role in employees’ career progression. So, it’s important for companies to create effective systems that can assess performance in a fair and transparent manner, to keep staff engaged and satisfied with the working environment.

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