Balancing The Score

Balancing The Score

To get the best out of the process, we should ensure that the KPIs are SMART and the number of KPIs should be around 7 for any individual : Sanchita Bhattacherjee 

One of the common grouses by the HR function is that companies become too ambitious and set too many goals since it becomes difficult to define the relevant Performance Management parameters and also owing to the fact that the goals are unattainable. How do you think companies must go forward with their KPIs and how can HR leverage technology to enable the same?


This is a very practical problem faced by many organisations. Prima facie, the issue in setting these objectives is that while getting the wish list of the desirable/good-to-have KPIs, the important ones fizzle out. A great tool to identify the important KPIs is by using the Balanced Score Card method and recognise the lag and lead indicators for the organisation, which can be percolated till the last man standing.


To get the best out of the process, we should ensure that the KPIs are SMART and the number of KPIs should be around 7 for any individual. Any combination of categories can be used basis the role. Technology can help us achieve these in both qualitative and quantitative manners. We can build in a lot of checks and balances to ensure that we get the desired quality and output from the process. E.g. Helping to establish the correlation between the KPIs taken by a manager and his team (top-down percolation of goals), categorisation of KPIs to be taken and making one or many as mandatory criteria, as per the organisational focus (lag and lead indicators), or by ensuring the calculation of the measurable KPIs happen properly, creating a dashboard at the user level (manager, reviewers, administrators etc.) for a holistic experience etc.


These are tools to help us have a perspective on business and individual performance. That said, we can set online milestones to achieve a bigger objective which can be monitored or tracked for self-assessment at any point in time. And we always have various reports at our disposal, to track the progress of the completion of the exercise.


One of the common plaints by employees is that Performance Appraisals are bound to get biased and subjective. It is being claimed by experts that Remote Appraisals are enabling organisations to overcome biases. Do you believe this to be completely true? How do companies make use of technology to ensure that Performance Management Systems are transparent and employee-friendly?


In my opinion, remote or otherwise, until the mindset of the people undergoing the process does not change we will not be able to witness any changes in the outcome. It has been an age-old phenomenon of blaming the process for not being objective or efficient. However, I think it is time to not take this claim completely at face value. We should neither accept nor reject this claim in its entirety. We need to check the effectiveness of the process one more time and take steps accordingly. Since we are currently in a very dynamic situation, I think it has merit to adjust the phases to suit the current situation.


However, to minimise the claims of any such biases, we can always put in small but consistent efforts, like


a. Ensuring to set measurable KPIs at the beginning of the year


b. Breaking the bigger goal into small milestones to help keep a track of progress


c. Maintaining a performance diary (both employee and manager) and supporting it with incidences. This will help keep track of the progress throughout the year and ensure that the performance appraisal does not happen with the “Halo Effect”.


Apart from this, there are many Managers for whom this concept of giving objective and specific performance feedback is very alien. For them, we can arrange coaching sessions. All said and done, even if we have the best of systems, we still need to ensure that there is a discussion between the manager and the employee on the annual/half yearly/ monthly performance.


With the advent of Work From Anywhere owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been an enhanced thrust on productivity. This has mandated organisations to have real-time and regular conversations on daily tasks and put a feed-forward mechanism in place. How do you believe technology can be an enabler in the process?


Technology plays a vital role when the employee and the manager are not physically present. To start with the basics, the arrangement of holding virtual meetings. Also, with the help of technology, it is possible to maintain a journal of the performance and feedback all through the year. For ease of reference, it can be categorised under various sections, like, topic of discussion, frequency/ recurrence of a deliverable, plan of action etc.


It has been oft-stated that Employee Check-in is a crucial element in the feedback culture of an organisation. With Remote working in place, how is employee check-in put in place in your organisation in order to sustain the feedback culture?


Feedback is important, irrespective of how we are placed for day-to-day work. The first acceptance for this needs to come from within. We need to accept that this is going to be the way ahead or the new normal for most things, so there is no point in taking our values out of it.


The best way to onboard the employees on this and ensure that these processes occur as per requirement is by guaranteeing that the discussion happens at various levels. It may not be always related to work, and could be about other things as well. This will do the ice breaking, and will be easier for the team members to have a sense of comfort to bring things on the table to discuss easily, which they might not be comfortable with otherwise.


In case we need to ask any queries to the employees back to get clarity, it needs to be done in the manner of “Appreciative Enquiry”.


We can also put in place various forums, within the departments and cross-functional, where we encourage people to come up with ideas and challenges that they face, discuss and come up with easy and implementable solutions to those issues. In my experience, a lot of complaints or issues get fixed on their own, the moment we start discussing about them with an open mind. Any unresolved issues/challenges out of these meetings can be taken up to the next level in the hierarchy and then come up with an appropriate solution.


One of the common complaints by HR Managers is that Performance Management systems are not designed from the HR’s perspective. How do you like to respond to this and what according to you in the best way to get a Performance Management System that fits the organisation’s requirement?


It is possible that there might be some organisations where the process is not up to the mark. However, if it is not, then it is time to think as to what is stopping us to reinvent the wheel and mould it into a proper process. Rather than complaining, I think this is a great opportunity to bring about these changes.


To design a good Performance Management System, there are a couple of areas that need to be taken care of. We as HR, need to strike the right balance between employee wellbeing and meeting organisational objectives. For this, it is imperative to understand the business strategy, assess current processes; identify the gaps, plan and implement the HR strategy; and measure and evaluate results. This might require a few tweaks and adjustments as needed and voila, you have a much improved and efficient process now!


Not to forget, we need to establish platforms for communication where the employees can ask the right questions at the right forum, and can also provide feedback.


A survey by a leading body indicated that remote working owing to COVID-19 has led to a 40 percent employee burnout and hence many organisations did not carry out performance appraisals in the pandemic year. Do you believe this was a step in the right direction? What are the essential parameters that HR needs to keep in mind when Performance Appraisals are not carried out?


Being a fence sitter, we cannot judge these decisions. All businesses have gone through a tough time owing to the pandemic. The business and people challenges in this year were unprecedented and unthought of. Accordingly, organisations have gone ahead with what is the best for them in the given scenario, keeping the best interests in their hearts for both the employees and the business.


The most important role of HR in any performance management system is making the process transparent, clear and consistent across the organisation. Performance management has to be consistent with the business strategy, and most processes have to be managed top-down.


In case there were no appraisals, it is fair for the employees to know the reason for the same. And hence, it becomes the HR’s responsibility to ensure that the employees are communicated about the decision via proper channels along with the reasons of taking this decision and the next steps. This communication can happen via the leadership team, but the onus of this happening, lies with the HR.



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