Is it beginning to look a lot like lockdown? Well continued working from home is certainly going to give managers many of the same problems they had during full lockdown. Not least, how do you manage performance when work patterns between home and office are fluid and constantly changing? What happens to productivity, consistency, innovation, group learning? All those aspects of managing performance that a manager needs to be thinking about, not just getting tasks done.
Of course, some organisations have been managing hybrid teams for years, but they have tended to be very well-resourced businesses with considerable investment and expertise in using remote technology. The rest of us have had to learn fast, often with equipment ill-suited to the purpose.
Here are some practical tips to ensure you keep managing performance well, no matter where your team are.
- Keep communicating
Communication is a two-way street, so this is about listening as much as talking. You need to talk to your team regularly – some teams talk every day, some every week. If you don’t talk every week, you might want to ask yourself some tough questions. How do you know if your colleagues are OK? How do you know what problems might be on the horizon? How do you know if the team are working well together?
This does not mean you need to fill an hour a day with meaningless conversation, rather that you team need to experience you giving time to connect, understand the world from their perspective, and help you both be prepared for whatever is coming next.
- Keep the end in mind
Managing performance can feel like simply checking an endless series of tasks. Actually, the prime aim of performance management is to focus the time, talent and energy of your team on the things that really matter to the organisation. So when you listen to what your team are planning to do in the coming weeks, constantly challenge yourself and them with the question ‘how will this help us deliver our results?’ It’s easy enough for people to go ‘off topic’ even when you are all in an office together, be sure to keep your team focused on the important issues when you are hybrid working
- Have some ‘in person’ meetings where possible
Many organisations are asking colleagues to return to an office for part of the week. Work hard with your team to find at least one day a fortnight when you can all be together in person, as far as possible. Use that time well. You could go back to basics and explore how your team’s work will help deliver the organisation’s purpose. Or you could use the time to generate some fresh thinking about the knottiest problems the team are dealing with, or create some learning opportunities for the team to re-energise their approach to work. Whatever you do, don’t waste precious ‘face time’ with routine catch up on task lists and timelines.
- Make hybrid meetings enjoyable
Many of us are sick of just staring at screens waiting for a chance to speak. There are lots of tips and tricks on making virtual meetings more enjoyable – explore them, and try out some new ideas.
- Managing individual performance
If you have followed tips 1 – 4 you will have done well with managing overall team performance. Now you can turn your attention to individual performance. Take time for some one-to-one conversations. If these can be in person, that would be useful, but if not – try to create a different feel to the virtual session. Maybe encourage your team member to join the call from a different place in their home, or simply sit further back from the screen and relax. Use the time to listen to what your colleague is dealing with, what do they need from you to untangle any problems they are dealing with? Check in on their well-being – not everyone wants to work from home, and for some, it’s very stressful. Even if you are not happy with their current performance, focus on what you want to be different in future, and less on anything that has happened in the past. People are often unaware of the impact they are having in a virtual session, and that applies to you as well as them – so think carefully about any difficult message, and keep it simple. Be generous with your praise and acknowledgement of work well done.
- Don’t forget your team’s development
A lot of development in the last year has been about addressing the practical demands of virtual working. Your colleagues will still have other development needs, from pursuing professional qualifications, to thinking about next career steps. It is easy for people to feel forgotten if they never get the chance to discuss these matters with you. Make sure you designate a conversation specifically for development and career discussions as it’s hard to have a quality conversation about such matters if you have just been discussing tight project deadlines or difficult work relationships.
Taken together, these 6 tips will keep you on the right track of managing performance in a hybrid world.
Hedda Bird, CEO of 3C Performance Management Specialists and author of new book The Performance Management Playbook: 15 must-have conversations to motivate and manage your people, Pearson, £24.99