Differentiating Performance in a Different Year

2020 has been a year that many of us would simply like to cancel – for good reason. However, the business cycle doesn’t end, and that soon brings one of the most dreaded exercises: the performance review. With this sense of impending judgement, many are now scurrying to complete or adjust pre-COVID objectives in just the 60 workdays left between Labor Day and Thanksgiving. But how can we assess ourselves and others for a year when the best-laid plans were thrown out the window? How can we review individuals that we can now only see in two dimensions?

Over the past few years, performance management at many companies has evolved to look beyond the “what” an individual accomplished to focus more on the “how” they did it. This has helped tremendously to unlock talent and nourish leadership and collaborative skills. However, to better appreciate the relative contributions of individuals for 2020, perhaps we should also ask: where, when and who?

  • Where: Outside the range of the laptop camera, lurk innumerable household obligations and distractions. Have we been able to find a place to focus on work effectively and deliver on accountabilities? Let’s give extra credit to those who have inventively created “office” spaces at home and developed virtual solutions for group work.

  • When: 9-5 is no longer the sacred window of work – especially for parents juggling kids going back to “school.” Is an individual catching up on email during the quieter morning or evening hours? Managers and employees need to be flexible about what works best while maintaining productivity.

  • Who: Have we proactively reached out to others to be more inclusive and create virtual teams or “pods” to tackle challenges? Such partnerships have proven invaluable while working remotely and will pay dividends well into the future.

Performance management is about more than determining how big a bonus one might be entitled to, or placement on the line for advancement. Research consistently shows that employee engagement is holistic and driven by much more than these short-term objectives – people place greater value on other forms of recognition, as well as a sense of belonging, growth and meaning.

One thing that COVID has done is brought the work/life nexus closer together. Let’s make the rest of this year count and then review our longer-term professional and personal outcomes with a broader lens so that our future years will be ones to better remember.