RSM's survey shows that managing performance is a continuing challenge for hybrid working

27 June 2023

In The Real Economy’s most recent topical survey, People Perspectives – redefining the workforce, we look at workforce challenges faced by businesses in the past 12 months, and their plans for the coming year.

41% of businesses surveyed say they offer hybrid working options to attract and retain employees in today’s modern workplace. It is therefore great news that 90% of businesses have either already upskilled their managers to manage remotely, or plan to do so in the coming year. 

This shows us that hybrid working and people management remain a key focus for the coming year, so how can both be handled effectively in relation to each other?

Effective performance management is crucial to building high performing teams

When the subject of performance management is discussed, how do your managers react? Do they associate this with a once-a-year appraisal process, which they turn their attention to for a finite period? Or is it a practice really embedded in your organisation? Are managers comfortable with and encouraged to pursue continual improvement to their people, either through training or positive role modelling?

If it’s the former, there is work to be done. Effective performance management is continual. It’s an honest, open series of discussions regarding progress towards meeting and exceeding role requirements, reaching specific targets, and fully understanding what ‘good’ looks like. 

A clear, structured and effective performance management framework is key to creating and maintaining high performing teams, whether office based or hybrid. 

Communication is key

When considering a hybrid working arrangement, there are various ways to bring teams together and ensure proactive manager-direct report relationships exist. However, the basics remain the same.

Setting clear expectations within reasonable timeframes is crucial to effective performance management. Individuals must understand the specifics of what is expected of them and when, to have the best chance of succeeding. They must also feel motivated to succeed, so encouragement towards shared goals is important as well.

Top tips for people management in a hybrid world

Managers inevitably have less face-to-face time with their team under a hybrid working arrangement and, while performance must be managed in the same way as at the office, there are additional challenges. However, these can be overcome through effective management practices.

1. Agree how work is set and monitored
The right way to do this depends on the individual, their role and experience. Managers should consider how to manage each member of their team in the best way. Consider management by coaching, rather than by direction This includes finding the best time of day to hold meetings and the individual’s preferred way of learning. Importantly, managers must make their approach clear to avoid unpleasant surprises along the way. Particular attention should be given to ensuring induction plans, probationary training and monitoring are properly managed.

2. Make the most of technology
The use of technology, particularly online meetings via Teams and automated procedures, has become an integral part of how we work. Managers should be prepared to invest time in training employees in these key areas. If this includes work monitoring, individuals should be aware of how and why such monitoring is taking place. According to the Chartered Management Institute (CMI), more than a third of employers (35%) have chosen to implement performance monitoring technology, particularly time tracking software, to keep a virtual eye on productivity and performance. However, research by the Harvard Business Review published last summer, showed that creating an atmosphere of distrust can have the opposite of the desired effect. It is therefore important to strike a balance between the need for monitoring, and the desire to maintain a trusting, positive work culture.

3. Prioritise knowledge sharing and social interaction
People are social beings, and remote working can be isolating. Managers should arrange team meetings much in the same way as they would in an office environment, as well as social ‘chats and coffee’ time for people to come together. Asking team members to suggest items to add to meeting agendas will encourage involvement, and all attendees should have the opportunity to contribute thoughts and ideas if they wish.   

4. Train your managers to manage remotely
Remote or hybrid workers may require upskilling to carry out their roles efficiently and the same can be said for managers. It is essential that managers feel able to have performance related conversations, are competent in delivering those messages, and have the skills needed to effectively coach, manage and motivate their teams on an ongoing basis, whether in the office or remotely.

5. Review your people management processes
If existing processes are less than robust or need to be amended to fit with hybrid working arrangements, priority should be given to this exercise.

For further help and discussion on people management, please contact Kerri Constable.

Read our full People Perspectives – redefining the workforce report here.