Marc Effron on Employee Performance Management Challenges in 2022

Marc Effron on Employee Performance Management Challenges in 2022

In Conversation with Marc Effron, President, Talent Strategy Group on Employee Performance Management Challenges in 2022

Marc advises the world’s largest and most successful companies on how to improve the quality and depth of their talent. He leads the Talent Strategy Group’s global consulting, education and publishing businesses.

Marc co-authored the Harvard-published best-selling book One Page Talent Management, often called the “talent management bible.” His most recent book 8 Steps to High Performance is quickly reaching best-seller status. He previously served as an HR executive at Bank of America and Avon Products.

Marc co-founded the Talent Management Institute at the University of North Carolina, which has become the world’s #1 executive education program on talent.

He earned a M.B.A. from the Yale University School of Management.

Q- How do you see the performance management challenges in current times?

It would be easy to say that, with all the changes in the world, organizations now need to manage performance in a completely different way. To test if that’s correct, it helps to explore whether anything has changed with what individual’s need to perform and what performance companies want from their employees.

On the company side, it’s fair to say that not much has changed over the course of the pandemic. Despite some organizations testing alternative work arrangements like 4-day workweeks, the number one objective that companies have is great financial results. They still need hard-working employees who behave well and are willing to give discretionary effort in order to achieve that.

They may need their managers to elevate the quality and quantity of check-ins with their team members if they are largely working outside the office. But, that need existed before the pandemic as well.  

On the employee side, they still want opportunities to do interesting work and be fairly compensated for it. Employees may be concerned that their managers will overlook some accomplishments if they work in different locations. This simply elevates the need for the type of crisp goal setting and frequent feedback that was missing pre-pandemic as well.

The great news about performance management is that there’s incredibly powerful science to help us understand what works best. That science hasn’t changed during the pandemic, so it suggests that focused goal setting, frequent and transparency coaching, and fair and bias-free reviews are still the engine of high performance despite the changes in the world.

Q- What are the factors impacting organizations today and employee performance?

As I mentioned above, the primary people challenges include managing in an unpredictable work environment and holding onto employees in an increasing “frothy” job market. I predict that both of these factors will start to fade by early 2023.

Q- What are the ways to improve employee performance in a hybrid work model?

Hybrid work is still working, so the fundamentals of elevating performance still apply. As I mentioned above, well-set goals and frequenct performance and behavior coaching are the primary drivers of increased performance.

Two additional factors are: 1) the increasing rate of departures from companies, and 2) the risk of burn-out on their team. There’s plenty of research that shows that many people are working more hours today than pre-pandemic and have the additional time-demands of managing their home life. It’s not hard to understand how that can create burn-out.

The increased turnover rate has very straightforward, if not easy, solutions. At the lower end of the wage scale, money talks. A 5% or 10% pay increase will cause many of your core employees to leave without hesitation. It’s unlikely that your culture, mission, and benefits are so unique that another company can’t easily match them. The solution is to meaningfully differentiate pay for the best in this group, and stay competitive with your talent competitors for the rest.

At the upper end of the scale, leaders are still motivated by big opportunities that are engaging and develop their skills. Make sure that your top 30% are in jobs they love – interesting, stretchy, visible, career-building. That, plus great interactions with their manager, is the best prescription to keep them at your company and performing highly.

Q- How HR technology can ease Hybrid Work performance in phygital workplaces?

I find it interesting that HR technology is the single largest complaint of my clients – all big, global companies. They find that even after spending millions, the technology is not easy to use and can’t easily be customized to their needs.

Many of my clients will buy a HR suite like Workday or Success Factors and then still buy other packages for talent reviews or performance management. HR Suite UX seems to be designed by technologists who don’t realize that their client is not HR. It’s the busy manager who wants to enter and exit the system as quickly and easily as possible.

Given that, I think the best thing that companies can do in the technology space to help with Hybrid Work performance is to equip their teams with the best individual technology to support high performance. That means that they support paying for the highest speed internet, up-to-date laptops, and phones, etc. On the HR tech side, in most cases unfortunately the recommendation is to have employees interact with it only when needed.

There are other types of “technology” that will help high performance in a work-from-home environment. I’d guess that most people don’t sit in a high-quality chair when they work from home. Sitting for hours in a regular house chair or bad business chairs leads to poor posture, restricted circulation, muscle pains, etc.

Since we’re now unfortunately in the world of back-to-back-to-back Zooms where someone might not stand up for hours, companies should be providing those who work from home with a high-quality work chair and other ergonomic support.

QWhat are the emerging trends in performance management for 2022?

I am pleased to see the fads dying out. So many companies that removed performance ratings are now bringing them back. Ideas like crowdsourcing ratings or eliminating reviews entirely have thankfully died. Among my clients, there’s a renewed focus on doing the things that truly drive higher performance – setting a few, stretchy goals and having regular and transparent conversations on performance and behaviors.

Q- Any concluding remarks?

There’s never been a more important time for us to help our businesses maintain high performance while taking the best possible care of our associates. If we can help our leaders become great at setting clear goals and having frequent, transparent conversations about performance, it will provide clarity and certainty for our team members at a time when both of those are difficult to come by.

Thank You, Marc!


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