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What's in store for performance management in 2019

Elissa Dennis
30th April 2021
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With the outcome of Brexit still impossible to predict, it’s hard to be certain what the UK business environment will look like by the end of this year. There is very little individual businesses can do to affect the final agreement, so it’s important they take a positive view about the areas they can influence. It’s more crucial than ever for employers to focus on developing their most important asset, their people. We asked a range of HR professionals from across the spectrum of UK industry for their opinions on what they think will be trends in performance management in 2019.

Tackling the skills shortage

Recent figures released by the Office of National Statistics show employment in the UK has reached its highest ever rate. Unemployment is at 4%, the lowest its been since 1975. There are over 850,000 current job vacancies. Nine out of 10 senior executives report they are struggling to recruit skilled workers to fill these roles. All this means employers are having to compete fiercely to attract the best talent. It’s more crucial than ever for them to keep hold of their best-performing employees.

"Recruitment is becoming more difficult for all types of roles within our company”, says Matthew Rogers, HR Director of Europcar, one of the leading car rental services in Europe.  “Our aim this year is to fully engage our team and keep turnover as low as possible. This can only be done by ensuring we provide opportunities for development and progression for all of our workforce.  Through the development of our team we are also best positioned to deliver a great customer experience and pursue our ambition to be the preferred mobility services company in Europe."

Embracing employee choice

With the recruitment market weighted in favour of employees, those with the right skills have the opportunity to pick and choose their roles and the companies they want to work for. They are concerned with more than the parameters of the job itself, they want to work in a culture they can identify with and feel comfortable being a part of. Employers need to build a culture that attracts the talent that they’re looking for and ensures their current employees want to stay.

For one of our customers, management consultancy Qvartz, based in Denmark, building a distinctive company culture is particularly important for them. “We do this in many ways, particularly by focusing on nurturing meaningful, honest and authentic conversations among people as well as building strong leadership skills,” says Dorte Bregnhøf, Head of People. “We made significant changes to our people development and performance management approach in 2018. We need to see how these work across a full year so we can make appropriate adjustments as we go. Among other things, we have removed the biannual performance reviews and introduced ongoing, regular “check-ins” with a focus on holistic long-term development”

Taking an individual approach

Many companies have realised over the past few years that a one-size-fits all approach is no longer appropriate when it comes to performance management. Employees want to be treated as an individual, not one of the crowd. It’s becoming increasingly important for them to have their own personal development plan mapped out so they have a clear vision of how their career will progress. Rachel Broome, Director of learning and development consultancy TalentStorm agrees this personal approach is important. “The shift in performance management this year seems to be all about the individual. The rise in the number of wellbeing programmes means that this is becoming a key metric for many organisations. Additionally, the availability of smarter tools and apps for managing performance means a more customized, intuitive experience which is better for employees all round. The rise of coaching at line manager level as a performance tool is taking shape, driven by the need to be more agile, with companies looking to start-ups and their approach for inspiration.”

Be ready for change

The need for agility and adaptability both in overall business strategy and at employee level will be a strong theme for this year. Objectives may well shift significantly over the course of a few months or even weeks, so organisations will need to have an effective mechanism in place for employees and their managers to update and adapt these. “Now more than ever, businesses need to be nimble and agile to respond and adapt to potential changes Brexit may bring,” comments Linda Smith, a former HRD and now founder of strategy HR consultancy Chartwell People solutions. “As a result, communicating how the business is setting its objectives for the year ahead, making sure everyone’s time, skill and resources are aligned to those objectives will be critical.  Leaders need to be clear if objectives change why this is the case and clearly communicate the answer in a way that engages their team, positively uniting everyone.”

Adapting to the modern workforce

How and where we work has changed significantly over the past decade. Only 6% of employees in the UK now work the traditional 9 am to 5 pm hours. Flexible working is one of the most sought-after employee benefits and more than a third of the UK workforce now works at home for at least one day a week. Those that have grown up in the digital age have vastly different expectations to previous generations and want an instant response and information at their finger tips. “I’m finding that one of the main performance management issues is the managing of expectations of millennials,” says Barbara Baker, Director and Performance Consultant at Evolution People, who work mainly with small businesses. “They often have high expectations about rapid advancement but don’t fully appreciate what it takes to get to the next level. For many, it’s the first time they’re dealing with the reality of working in a business environment. Focus needs to be placed on teaching them how to work effectively in a team. Another priority is definitely putting processes in place to manage a flexible workforce, with all the additional complexities that brings.”

Whatever your performance management priorities are for 2019, we’re here to help you find the solution that suits you and your employees. If you have an idea you want to introduce or are struggling with an issue, please get in touch. We’re here to help you smoothly navigate the challenges that lie ahead.