The end of the year is a busy time for most organizations. The end of the calendar year is also often the end of the budget year, the fiscal year (or at least a fiscal quarter) and the end of employee performance periods. Just as yearend can be an ideal time to take a step back and look at the broader financial trends the company experienced over the past year; it can also be a great time to look back at the employee performance trends of the previous year.
For this feature, we reached out to employers and industry experts to get a sense of common themes—both good and bad—over the past year.
Increased productivity and engagement
Despite widespread fears about decreased productivity and engagement amid continued remote work in many organizations, numerous employers have been seeing the exact opposite.
Sophie Bryan, founder of development consultancy Ordinarily Different, for instance, believes the shift to remote work is actually the reason that engagement and productivity have gone up instead of down.
“Employee productivity and engagement have seen a rise in 2022, with employees completing tasks more efficiently and meeting deadlines more consistently as well as being more engaged and invested in their work,” says Bryan. “This is likely due to the increase in work flexibility that we have seen since the COVID pandemic, with more employees than ever working from home or hybrid working.”
Flexible work arrangements. Bryan points out, allow employees to feel in control of their work-life balance, which leads to higher work satisfaction and performance “as they are able to work in tandem with their needs.”
Ongoing feedback is important, especially in newly hybrid and remote work models. Unfortunately, many companies continue to limit meaningful feedback to formal, once-a-year annual reviews. It’s simply unrealistic to assume providing formal feedback once per year will keep that feedback top of mind and put the employee and the organization in the best position for mutual success.
Several of the people managers we received feedback from noted that their organizations are moving towards more frequent feedback and away from the once-per-year performance review model.
Job hopping continues to grow, leaving employers in the hot seat
The changed power dynamic brought on by the tight labor market has seen further increases in job hopping among a workforce that already changed jobs far more frequently than their predecessors.
“Job hopping is becoming normal,” says Kathryn Boudreau, an HR and Operations Manager with CallerSmart. “Unlike their peers, today’s employees, especially Millennials, are more open and flexible when it comes to job hopping. They are looking for brighter pastures as the demand for specialized talent grows, especially in the Tech industry. Today’s millennials are demanding more, too, whether it is better workplace policies or benefits.”
That willingness and ability of workers to switch jobs means that employers are constantly at risk of attrition. This means that employees aren’t necessarily going into a performance review worried about losing their jobs; they’re going in looking for more from their employers as an implied or even explicit condition for sticking around.
The traditional employee performance review is a forum for employers to let employees know how they’ve been doing at their jobs and what they need to improve on or keep doing in the future. In the current labor market, employees have begun flipping the script a bit on employers and using performance reviews as an opportunity to provide feedback to employers.
“Unlike the traditional annual performance reviews, where the employees were the focus, now the spotlight is on the employer,” says Boudreau. “More and more employees are dissatisfied with the old system. They demand more feedback and want companies to listen to their grievances and demands more. They want annual performance reviews not just to be an end-of-the-year analysis but want continuous collaboration and engagement throughout the year.”
Importance of flexible work
One of the demands many employees are making when they have their performance reviews with their employers is a demand for continued or more flexible work. This include the ability to work from home one or two days per week or to be fully remote or even the ability to set one’s own hours.
Employees who have experienced remote work during the COVID-19 pandemic have become accustomed to it; and those who have not experienced it firsthand have seen many of their friends and family gain such privileges and want to know why they can’t have the same.
While the shift to remote work is often held up as an example of the silver lining of the pandemic for employees, the reality is that the pandemic has had tremendously traumatic impacts on millions of Americans. Indeed, even the need to shift to remote work hasn’t been embraced by all employees. Many, in fact, have found themselves lonely, isolated, and anxious in the new paradigm.
Aside from the pandemic, a variety of other social, environmental, and geo-political events and trends have made many workers feel a bit lost or overwhelmed in life in general and at work in particular.
For this reason, employee wellness and wellbeing have increasingly become important focuses of employee performance reviews. It has been increasingly common for managers and HR teams to look for and try to address signs of burnout, depression, anxiety, and other common employee mental and emotional wellness issues.
The employee performance review is nothing new. It’s been a mainstay of corporate life for decades. But that doesn’t mean performance reviews should be static, monolithic events. Rather, the emphasis, process, structure, and content of performance reviews must remain highly dynamic as employers stay on top of the changing practices and expectations of today’s employees and employers—especially those working in hybrid and remote environments.