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Photo: iStock
Photo: iStock

Empathy, team spirit earn points in the new appraisal

Companies are coming up with new ways to set team goals and assess productivity as the pandemic has changed the work environment unexpectedly

Power cuts are routine in Mohali during summer. But on a weekday morning in May when there was a no electricity, Ishpal Singh was in a fix. The motion graphics designer at Just Herbs had to send some inputs other teams were dependent on to get their work done. Since he couldn’t do anything, a colleague stepped in and finished the task on his behalf. The reason for helping out was not just to keep work going but also earn extra points on the productivity report card at the Ayurvedic beauty products company headquartered in Chandigarh.

Since the lockdown started and remote working became the new normal, startups and corporates are using collaborative and performance software tools like Slack, Jira and Confluence to measure key performance metrics. Others are looking at it more holistically and finding unique ways to assess people’s performances.

Arush Chopra, co-founder and chief executive of Just Herbs, says, “Earlier, people would finish their part of the work and point at someone else when team outcome was not achieved. But with remote working, empathy has become an integral aspect, and we have extra points for it in the evaluation scorecard now."

At Bengaluru’s no-code, digital transformation platform Hubbler, a newly created qualitative goal management app gives employees a macro view of what the organization is trying to achieve and aligns it with their daily work.

“We had to realign lot of KPIs (key performance indicators), as our earlier goal for the quarter didn’t make sense after the lockdown kicked in. So we shifted the KPIs of the tech team from customer delivery to feature delivery. Sales team targets were reduced, and operations and support team were moved to documentation and applications," says Hubbler founder Vinay Aggrawal. “We are constant evaluating the goals of employees depending on the ground situation," he adds.

Even employee participation in engagement activities is being taken seriously at Hubbler, which has a team of 42. For instance, the app shows the manager real time which employee is absent during an engagement activity. The manager then checks on the person to ensure they are alright.

For tech companies transitioning to a fully remote work model has been easier than organizations that are used to seeing full staff in the office, but it has not been an easy road.

“There’s a huge difference between working remotely by choice and being forced to do so by external factors. So we had to make some changes," says Ankit Oberoi, co-founder and chief executive officer of Adpushup.

One of the ways the Delhi-based ad revenue optimization platform has adapted to the pandemic-induced change is by hiring a learning and development (L&D) head. “The L&D person’s task is to use psychometric profiling for better team communication, to standardize employee appraisal processes and define KPIs for key roles. This is to ensure that we are measuring every team member’s impact irrespective of whether or not they are working from home," Oberoi explains.

Even something like taking charge and ownership of work has become a key quality during this uncertain time.

With 150 employees across India, Chopra’s team would operate with a certain level of independence. The lockdown actually became a litmus test for who took the ownership of their work and who needed to be motivated. “As a founder, I have a lot on my plate right now, it’s really helpful if the team and team members take ownership as that’s one less thing to do," he says.

While there are some who have shown this quality, it doesn’t come naturally to many, he says. Some are good workers but just as a fitness coach in a gym nudges and motivates you, managers find they have to do the same with some employees.

“Evaluation parameters have definitely changed. While we have certain measurable parameters from pre-covid times, we are also linking incentives to qualitative ones now," says Chopra.

At Vayana Network, a supply chain finance facilitator, the KPIs are no longer linked to each employee, rather the onus is on the entire team performance, which will be assessed every three months.

“Teams are friendlier and more communicative now," admits Ronak Desai, vice-president (marketing). He has also scrapped productivity aligned to pre-defined hours of work.

Vayana Network is also focusing on organizing functional training programmes to ensure everyone knows what other teams are doing.

“Eventually, we want to link this to the KPIs. So, for instance, if you know one thing but also have knowledge about two or three more things, your KPIs will be amended accordingly. This way there will be a lot more innovation and ideas coming from everywhere and people won’t work in silos," says Desai, who has hosted five such sessions, especially for IT and marketing teams, in the past month.

The need for new ways of assessing and engaging remote staff has also led tech and co-working spaces to come up with a slew of products catering to the changing needs.

Madhusudhan Nayak, global head (growth), Profit.Co, which offers OKR (objectives and key results) software solutions, has seen a nearly 25% increase in productivity and almost 35% increase in team engagement in certain departments, post lockdown.

Through OKR, there is a level of transparency and clarity created in what the organization is seeking to achieve in the short- and long-term.

This, Nayak believes, will enable employees to decide which sort of work they should prioritize, instead of focusing only on their assigned tasks. It also allows high sense of ownership, with people being more engaged, he adds.

With its recently launched The a@h Assessment tool, co-working space Awfis is offering its clients office furniture like tables and ergonomic chairs, along with business broadband, IT support and facilities to use its meeting room or having it as a business address on monthly subscription basis.

They have also tied up with two tech players, who focus on remote team management and productivity measurement.

Focus on outcomes

“In the last three months, we have learnt that businesses are focusing more on outcomes and results rather than individual performance. We are being the enablers to help them achieve that," says Awfis founder Amit Ramani.

While companies can innovate and use technology to track the productivity and emotional quotient of their employees during this disruptive time, one thing they still can’t seamlessly do through the virtual medium is acquaint a new hire with the company’s culture.

“That’s the biggest concern for us," says Chopra. “We recently hired someone for graphics, who is in Kochi. Usually, we either fly down or ask the person to visit the head office for an immersive training. During this time, the person also understands and observes the organization’s vision and culture. Now, with travel restrictions, I am sending a couple of YouTube videos that echo my philosophy and beliefs and will quiz the new hires on it," he says. “It’s definitely not the same as face to face."

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