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With all the changes to the world of work that we have recently experienced and are continuing to experience, our webinar programme this year is focused on the future of work and in particular the hot topics that HR teams are having to handle now in order to future-proof their organisations.

Our latest seminar focused on effective performance management in a hybrid working world. The key takeaway points are set out below:

Making the best of hybrid working

  • The change in working patterns, such as the introduction of hybrid working arrangements, can help to encourage more regular, informal feedback, which is more valuable to employees, drives productivity and helps to deal with problems quickly before they escalate.
  • Managers do need to think more proactively about scheduling in regular 1-2-1 meetings and team calls, both remote and in-person, to keep the lines of communication open.
  • Managing hybrid working requires an approach centred around productivity and outcomes rather than presenteeism. It is therefore important for employers to have in place robust metrics to measure performance.
  • We are likely to see increasing use of data analytics to help employers measure the performance of those working remotely.
  • Technology is also key to ensuring employees can work effectively outside of the office environment, and employers will need to invest in the technology they use going forwards.
  • In all but a few roles, some face-to-face contact on a team basis will be necessary to ensure employees build networks, develop connections and strengthen the team cohesion.
  • Again, managers will play an important part in encouraging attendance.

What problems can arise with hybrid working?

  • The absence of scrutiny and structure with home working can impact on the service provided to customers and clients.
  • In addition, employees can feel disengaged and/or less connected to their colleagues and employer. This, in turn, can impact on the organisation’s culture and cohesiveness.
  • It can also be harder for managers to spot potential issues with team members that they do not see in person on a regular basis. It is much easier for employees to mask issues when they only have to speak to their manager on a 30-minute zoom call rather than spend the day with them in an office environment.
  • Discussing concerns with performance can also be much harder to do remotely, where misunderstandings can arise and it is harder to read body language.
  • If working arrangements are not clearly set out and managed, there is a risk that ways of working become implied terms of the contract of employment through custom and practice.

Top tips for addressing performance issues

  • Hybrid working does not excuse poor performance and employers are entitled to manage and tackle such issues regardless of where the employee is working.
  • Having clear evidence to support the performance concerns will be key. This may be harder to obtain where work is carried out remotely and so consider the metrics you have in place and set clear objectives.
  • The ACAS Guidance on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures during COVID still has some relevance, in particular making sure that issues are addressed without unreasonable delay.
  • If the issues are serious, it may well be preferable to have a face-to-face meeting to discuss them with the employee rather than trying to tackle them remotely.
  • Equally, performance concerns could be a legitimate basis for asking an employee to attend the office on a more regular basis during the performance review period in order to ensure appropriate support is in place.
  • Requiring a certain level of office attendance may result in more flexible working requests being made. These will need to be considered on a case-by-case basis to see if they can be accommodated or whether one of the 8 business reasons for refusing a request exists. Employers should also be alert to the risk of discrimination claims – for example, see Employer’s failure to consider flexible working has costly consequences (shoosmiths.co.uk).