Performance Management

Performance Enablement in the Modern Workplace

By Betterworks
August 11, 2021
3 minute read

As companies have implemented permanent remote and hybrid work options for their employees, they have also focused on boosting the effectiveness of their performance management solutions. While the disruption from COVID-19 has played a significant role in driving change, Gartner research has consistently shown that more than two-thirds of organizations make performance management changes in any given year.

According to a Gartner poll in early 2020, 87% of HR leaders were considering changes to performance reviews.

So why is “fixing performance management” consistently at the top of HR leaders’ To-Do lists? The goal of performance management is to facilitate ongoing, focused coaching discussions. However, the reality is that due to changing workforce dynamics, lack of management training, and an ineffective communication and cascading of corporate goals to front-line employees has resulted in a broken, static process. Managers hastily schedule year-end performance reviews with their employees who dread being assessed by a one-size-fits all evaluation process. Recency bias is also a factor as employees and management struggle to review 12-months of work in a single conversation.

While goal setting and continuous feedback are essential to facilitating employee development, modern HR and L&D leaders are encouraging executive leadership to think differently about performance. Rather than managing performance through an outdated structure, CHROs and CLOs are partnering to help their organizational leaders shift their mindset to performance enablement. They are teaming with stakeholders across their organizations to implement purpose-built tools and initiatives that empower employees to do their best work while contributing to clearly defined business objectives.

Key Success Factors for Performance Enablement

Unlike performance management, performance enablement isn’t a “one-and-done” process. Rather, it’s an ongoing, evolving process that recognizes that performance is an individual, nuanced concept. Case in point – some individuals have thrived in remote work environments necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic, while others struggled to establish daily routines while working from home. To successfully shift to performance enablement, organizations must address several factors.

1) Empower the Managers

Managers play the most critical role in performance enablement yet receive the least amount of training and guidance on it. They often struggle to find time to focus on their employees. L&D and HR leaders must work together to assess manager roles and adjust their priorities to focus less on operational tasks and more on coaching their people. L&D must also provide managers with practical, situation-based training to hone their coaching skills on an ongoing basis.

2) Make Learning a Part of Work

L&D leaders realize that due to changes in workforce models, digital transformation, and technology disruption, employee performance expectations can change overnight. They understand that for employees to do their best work in today’s dynamic business environment, they must experience feedback, coaching and development every day, not just during a quarterly or annual process. CLOs must also balance employee needs with the organizations’ business objectives. By shifting from performance management to performance enablement, L&D teams embed learning within employees’ workflows to help them develop their knowledge and skills throughout their workdays.

3) Clarify Roles and Performance Expectations

Most job descriptions provide an “ideal state “of employee responsibilities at a certain point in time. However most organizations change too quickly for employees to wait for annual goal-setting meetings to determine what they’re supposed to be doing. HR and L&D leaders must collaborate with managers to clearly define and document OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) for every role. Individual, team, and organizational OKRs should be updated and clearly communicated as performance expectations change. Employees should be able to access OKRs whenever they need to track their progress, adjust their learning goals, and seek out specific feedback from their managers.

4) Leverage Data in Feedback and Coaching Conversations

While performance isn’t usually black and white, managers can leverage performance data points to hold employees accountable and gauge their contributions to overall business objectives. Associating OKRs with a desired outcome is one of the most effective ways of accomplishing this.

In addition, organizations should apply other data points including continuous measurements on employee learning and development, on-the-job behaviors, and peer reviews. These data points can help managers proactively identify skills gaps and learning opportunities, provide personalized coaching and recognize achievements.

In today’s dynamic business environment, continual employee learning and development is essential for organizational success. L&D and HR leaders must work together to shift stakeholders’ mindsets away from static performance measurement practices to future-focused performance enablement.

To learn more about performance enablement (especially in hybrid workplaces), check out our guide 



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