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By Anja van den Berg

Determining how to evaluate and reward employees fairly is no easy task. During the Coronavirus crisis, managers are facing a myriad of conditions that make the job even harder.  Why is this the case? Writing for Harvard Business Review, a research team at Stanford University explains the reasons as follows:

First, in any crisis, people are less likely to access the “slow thinking” parts of the brain and more likely to make snap judgements. Snap judgements are often influenced by stereotypes and are therefore flawed. Second, ambiguity in how assessments are made can lead to more bias.

The third reason is the so-called ideal ‘worker norm’. This notion refers to the (often implicit) preference for workers who can focus on work without interruptions (such as for family responsibilities) and are available whenever the manager needs them.

The following steps can help managers to evaluate and reward their employees fairly:

Step 1: Define criteria clearly before making critical decisions about employees.

Vagueness in the criteria used to evaluate employees leads to biased outcomes. Leaders need to start by considering what’s essential for the role. From there, they should describe and develop operational definitions. The success factors need to be concrete and measurable terms. For example, “be innovative” is not measurable, but “bring together people from different functions and perspectives in forums that encourage idea sharing and problem-solving” is.

Step 2: Look for hidden preferences.

Next, look for unintended consequences or hidden preferences in the criteria. For example, “stepping up when needed” may imply an expectation of working around the clock. “Be visible” is a criterion that can wreak havoc on people’s work-life balance. Take working parents, for example. They might not make it to every meeting and thus be less visible. Still, they may also be making other meaningful contributions.

Step 3: Align all decision-makers.

Amidst the new world of work that COVID-19 has brought, decisions need to be made in a shared context. It’s not enough for company policies to be clear about evaluation criteria. Managers also need to involve their employees in setting those criteria. Managers and team members need to share their thoughts to arrive at realistic expectations.  In the end, the set of measurement criteria should be explicit, precise, and consistent.

The Coronavirus pandemic offers an ideal opportunity for organisations to carefully consider what they genuinely value, especially under the current circumstances. Managers should not merely be carrying over old measuring criteria from previous evaluation cycles. Exceptional leaders are also paying particular attention to overlooked behaviours and skills that have become important in the new context.



Harvard Business Review: https://hbr.org/2020/12/how-do-you-evaluate-performance-during-a-pandemic

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