It’s cliché to say that “this is year is different.” But I think most of us would agree that, yeah, this year is actually kind of different. And it’s not just all the political and societal changes we face; businesses are going to see changes, especially when it comes to their employees. And to successfully navigate all the disruptions, managers are going to need a few new leadership skills.
Leadership Skill #1: Performance management needs to happen, whether you’ve kept or ditched annual performance reviews.
Last year saw a big debate in HR circles about whether to keep or ditch annual performance reviews. And while there were several big companies who did away with the annual ritual, this debate continues unresolved. What got lost in the discussion, however, was the underlying need for employees to receive feedback about their performance. Frankly, the question of whether to deliver this feedback in a formalized annual conversation is much less important than the deeper question of “are we actually giving employees the feedback they need to do their jobs?”
Sadly, the short answer to that question is “no.” The following chart comes from my ongoing research at Leadership IQ, and specifically a report called “Fewer Than Half Of Employees Know If They’re Doing A Good Job.”
More than 30,000 employees answered dozens of questions about their jobs, including the question “I know whether my performance is where it should be. You can see from the chart that only 29% of employees say they “always” know whether their performance is where it should be. And frankly, that number should be really close to 100%. One of the core functions of leaders is to provide feedback about employees’ performance and the data shows clearly that this just isn’t happening.
It doesn’t really matter whether you keep or ditch annual performance reviews. What does matter is whether your employees know whether or not they’re doing a good job.
Leadership Skill #2: Managing an increasingly remote and virtual workforce.
Depending on the estimate, somewhere between 13 and 40 million workers in the United States spend at least some of their time working remotely. There are lots of good reasons to embrace remote workers, including access to talent that may not be available in your local market. While this doesn’t apply to jobs like nurses, chefs, pharmacists and welders, it’s not that hard to employ a group of remote programmers or analysts.
But there’s an even bigger reason why many companies are going to see an increase in their ranks of remote, virtual or telecommuting employees; the data shows that people are happier when they work remotely!
Only 24% of people who work in an office say they love their jobs. But 38% of mobile workers and a whopping 45% of telecommuting workers love their jobs. More than 11,000 people have taken the online test called “Is Your Personality Suited To Working Remotely Or In The Office?”
After analyzing this data I’ve learned that people who work from home (i.e., telecommuting) are almost twice as likely to love their jobs than employees who work in traditional co-located work-sites (like office buildings). And mobile workers (i.e., using multiple workspaces, in and out of the office) are about 58% more likely to love their job than their office-based peers.
The implication here is that there is going to be increased pressure from employees to work remotely. And any company that wants to compete for the best talent will have to strongly consider this pressure or risk losing out on that talent. Because when potential superstar employees are happier working from home, even a few days a week, it’s a tough recruiting pitch when you’re forcing them into the office.
Leadership Skill #3: Conducting tough conversations when people are increasingly emotional.
It’s only been two months since the most contentious political season in most of our lifetimes. And a great many people are still feeling emotionally bruised and drained. One of my studies, called Employees Need More Resilience, found that even before the election, too few employees were emotionally resilient. We asked more than 30,000 employees a question that’s a standard test of resilience: “When I really make a mistake, I immediately start looking for another chance to try again.”
We learned that while 27% of employees say they Always start looking for another chance to try again, 20% say they Rarely or Never do. And that’s a very big problem, especially if you need to give those folks constructive criticism. Ideally we would give these folks some time to rest and recuperate. And maybe we would postpone some really tough conversations. But that’s not how life works. No matter how folks are feeling, we’ve got businesses to run and the need for conducting difficult conversations about employee performance continues unabated.
While nine out of ten managers have avoided giving constructive feedback to their employees for fear of the employees reacting poorly, there is evidence that some managers can effectively deliver feedback. And some employees can actually handle receiving feedback. For example, we know from the online quiz “How Do You React To Constructive Criticism?” that around 39% of employees react to constructive criticism by systematically dissecting every step leading up to the thing they just got criticized for. They don’t freak out, instead, like a process engineer looking to root-cause a product defect, they just want to understand and correct the underlying issues.
The lesson here is that even though people are feeling pretty fragile right now, managers need not fear giving constructive criticism if (and that’s a big ‘if’) they can deliver feedback that helps the employee to systematically dissect the issue to understand and correct the underlying problem.
This year really is different. The bad news is that managers will need some new skills to thrive. The good news is that the leaders who develop these new skills will be light-years ahead of their competition.
This article was written by Mark Murphy from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.