Getting the Measure of Employee Performance

For many organizations, the rise of remote and flexible working has been a plunge into the unknown. And wild spikes in stats around employee performance add more confusion.

Written by Mind Tools for Business
Published 03 August 2021
Getting the Measure of Employee Performance

One study, for example, found that 79% of leaders say flexible working is highly successful. [1] But another study found that over 40% of employees feel burned out right now. [2] 

You might even find that different teams and employees are doing better than others in your organization. So, how can L&D help ensure performance reviews are fair for all? 

How do you evaluate employee performance? 

Performance management is the process of setting targets for employees to hit. These individual objectives are aligned with – and measured against – your organization's goals. Traditionally, appraisals are times for managers and employees to evaluate performance. Done well, they help us: 

  • Agree on desired behaviors and outcomes to reach. 

  • Reflect on what went well and what could be better. 

  • Address skill gaps and identify opportunities to develop. 

Then it’s rinse and repeat, updating objectives and goals for the next review. 

What are the common employee performance measures? 

There are many tools to measure the success of goals and objectives, track their progress, and motivate employees by showing the links between what they do and a company’s successes. They include: 

  • Personal Development Plans (PDPs) – living documents that detail the how, when and why of development. 

  • 180 and 360 degree feedback from coworkers, customers and other stakeholders, which help individuals increase their self-awareness. 

  • Skills-based assessments that score employees on a range of job-specific competencies. 

  • Performance ratings that compare employees’ performance against their peers’.  

How to improve employee performance in five steps        

1. Shift the goal posts  

 Experts reckon that yearly or quarterly reviews no longer cut it. For Gallup, an agile approach to goal-setting is required to face a changing business landscape during the pandemic. It calls for: 

  • Employees to “own” their goals and anticipate change. 

  • Employees and managers to identify new ways to make a positive impact.

  • Flexibility in tailoring goals to individual needs as work changes. [3] 

To achieve this, and better manage distributed teams, McKinsey recommends that managers and teams update goals weekly or even in real time – scrapping ones that no longer apply.  

Together, they should, “Adjust and emphasize desired behaviors, such as staying close to customers, being entrepreneurial, or sustaining morale and culture.” [4] 

2. Check in more often 

For McKinsey, discussing goals should be part of ongoing coaching conversations that “establish a rhythm of collaboration and create shared accountability for performance and development.” [5]  

During these discussions, L&D can help prep managers with the coaching skills required to help discuss the emotions, needs and challenges that change more often right now.  

They can recognize achievements, give feedback, build trust, and keep employees motivated while working remotely, in the office, or a hybrid of both.  

3. Re-think your metrics 

Net profit. Conversion rates. Customer satisfaction. Some Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are age old. And that’s the problem.  

With the rise of remote working, you and your organization must be prepared to revisit and re-think what you measure – and how. With dispersed teams, for example, employee expectations must be as clear as possible. And setting SMART goals is more important than ever. They help employees show how they use their time and resources most productively.  
Take telecom company BT. It embraced flexible working before the pandemic and today its performance management is virtual. Regular team check-ins, one-on-ones and monthly reports make it easier for managers to see work done rather than chase time sheets. 

As Nicola J. Millard, a principal innovation partner at BT, says, “We’ve really learned that focusing on outcomes rather than being present in the office is crucial.”  [6] 

This shift is happening with learning, too. Our new research report reveals that L&D teams are focusing more on performance data (outcomes) than learning stats (the process). Instead of clocking hours spent learning, they’re tracking behavioral changes that lead to better performance. 

4. Revisit rewards 

It’s commonplace for companies to use Performance-Related Pay initiatives to incentivize desired behaviors. And experts recommend you continue to reward high performers. But if that’s not possible in the current financial climate, be honest with people.  

Gallup found that employees who have progress conversations with their manager are more engaged – and feel better about their pay – even if their wages don’t rise. [7]  

You can also consider non-financial rewards such as providing more opportunities for personal development. Not only are many L&D tools cheaper than pay rises, they show you’re investing in employees and their future.  

5. Make performance management your own 

Tools such as Daniel and Rockart's Critical Success Factors offer a guide to meeting strategic goals. But performance management experts recommend developing a bespoke approach that meets the unique needs of your organization.  

The Learning Performance Benchmark can help you do just that. This quick survey reveals your specific learning barriers and opportunities. And identifies your next steps towards becoming a high-performing organization. 


[1] Forcing Employees to Return to Office is a Mistake, New Study Shows   

[2] SHRM Survey: 41 Percent of Workers Feel Burnt Out During Pandemic  

[3] [7] Performance Management Must Evolve to Survive COVID-19  

[4] [5] Individual performance management in the COVID-19 world  

[6] Four Principles to Ensure Hybrid Work Is Productive Work - MIT Sloan 

About the author

Mind Tools for Business

Mind Tools for Business

Mind Tools for Business brings accessible, on-demand performance tools and resources focused on leadership, management and personal effectiveness that empower colleagues to perform in today’s progressive workplaces. Helping them build happy and successful careers and to contribute positively to the success of organizations, the world over. At Mind Tools for Business, empowering people to thrive at work has been our passion for 25 years.

You may also be interested in…

Content Spotlight: Kirkpatrick's Model

Four levels of training evaluation.

September 2023

Read More

What is Performance Support?

How learning at the moment of need can help drive performance in your organization.

August 2023

Read More

Prioritizing Well-being in Today's Hyper-Connected Workplace

Chris Coladonato, Founder of Connection Catalyst, discusses the key steps you need to take to protect your people’s mental health and well-being in today’s ‘always on’ work environments.

August 2023

Read More