As organizations evolve post-pandemic, we continue to hear questions about what “more” can be done to support employee health and wellness, deliver a strong employee value proposition, and nurture the employee experience.

    Leaders are digging deep to find creative, modern, and practical ways to help minimize employee stress while also ensuring organizational goals are met. On the surface, this is not a simple undertaking.

    First, let’s talk about workplace stress. There are many factors that can cause employees to feel stress: from relationships and workload; to working conditions and organizational change. Research shows that uncertainty and ambiguity can lead to increased levels of stress and anxiety. In the workplace this can stem from lack of role clarity, including uncertain expectations around objectives and performance, and lack of communication and support from one’s manager.

    How can this translate to stress for an employee?

      • If employees are left guessing and not knowing what is expected of them, it’s stressful.
      • If employees don’t know what “good” looks like, it’s stressful.
      • If employees don’t have a connection and regular conversations with their manager, it’s stressful.

    Now, if only there was a creative, modern, and practical way we could solve for this… Are you ready?  How about performance management? I bet you weren’t expecting that traditionally cringeworthy activity would ever be linked to words like “creative”, “modern,” and “practical”.

    The conventional activity of “performance management” is not typically inspirational and it is often awkward or frustrating. Rarely does it imply a nurturing of the employee experience in a creative or modern way. Rather, the process as it’s customarily managed tends to provoke anxiety, fear, and apprehension. Who wants that?  How is that going to reinforce the employee value proposition and facilitate a healthier work environment?

    Like so many things in our lives it comes down to context and perspective.

    If we do things a little differently, here’s how performance management can support a healthier work environment and employee wellness:

      • It will create transparency of expectations. It is reassuring to know what needs to be achieved and by when, and to know what is expected. Sometimes we have to fly by the seat of our pants, but to do so chronically, is mentally exhausting. Knowing what is expected of us reduces stress.
      • It will provide the opportunity for us to have input into our own goals and objectives. When some goals can be aligned with our abilities and interests, it promotes a sense of purpose and satisfaction, which positively impacts our well-being. Feeling you have some control reduces stress.
      • It will facilitate the opportunity for ongoing conversations between us and our manager. The more conversations that occur, the less stressful they become, and the less opportunity for scary surprises. Feeling supported by your manager reduces stress
      • It will provide a channel for regular feedback and recognition, which helps us understand our strengths and areas for improvement, and therefore can contribute to growth and an increase in self-awareness and self-esteem. Reducing insecurities also reduces stress.
      • It will encourage a healthier balance of work and life. By setting realistic goals and timelines, it’s less likely for excessive workloads to be the norm. When time pressures do get tough, there is opportunity for visibility and intervention. Feeling like our workload is realistic and manageable reduces stress
      • It will provide the opportunity for gaps in skills to be addressed, and usually before any negative performance conversations need to occur. It also provides the opportunity to contemplate and put into action development plans, which will foster growth and fulfillment. Feeling capable and positioned to succeed reduces stress.

    We can call “performance management” whatever we want.  Ultimately, it’s an ongoing process (there’s another un-creative, un-modern word). Like any business process, there should be goals and objectives that provide context for the ‘why’ behind the process.

    Being intentional about making these stress-reducing activities goals of your performance management is a creative, modern, and practical opportunity to contribute towards a wellness culture and to reduce stress faced by employees. Who knew?!

    If you are looking for support to design a review of your performance management process, let’s talk. Stratford’s People & Culture team has the experience and insight to help.