How are your line managers coping with managing the performance of their home working staff? Have they adapted to what is a challenging job at the best of times? The CIPD thinks many are struggling to adapt and so in January they published ‘A guide to managing and supporting remote workers’ which highlights the key skills managers need to have in order to perform this aspect of their job effectively. It refers to 5 five key behavioural areas which line managers should try to master, which are on-screen there. They centre on openness and communication and, the CIPD is saying, managers need to have a high level of capability in both areas if they are to manage performance effectively, especially when it comes to handing conflict – common in this situation of course – and staying calm under pressure. The message is that management styles have to adapt to remote working.
That same point is made by Personnel Today which argues that most organisations will have in place a general flexible working policy, developed largely for piecemeal adoption, but how, in the ‘future world of work’ this needs longer term consideration by employers. They say that for some managers, particularly those only experienced in leading teams from close proximity, remote management will be unchartered territory and it has its risks. The point is, traditional management styles, when used with a remote workforce, is a growing source of employee complaints for bullying and harassment. But it isn’t easy.
Given this is difficult, to help clients, next week we will be running two interactive online workshops on managing under-performance of remote workers. Module 1 is a 3 hour session taking place on Tuesday 27th. Module 2 is the following day, a 2 hour session using actors in a series of role plays. The course has been designed by our Head of Client Training, Trish Embley, who joined me by video-link from Birmingham to discuss the content and format. I started by asking who the course is aimed at:
Trish Embley: “We're running this course for HR professionals who are going to be providing advice and guidance to managers who are going to be managing the performance of people who we understand, and clients telling us will, at least to some extent, be continuing to work from home. Now, we’ve been running this course in-house for clients with the actors since 2007 and it has, and continues to be, one of our most popular courses for line management. I think performance management has always been something difficult for managers, they shy away from it, and the challenges of doing that process remotely has only increased that so we thought now was a good time. So, what we'll be exploring is, yes, the established existing principles of performance management but, crucially, how those have to be adapted now to suit remote supervision. So we'll be touching on how managers are going to have to change. They’re going to have to do more, they're going to have to be more proactive, more communication, more regular communication. They don't have, and this is one of the things that they're worried about, they don't have those informal touch points when they can observe and address performance. So, we're going to go over how they can make sure that those reviews still happen in a remote environment and, really, you know, dig into that legal principle that you've got to be really clear and specific about what your expected standards are and, of course, in the more remote world, how we measure that. So, what is it that we value? Be very specific about what's expected and the tasks that are required. So, there's a bit more effort required and that's part of what we'll be covering in this course.”
Joe Glavina: “Module 2 is the one involving actors role playing two scenes set as online meetings. It sounds good, but why use actors, Trish?”
Trish Embley: “Well, we're really aware that it's one thing knowing what you should be doing, but actually doing it in reality is very, very different and when we talk to managers about what is it that puts you off doing performance management, it's having those difficult conversations and having the skills and the techniques to have those conversations and to deal with the, sometimes understandably, emotional reactions they can get. So, because that's what puts them off, we work with the actors who can, through forum theatre, roleplay the techniques that HR professionals can coach their own managers on. So, the lovely thing about forum theatre is, you know, we learn a lot through roleplay but we all hate doing it, because we're not actors. So, it's the actors who do the acting, who do the modelling, and the participants get to observe, get to put in their own suggestions, and they see how the various techniques play out. What this means in terms of transference back to the workplace is that the HR professional themselves can pass on those techniques. I always say, you know, if you've got a manager who is worried about having these difficult conversations, have a brief meeting with them in advance and workshop yourself, you know, how they're communicating, give them a few hints and tips, and that's really what the takeaway will be from that second session with the actors.”
Joe Glavina: “I see the actors will be using a technique called ‘freeze frame’. What’s that?”
Trish Embley: “Well this is the interaction that the actors bring to this session. Freeze frame is a really useful technique where an actor will start opening up the conversation about underperformance and the participants will be invited to stop if they think the actor - without giving too much away - is not doing it in a way that is, as they put it, landing well the individual, or getting the best response. So, participants will have the opportunity to stop the action and then there can be some discussion about why maybe the actor who is approaching the situation isn't going down so well, and the participants get the opportunity to suggest alternative strategies. We then restart the action and see if that's a little bit better and that’s just the very sort of immersive, experiential, way that people learn and see how certain techniques might work well with individuals, certain techniques, the takeaway is, try and avoid them.”
Those two interactive workshops will be taking place next week. Module 1 is 9.30-12.30 on Tuesday morning. Module 2 is 9.30-11.30 the following day. You can register for a place on the website and we have put a link to that page in the transcript of this programme.
- Link to webinar on managing under-performance of remote workers