Brillian S K

A Dynamic Approach to Appraisals During the Pandemic | BRILLIAN S. K | SVP & Head – Human Resources | Times Professional Learning a division of Bennett | Coleman & Co Ltd

brillian s k

“This appraisal season, don’t settle for less!!!” the headline caught my eye. “Take your promotion for granted, or grant yourself one,” the large, bold text screamed. These statements capture the mindset of the majority. Often, appraisals tend to become person-driven and directly linked to rewards. The connotation of appraisals has been twisted, and it is seen as a system that is destined to fail everywhere.

If we analyse, there are three key components of appraisals – performance review, potential review, and reward. Appraisals are not only about salaries, incentives, and bonuses, but a larger portion is about performance and potential. A robust appraisal system serves to positively impact growth, retention, and productivity. It also provides an opportunity for timely communication with employees about alignment with the organisational objectives.

COVID-19’s Impact on Appraisals

The pandemic forced organisations to adopt unplanned workfrom-home initiatives, reevaluate appraisal structures, and in some cases, delay performance reviews. This impacted the way employees looked at appraisals. Given the tectonic shifts that resulted due to the pandemic, it is pertinent for organisations to revise existing appraisal systems, focus on upskilling in the face of rapid digitisation, and invest in the overall emotional well-being of their employees. To stay ahead of the curve, organisations must leverage the pandemic to build systems that sustain.

What We Did at Times Professional Learning (TPL)

Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, at TPL, we ensured timely reviews for all teams. We reinforced the fact that performance reviews must happen periodically so that teams and managers have ample time and focus to course-correct where needed. After conducting internal reviews for all teams, seeking inputs on upskilling needs from managers, and addressing the pandemic’s emotional toll on the employees, TPL introduced an internal team review mechanism to assess overall team performance with the leadership team on a monthly basis.

Employing a dynamic and adaptive HR framework, TPL conducted training sessions and encouraged employee upskilling by offering discounts to all staff on TPL’s executive education programmes. While the focus on performance continued, we also realised the need to focus on mental wellness.

Accordingly, we organised workshops for emotional and mental wellbeing, and facilitated confidential counselling sessions for staff. The interventions served as productivity enhancement tools and resulted in positive work culture and improved employee performance.

Furthermore, mentoring, and coaching interventions to help improve performance and leadership qualities were also introduced during the pandemic. All these interventions increased productivity and ownership during this period. Building trust and investing in the team bore fruits when we recorded a 95% CAGR (FY20-21), to be amongst the select few profitable EdTech companies. This was possible only because we focused on developing potential and enhancing performance across levels.

Appraisal Processes in a Post-pandemic World

The ripples created by the pandemic will redefine appraisal systems in a way that will make traditional goal-setting redundant. The postpandemic world will require a hyper customised performance matrix that facilitates continuous feedforward evaluations to align employee performance with constantly evolving business goals. Organisations must think of innovative measures to separate appraisals from rewards, and include continuous review mechanisms to enhance employee productivity. In a rapidly evolving, highly complex and unpredictable business world, employees will continue to be the greatest asset. The organisational value will improve when employees stay engaged and continue to be productive.