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Editor’s Question: What does a successful performance development plan for SMEs look like?

Editor’s Question: What does a successful performance development plan for SMEs look like?

Top StoriesWorkforce Management

It’s important that employees at SMEs feel valued and in turn, want to stay working at the company for longer. One way of doing this is to ensure that employees have a set performance development plan. Four experts tell us how SMEs can ensure they provide successful plans, starting with Jatin Deepchandani – CEO, Plan3Media.

The best performance development plan is one which is drafted from the perspective of the employee, rather than the employer. Conducting frequent performance-based reviews, once a
quarter, are far better than conducting bi-annual or annual ones. This allows for a regular
exchange of feedback and ideas for developing core strengths in an employee.
Every organisation often has a steadfast method of performance rating, which is usually set in
stone around the start of the company. The beauty of running a small- and medium-sized
business is to be able to make changes, whenever necessary to bring in more relevance and
rigour in the performance development of employees.

I have always believed that there is no better success in running a business than when your
employees are happy and become your brand ambassadors. Very often while running our
businesses, we forget that our employees are also our customers, in some ways. And therefore
listening and responding becomes key to the success of a happy organisation. Just how we
celebrate victories and hold serious discussions when we hit upon a failure, there must be
events created for a formal feedback and performance development discussion. For example,
ensuring that managers mandatorily schedule an hour for a freewheeling chat on performance
development with their team members, during the performance review week/month. Celebrate
and recognise those employees who are upskilling, as a result of these discussions. Make
social media campaigns out of the successes and failures that teams have learnt from and what they can do to make things better. The closer we keep our circle of communication, the more we
alienate the employees of a SME. The idea is to communicate regularly and recognise both the
small wins and the losses.

We host the Employee Happiness Awards in Dubai every year to recognise those companies
that truly care about the overall well-being and happiness of their employees. We receive a
substantial number of nominations from some of the best companies in the UAE, across 20+
award categories, which are judged by an expert and unbiased panel of industry veterans that
comprise our jury. As our judging process is completely transparent, we ensure that a company
wins purely on merit at our awards. In recognition of the authenticity and transparency of our
judging process, we are the proud recipients of the Awards Trust Mark by the Independent
Awards Standard Council. The Employee Happiness Awards is a small contribution from us to
the UAE industry, as we cheer aloud for companies that are truly making a difference, in
providing a holistic, happy and content experience for their employees.

Tom Henson, Managing Director at Emerge Digital:

A successful performance development plan for employees at small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) is deeply rooted in the organisation’s vision, mission and strategy. This plan is not a standalone document; it is a reflection of the company’s overarching principles, culture and ambitions. These elements provide a framework within which each department shapes its strategy, cascading down into individual performance development plans. 

Here’s an overview of what such a plan should encompass:

Alignment with organisational goals: The plan should clearly demonstrate how an employee’s role and objectives contribute to the broader departmental and organisational goals. This alignment ensures that each employee understands their significance within the larger context of the company’s mission and strategy.

Employee-centric approach: A pivotal aspect of the plan is its focus on the employee. It should be tailored to encompass an employee’s career aspirations and life goals, recognising that an individual’s personal objectives are often intertwined with their professional development. Understanding an employee’s current skill set and their desired career trajectory is crucial.

Mutual benefit and partnership: Performance development is a two-way street. The plan should foster a sense of partnership between the employer and employee, facilitating open discussions about progress, challenges and aspirations. This mutual understanding aids in aligning individual goals with the company’s objectives, leading to shared success.

SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound (SMART) objectives are essential. These targets provide a clear, achievable roadmap for development and contribution to the company, ensuring that expectations are realistic and justifiable.

Encouraging growth beyond comfort zones: The plan should challenge employees to expand their skills and experiences. Opportunities for trying new roles or projects encourage personal and professional growth, aiding in career progression and fostering long-term job satisfaction.

Preparing for future workforce trends: Acknowledging the rapidly evolving workplace, the plan should incorporate training in emerging areas such as AI and digital skills. This forward-thinking approach not only aids employees in their current roles but also equips them with essential competencies for future employability.

Continuous review and adaptation: The performance development plan should not be static. Regular reviews and adjustments are necessary to reflect changes in the company’s strategy, market conditions and the employee’s personal growth and aspirations.

In summary, a successful performance development plan in SMEs is a holistic, dynamic tool that aligns individual aspirations with organisational goals. It should be adaptable, employee-focused and forward-looking, ensuring that both the company and its employees are poised for mutual growth and success.

Vikram Malhotra, Managing Director – MENA, Outsized:

In discussing the structure of a successful performance development plan for remote employees, particularly freelancers and independent consultants, it’s imperative to consider multiple facets that contribute to both the efficiency of the remote workforce and the overarching objectives of the organisation.

At the core of this approach is the establishment of a clear scope and well-defined outcomes. This step is fundamental in setting precise expectations, which serves to mitigate misunderstandings and streamline progress tracking. Such clarity is vital in a remote setting where direct supervision is less feasible.

Equally important is the adaptation of the recruitment process. Remote work demands a specific set of skills, including self-sufficiency, adept communication and robust project management capabilities. The recruitment strategy should, therefore, be tailored to identify and evaluate these essential traits. While key components such as establishing a clear scope, defining outcomes and tailoring recruitment are fundamental, it’s also crucial to acknowledge the challenges of collaborating with remote workers. This is where an on-demand talent platform like Outsized simplifies the intricate process of engaging with remote professionals. They assist clients in developing a clear scope for their talent requirements and have a refined process for identifying the right-fit talent.

The onboarding and engagement of remote professionals should comprehensively introduce them to organisational policies and provide a structured framework for managing the unique challenges of remote work. Robust governance and strong leadership ensure remote workers are adequately supported and deliver results in line with agreed objectives. This governance framework assigns clear responsibilities and accountability, fostering a supportive environment for remote professionals.

Investing in effective collaboration tools, such as Slack, Trello and Google Drive, is non-negotiable. These keep remote teams connected and facilitate progress-tracking.

Regular communication, feedback and check-ins are indispensable for smooth project progression. They help in promptly addressing issues and maintaining a steady flow of information and fostering a culture of continuous growth and development.

Streamlining payment processes by establishing clear terms and utilising reliable methods is also essential and simplifies the collaboration process and demonstrates respect for the professional relationship. When working with platforms like Outsized, managing the complete contracting, onboarding and invoicing is taken over. This alleviates the administrative burden, allowing clients to concentrate on the actual project collaborations.

Lastly, creating a conducive remote work culture is fundamental. This involves not only the implementation of appropriate technologies but also ensuring data security and fostering a trust-based environment. Such a culture supports the unique dynamics of remote work and contributes to the overall well-being and productivity of remote employees.

Karim Nadi, Chief Commercial Officer, RemotePass:

The subject of professional development in remote work is still very much in its nascence. There are over 35 million digital nomads worldwide with a variety of skill sets and 98% of workers today desire part time remote work. However, many remote teams feel underserved by their employers when it comes to professional development — with more than a fifth of workers seeing it as a primary reason to quit their jobs. 

Performance development plans are the remedy, and remote companies have an opportunity to innovate and entirely rethink how they approach professional development and to get it right.

The first step is to set clear objectives and expectations.At the core of an effective performance development plan lies the establishment of clear, measurable and achievable goals. Remote employees should have a thorough understanding of what is expected of them and how their work contributes to the broader objectives of the organisation. Setting SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound) goals ensures that both the employee and the manager have a common understanding of what success looks like.

Then comes providing regular, constructive feedback. In a remote setting, regular feedback becomes even more critical. This should include not only constructive criticism but also recognition of achievements and milestones. Managers and employees should engage in open, honest communication, facilitating a supportive and transparent work environment.

Then, PDPs should be tailored to individual needs taking into consideration that each employee has unique skills and career aspirations. This can include professional training, mentorship programmes and opportunities for skill enhancement. Remote organisations need to invest in employees’ growth, which not only benefits the individual but also adds value to the company.

Moreover, effective communication tools and project management software are pivotal in managing remote teams. These tools help track progress, facilitate collaboration and ensure that everyone is on the same page. According to recent research, 36% of HR professionals believe that their technology is inadequate. This also extends to the way you provide and administer benefits for your team. Your remote HR tech stack should include ways to offer global health insurance and other benefits to your team.

Finally, remote work is underpinned by greater flexibility, which is a core reason why 20% of workers would quit their jobs if they couldn’t work from home. Given this need for flexibility, PDPs should be able to accommodate change. This could mean adjusting goals, timelines or strategies to reflect new priorities or challenges.

A successful Performance Development Plan for remote employees is one that is clear, personalised and adaptable — and is underpinned by the right tools and regular communication. Getting this right is core to fostering a productive, engaging and satisfying remote work experience for employees and employers alike.

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