A new report investigates HR’s priorities for their organisation this year, the influence of COVID-19 on the world of work and the new challenges that have emerged from these transformations.

New research conducted by Clear Review, a performance management platform, has found that HR has put a specific focus on improving productivity and engagement within their workforce over the coming year.

In this year’s report, almost half of HRDs (47.1 per cent) cited developing performance within their organisation as a main focus. However, when asked what they thought should actually be a main priority, only 42.9 per cent of respondents felt this way.

This differs significantly from 2019 results which shows that almost four in 10 HRDs (39 per cent) stated that developing performance would be their main focus and over half (52 per cent) believed it should be – suggesting this has become less important for HRDs since the start of the pandemic.

However, an area which has grown in interest to HRDs is productivity and engagement. Whilst only a third (33 per cent) said this was their current focus for 2021, almost half (46 per cent) of respondents felt it should be.

This is significant when considering that only 3 per cent of HRDs felt positive about the impact of remote working on productivity. In fact, almost half (45 per cent) felt explicitly negative towards remote working and its effects on employee performance.

The report suggests that the reason behind the cynicism could be linked to trust issues on the part of the HRDs, with the research utilising the rise in surveillance equipment for employees as proof of this.

A key area that was identified that would help employees to grow was a focus on regular coaching and development conversations. When questioned on this, almost all managers surveyed (97 per cent) said that this would be beneficial for employees. Almost nine in 10 workers (89 per cent) agreed also.

Stuart Hearn, founder and CEO at Clear Review, said:

As a return to face-to-face encounters feel as far away as ever, we are all going to struggle with maintaining performance levels as we balance home schooling, lockdowns, quarantining, concerns for family while still doing our jobs. For businesses, that means working harder to both support and motivate staff. The survey suggests they may feel that working remotely hampers performance levels, but the fact is that we are going to be in this situation for a while longer.

Employers, and their HR leaders, need to come up with ways of developing performance while maintaining productivity and engagement in a dispersed workforce. Being able to manage performance in a time of constant disruption, when you can’t get in a room with employees and see how they’re really doing, needs a different approach to the one employed when everyone worked in the same office day-in, day-out.


This research was obtained from Clear Review’s report ‘Performance Management Report 2021’.  To get these results, Clear Review surveyed 221 HR decision-makers and employees in October and November 2020.