Press Release

New report reveals HR directors’ challenges on development and engagement in 2021

Clear Review

London, 25 January 2021: 2021 should be the year of productivity and engagement when it comes to managing performance. That’s according to a new survey of HR directors, which found that, despite 46% saying improving employee productivity and engagement should be their focus in the coming year, just 33% believe it will be. 

The survey is part of the second Performance Management Report from Clear Review and comes as businesses of all sizes are wrestling with the reality of repeating lockdowns and ongoing remote working. Rather than productivity and engagement, it appears 47% of HR leaders will be focused on developing performance across their organisation. 

Many respondents felt this was harder while operating remotely – just three per cent of HR leaders were positive about maintaining performance levels while working from home, with 45% having a negative outlook. 

Stuart Hearn, founder and CEO at Clear Review, the leader in performance management software, 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.” 

The report also highlighted how attitudes are shifting in the wake of the pandemic. Just nine per cent of respondents said pay and ratings were a focus, down from 18% in 2019, when the first Performance Management Report was published. Ranking employees has seen a similar drop – falling from 15% in 2019 to eight per cent in 2021. 

When it came to development, 97% of managers and 89% employees agreed that they or their teams would benefit from regular development and coaching sessions. This marked a major rise, up from 81% of the former and 64% of the latter in the 2019 Performance Management Report.  

However, the 2021 study also flagged a major discrepancy, with 40% of HR directors feeling that team leaders don’t have the skills or training to deliver development and coaching sessions appropriately. This despite more than a third of managers reporting they were having more performance conversations since COVID-19 struck. 

“Managers clearly understand the link between ongoing coaching and improved performance, yet the results suggests they are underprepared and need more support to have successful conversations with their teams,” said Hearn. “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.”

Workplace culture leader, mindfulness expert and entrepreneur Kerry Wekelo wrote the foreword of the Performance Management Report. She said “For so many businesses, employees are our most valuable asset. Yet too many people are being run into the ground by everything we’re all having to face, and companies are being slow to react. It is positive to see from the results that there is a hunger for a new approach, with managers wanting to coach and HR leaders wanting to focus on productivity and engagement, as that reflects awareness of the mental health challenges workforces are facing. It does require employers to step up, however, and accept that life is not going back to normal, and their processes and systems need to reflect that.”

Clear Review surveyed 221 HR decision-makers and employees in October and November 2020.

About Clear Review

Clear Review was founded by Stuart Hearn, former HR Director at Sony and head of a talent management consultancy. Years of seeing what does and doesn’t work in performance management led him to build a new and simplified breed of software — and a great team to support it. To find out more, visit

About Kerry Wekelo

Kerry is the Chief Operating Officer at Actualize Consulting, a financial services firm. Her book and program, Culture Infusion: 9 Principles for Creating and Maintaining a Thriving Organizational Culture and latest book Gratitude Infusion, are the impetus behind Actualize Consulting being named Top Company Culture by Entrepreneur Magazine, a Top Workplace by The Washington Post, and Great Place to Work-Certified. In her leadership, Kerry blends her experiences as a consultant, executive coach, award-winning author, mindfulness expert, and entrepreneur. Kerry has been featured on ABC, NBC, NPR, The New York Times, Thrive Global, SHRM, Inc., and Forbes. 

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Courtney Glymph



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