Practitioner Interview: Hassan Al-Asaad on the Pursuit of Employee Happiness in Running a Successful Organization
Hassan Khalid Al-Asaad, Strategist and Business Developer at Gulf Cooperation Council Interconnection Authority (GCCIA), believes that one of the future major challenges in managing performance is achieving employees’ happiness.
Employee happiness is one of the most important factors in running a successful, profitable company. Happy and engaged employees tend to miss less work, perform better, and support company innovation.
In this interview, he explains the critical role of pursuing the employees’ happiness, how it affects the performance of employees, and why organizations should exert more effort in research and development in attaining the happiness of employees.
What were the key trends in Organizational Performance Management in 2021, from your point of view?
Hassan: 2021 has been considered the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. Thus, impacting not only our daily lives but also the way we work. With performance management, there is no exception. Today, several trends have affected the workplace most notably ‘Remote working’ and ‘Mobile takeover’. Performance is being monitored by the use of mobile devices, and reporting can now be visualized online. Another notable trend is digitalization. Organizations today are working towards transforming their processes to be able to enhance the workplace, and cope with future challenges.
Which of the existing trends, topics, or aspects within Performance Management have lost their relevance and/or importance, from your point of view?
Hassan: I do not believe any trend, topic, or aspect within Performance Management has lost its relevance or importance. On the contrary, I see Performance Management gaining importance from all perspectives, especially in the areas of continuous adaptation to new technologies, and increasingly engaging employees in the company’s purpose.
What does the corporate performance management system of the future look like?
Hassan: It will be a fully digitalized system where all employees, whether senior management or technical supporting staff, will have access to the system with a dashboard showcasing their performance on all three levels (corporate, functional, individual), and even on a personal level. Similar to any application, where it can be downloaded and easily accessible to anyone by using an electronic device (mobile or pad).
What will be the major challenges in managing performance in the future and how should organizations prepare for them?
Hassan: One major challenge I foresee organizations facing is achieving employees’ happiness. Organizations vary when it comes to ensuring their employees’ happiness: some strive to make it a priority; whereas others may not. But one major challenge in ensuring employees’ happiness is the ‘Bell-Curve’ scheme, which is applied after all annual appraisal results have been completed. It has been reported by workers that due to the restrictions the bell curve imposes their end performance result is forced to be lowered – ending up in frustration and demotivation.
How is technology impacting the way organizations conduct strategic planning and manage performance?
Hassan: With new technologies emerging, organizations will be compelled to implement new systems in order to maintain a competitive position, internally and externally. The conventional method of using an excel sheet to manage performance is, in my view, obsolete.
Any specific technology tools you would like to mention? My preference is a home-built system, where an organization can design it the way it seems most suitable to meet its needs. Here at GCCIA we had tested various systems and used one for monitoring our performance. However, we realized that the constraints of some of these software applications tend to hinder any changes and/or enhancements as a result of need.
How is sustainability impacting the way organizations conduct strategic planning and manage performance? Any specific sustainability aspects you would like to mention?
Hassan: In the past few years, there has been increasing recognition amongst organizations and their stakeholders of the importance of sustainability and the impacts of organizations on society and the business environment. They have recognized that focusing solely on maximizing profit, without considering the interaction of a business with its operating environment, will not be a sustainable approach. The only way I see sustainability impacting the way organizations conduct strategic planning is that they consider the operating environment, more specifically performance management as a crucial component to achieving a sustainable organization.
A good example is the financial one regarding employee performance. Some organizations tend to give a blind eye to employee rewards by chopping down the allocated amount for annual rewards to apply or implement another initiative in the name of sustainability.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused disruptions in our day-to-day lives, social relations, economies, and business dynamics. Given the impact of the crisis, what do you think are the specific changes in the way strategic planning and performance management is being conducted post COVID?
Hassan: The most significant change is the new working setup which has changed the way we perform. Before COVID-19, one-on-one meetings took place at the office regularly. Now, nearly all meetings are held virtually and workers can work remotely two to three days a week. With this new ‘norm’ technology becomes even more essential than before. New applications and IT tools have to be in place in order to ensure system availability.
While navigating through these challenging times, what would you consider as a best practice in Performance Management?
Hassan: Best practices considered can be ongoing development conversations with superiors and especially employees to make them feel confident. Also, applying the 360 Feedback assessment to avoid unfairness. This can be a way to solve the problems resulting from the bell-curve scheme. Moreover, involve employees in the performance management process.
How does benchmarking support the improvement of performance management and target setting systems?
Hassan: In essence, benchmarking can allow you to gain an independent perspective on how well you perform compared to other companies. It keeps an organization improve its internal operations, and continuously improve from competitor’s practices. A good example can be applying the same KPIs and targets used by competitors or partners. Benchmarking an organization can easily identify its standing in the market.
Which organizations would you recommend to be observed due to their approach to managing performance and its subsequent results?
Hassan: Two organizations that came into my mind were the Dubai Electricity & Water Authority and the GCC Interconnection Authority. The reason is that both have achieved strategic alignment (corporate, functional, and individual)
What aspects of Performance Management should be explored more through research given their importance in practice?
Hassan: According to my experience, the aspect that should be most explored is employee happiness. Employee happiness is one of the most important factors in running a successful, profitable company. Happy and engaged employees tend to perform better and support company innovation. When employees are happy, loyal, and engaged, company profits are much higher—and turnover is much lower. However, when employees feel unhappy and unmotivated, productivity goes down, thus leading to poor performance and turnover goes up. It can be difficult to figure out exactly how to keep employees happy in today’s economic environment. In addition, external factors can have an impact on employee happiness, and those are often out of your control. But nowadays, applying new working methods can help to solve this problem. A good example is applying the project -productivity-based performance instead of the conventional work from 9 – 5 office schemes.
What are the key competencies of a successful business leader (C-level Executive)?
Hassan: The key competencies can be communicating effectively, having a vision, ability to coach, effective in decision-making, has social and technological intelligence, and has the ability to cope with change,
What are the key competencies of a Strategy and Performance Manager to succeed nowadays?
Hassan: The key competencies of Strategy and Performance Managers to succeed nowadays are being accessible to all employees without any hindrance. These managers must have the ability to communicate effectively the strategy to all levels of the organization and work with all ‘champions’ and employees on all aspects pertaining to strategy and performance. They are able to follow up on all internal and external changes affecting the organization and relay these changes to the strategy
We are developing a database of subjects/degrees in Performance Management. What are your suggestions relevant to the database (i.e., subjects/degrees such as the Masters in Managing Organizational Performance)?
Hassan: A Masters of Business Administration – Strategy will definitely be a fantastic program. The program should include the courses currently being offered by The KPI Institute and preferably be jointly offered with a recognized post-secondary institution. Another aspect The KPI Institute should ensure is accreditation. Offering a fully accredited degree is essential to ensure the standard of quality is being maintained.
What are the recent achievements in generating value from performance management in your organization?
Hassan: As a practitioner, the most recent notable achievements were strategic alignment from corporate down to the individual level and the development of an in-house Performance Management System. Since we started our first strategic plan, in 2014, it had only included strategic plans and performance indicators at the corporate and functional levels.
Now, in 2022, we managed to create KPIs at the individual level by aligning them to their relevant functional strategy plan and KPIs. To further complement this achievement, we, at GCCIA, by a selected team from the Strategy and IT departments, were able to design and build a Performance management System – based on SharePoint – that can be easily accessible to all employees from work or remotely.
As a Strategist and Business Developer, Hassan has developed a long-term corporate strategic plan and associated annual functional business plans for GCCIA. He also establishes and manages the GCCIA’s corporate planning and business development functions, including strategy and performance management, and business development. Hassan assists leadership in revising corporate strategic plans, targets, indicators, and performance management framework.
Hassan is a Certified Strategy & Business Planning Professional (2021), KPI Institute, Dubai, UAE, Certified Employee Performance Management Professional (2021), KPI Institute, Dubai, UAE, Certified Performance Management Professional (2020), KPI Institute, Dubai, UAE, and Certified Performance Audit Professional (2018), KPI Institute, Dubai, UAE.