There are some jobs and job functions that hinge heavily on objective performance — sales commissions, for instance.

Those and other duties may be evaluated through number-crunching or a weekly, monthly, or quarterly performance review.

But in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, some New Jersey bosses are paying more attention to how their workers are getting their assignments done, and whether they can use their time and talents more effectively.

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For many of these employees, such discussions may amount to a sort of "work therapy," increasing understanding of what is expected on a day-to-day basis and how to navigate roadblocks.

Michele Siekerka, president and CEO of the New Jersey Business & Industry Association, said those are talks worth having.

"More progressive employers are moving away from counting widgets and checking boxes, so more about how you do your work, and social-emotional intelligence is a very important part of that," she said. "How are you executing? How are you completing the task I asked you to do? Very different than 'check the box.' It's a more comprehensive look at how we're moving strategy forward."

From the worker perspective, opening up to a supervisor about certain concerns may now be easier following COVID-era transitions to remote and hybrid work.

Siekerka said having a one-on-one meeting over a computer screen instead of in person may seem inherently more distant, but can have its advantages.

"When you're a little more removed, sometimes you can open up a little more," she said. "I know it sounds weird, but technology causes us to do that."

And employers know that office culture, whether it be virtual or on-site, is top of mind for their charges right now, and that building trust is crucial.

All of that, Siekerka said, makes workers feel there's a purpose to them putting "boots on the ground" every morning.

"If you have the right culture, you can really, really build great productivity, and we've seen that," she said. "I call those 'COVID keepers' — we learned a lot through COVID that we want to keep in terms of corporate environment."

Both sides are feeling their way through these changes to the traditional workplace, according to Siekerka, but as they adjust and encourage mutually open communication, she feels the end product will improve.

Patrick Lavery is a reporter and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at patrick.lavery@townsquaremedia.com

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