A hand reaching out to press a star in order to leave a 5 star review

The purpose of performance reviews is to promote communication and provide useful feedback about job performance. While many dread these meetings with their managers, they do facilitate better working relationships and contribute to professional development. And according to a recent survey conducted by Prodoscore, an employee visibility software company, the majority of employees want feedback and to be recognized for a job well done.

Typically, performance reviews are held annually – either at the end of the calendar year, fiscal year, or aligned with each employee’s work anniversary. When everyone worked in an office setting, alongside managers and coworkers who they saw every day, that strategy worked. In the era of COVID-19 and remote work, however, these strategies must be altered.

Due to the pandemic, stress levels are high. Whether it be full-time remote work struggles, the fear of possible infection, or additional caregiving responsibilities, there is just simply more being placed on employee’s plates. So, moving forward, while normal KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) can stay in place, performance plans that place more focus on the positives, highlighting wins and leveraging employee strengths, must be stressed. This will help the employer better support the performance they’re looking to encourage.

Here then, are a handful of ways employers can improve their performance review process when dealing with remote employees.

How to Conduct Performance Reviews for Remote Employees

Set Clear Expectations

Recognizing how the workplace has shifted and identifying new expectations should be the first step in crafting an appropriate pandemic performance review. Since managers aren’t seeing, or possibly even speaking with, their direct reports on a daily basis, check-ins from them should be increased. Nobody should be left to feel like they’re on an island. But tread carefully. Checking in too frequently can lead to the opposite of the desired effect.

During these calls, managers can continue to set and adjust expectations. So, moving forward, set regularly scheduled times for these check-in calls. Doing so will help avoid catching the employee unaware and will also give them time to prepare for the call.

Gain an Understanding of Each Employee’s Situation

The pandemic has affected everyone in a different way. What a single 20-something is going through is nothing like that of a parent of 4 small children. So, gaining an understanding of each employee’s situation is paramount. You want to find out what they are dealing with in addition to their work.

To do so, you may ask questions such as:

  • How are you?
  • What support do you need?
  • What new responsibilities do you find yourself taking on? (This is especially important if the worker has assumed the responsibilities of a furloughed or laid off employee)
  • Do you have any suggestions on how your work can be done more effectively?

Ask these questions, however, with caution. Asking too many specific questions, especially as they relate to family or medical issues, could violate employment regulations or law. If you have questions, consult with your HR department or legal counsel.

Provide Specific Feedback

Giving specific feedback about what the employee did well and correcting their mistakes is the most effective way to build the behaviors you want. If you’re not correcting mistakes as they happen, you can only expect those same mistakes to happen.

To achieve this, increase the amount of performance reviews – not just check-in calls. In terms of formal evaluation, quarterly sessions prove to be more effective than annual reviews. During these reviews, talk about what they did well, stress how you’ll be leveraging those strengths moving forward, and set goals on how they can achieve it.

Define Your End Game

Employees need to know what you value in terms of outcomes and results. Establishing clearly set goals, outlining what you expect to achieve, and showing them how the work they’re doing is helping to achieve that, will help them focus more clearly on their objectives. As an added bonus, focusing on outcomes, rather than process, will give employees more flexibility to exhibit their strengths. Thereby giving you more opportunity to leverage those strengths down the line.

Build Rapport and Trust

Finally, don’t be afraid to show some vulnerability. Share with your employees your own struggles and hardships. Speak with them about how your life has changed and the difficulties you face in this new working environment. Doing so can help lead to more honesty from your employees – a move that can pay dividends down the line.

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