Tips for Handling Performance Reviews Remotely

Nov 26, 2020 | Performance Management

The year 2020 has been filled with unprecedented transitions. Many companies are faced with the task of handling performance reviews remotely for the first time. The need for social distancing will prevent many managers from holding in-person reviews with their employees. Conducting reviews remotely brings its own set of challenges, so we are offering some tips on how to handle them effectively. 

Preparing for the review

Taking the right steps ahead of the review itself will give you the best possible outcome. Follow these tips to set yourself up for success!

Reset your baseline. 

Most employees have been dealing with a higher level of stress in 2020 than in 2019, so it may not be fair to hold them to the exact same performance standards. Have you already reconsidered the goals you set at your last performance review? If not, take a moment to do that now.

Share feedback in advance.

The performance review itself shouldn’t deliver any earth-shaking surprises. Send employees a writeup of what you plan to discuss ahead of time. That way, they’ll be able to prepare for the conversation, making the review more productive. You’ll be able to focus on helping your employees overcome weaknesses and set new goals and objectives.

Have the right software in place.

Using paper-based performance review systems has become unfeasible for many companies. The right software system will allow managers to easily track performance over time. This helps avoid the recency effect—the tendency to focus most on what happened most recently rather than over the entire year. A good system will also help you structure reviews effectively.

Handling the review with skill

Speaking remotely rather than in person can increase the sense of distance between an employee and manager. With a video chat, people are handling a higher cognitive load. The brain is working overtime to detect and understand cues that we naturally interpret in face-to-face situations. Thus, it’s crucial to go the extra mile to establish a human connection. These tips will help you do just that.

Pay attention to eye contact and body language.

When speaking by video, it’s harder to see body language, and you can’t exactly make direct eye contact. Worse, people tend to feel more awkward and stiffen up on camera. Make an extra effort to smile, relax your facial expressions, and use open body language. Look directly at the camera sometimes while you’re speaking and listening, too. That way, the other person will feel like you’re making eye contact with them, strengthening your sense of connection.

Use multiple sources of data.

Since you can’t see employees at work every day, it’s harder to assess exactly how much effort they’re putting in and what they’re accomplishing. To avoid bias, look at multiple data sources to gauge employees’ performance. For example, have them conduct self-evaluations, and collect feedback from their peers and anyone they supervise.

Look at interpersonal strengths.

Consider how people have demonstrated their interpersonal skills throughout this difficult time. Have new strengths emerged or grown stronger? Emotional intelligence and people skills are vital for those working on a remote team. Rather than just looking at metrics, look at how people are performing on a human level.

Focus on support.

Be extremely supportive of anyone who is struggling. Focus on how you can help them manage their time or stress while working remotely. Show compassion and give them more latitude. In 2020, work and home life have been colliding like never before, and many employees have had to balance work with caring for their children. As a manager, you may have been experiencing those challenges yourself! This gives you common ground from which to empathize with your direct reports.

Reevaluate personal goals.

Just as your company has had to reevaluate its goals over the past year, employees need to rethink their goals. Talk with them about whether they need to modify their targets for the coming year. Articulate how these goals fit into the company’s mission, too. That will ensure they feel like part of a team, even when you’re not in the same physical space.

Of course, the annual performance review is just the tip of the iceberg for performance management. When you make performance management a continuous conversation, you make daily improvement a reality.

Looking for ways to help you accurately track and support employee progress remotely? Check out our ebook “Essential Performance Management Solutions for Today’s HR”. It’s a great read on the tools that organizations need to keep their performance management aligned with the business.

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