Even in the best of times, performance and development reviews to aid with management development (sometimes called PERs, PDRs or appraisals) can be tense, stressful and anxiety-inducing. Now, amidst a global pandemic, performance reviews present an even greater challenge, particularly for those in your team who work remotely. It is likely that they will be wrestling with the complications associated with working from home as well as the pressures of preparing for their review.
So how can you help make sure that the conversation is a productive one for both of you? Here are some tips that will help ensure sure that both you and your team members get the most from your remote reviews.
Think about what you are evaluating. If you are measuring success against goals, beware. The targets that were set before the Covid-19 crisis may no longer be applicable as the context has changed dramatically. Since it would be unfair to judge your team members against the company’s pre-pandemic objectives, concentrate on other aspects of their performance such as learning and growth, resilience, collaboration and capacity to adapt.
Set expectations with your team members upfront. Given that for many the review process will be different this year, it’s important that you set clear expectations up front by explaining:
- The format – Explain in writing how you will conduct the remote performance reviews (e.g. via video call on Zoom, Google Hangouts or MS Teams etc).
- How long the review will take – Send a calendar invite with a set time (e.g. one hour).
- The process – In your calendar invite and/or corresponding email, provide an agenda that breaks down what you will discuss.
- What will be different from previous reviews – For example, if you are sticking with objectives and metrics you set pre-COVID, explain how these will be assessed considering the changed circumstances. Also, the pandemic may have impacted your ability to foresee what the coming months will look like for your business, so be clear about what won’t be discussed too.
- Preparation work required. Explain how you expect your team member to prepare for the review and what they should bring with them, including any feedback they may have for you.
Approach your evaluations with more flexibility, leniency and compassion. Be cognisant of the vastly different and varying circumstances your team members are working under. Team members working from home are likely to be juggling work, working spaces with other household members and possibly teaching their children too. This calls for more flexibility, empathy and leniency from you.
Recognise and show appreciation for team members who are engaged and working hard. It’s critical for their morale and for your organisation’s ability to retain them.
Ask for feedback. Reviews should be a two-way conversation, so encourage your team to provide feedback about how you have managed them remotely and what else you can do to support them.
Be hard-hearted toward your poor performers. Give them a time limited ‘grace’ period to get used to working remotely and turn things around.
Rely on your old assumptions. One of the most difficult things about conducting performance reviews at a time when your team are working remotely, is that you don’t have as much data as you would normally. This is because inevitably, you cannot observe your team working as you did before. The risk therefore is that your old assumptions and biases, either positive or negative may inadvertently influence your review. To prevent this look for other sources of data, perhaps by getting the views of people they regularly interact with, such as, colleagues, customers or suppliers.
Forget about personal development. Just because someone is working remotely doesn’t mean that they cannot continue with their management learning and growth. For example, management coaching combined with remote learning can boost confidence and strengthen engagement during what is a challenging or anxious time for many people.
During COVID-19 restrictions, compassionate leadership should be a priority. The annual review gives you the opportunity to adapt and tie together your team members’ performance and wellbeing.