Performance Reviews in the Time of WFH

by Jody Ordioni

Performance Reviews in the Time of WFH

Performance evaluation has to be impactful, while also being uplifting. It has to provide useful feedback but should also not disrupt the momentum of the employees. Performance reviews are hard to get right during normal times, but the added stress of work-from-home has made it a nightmare. Here are some tips that will help you assess your employees, while still ensuring that you don't end up crushing their spirits.

Start Before the Official Meeting

While real-time feedback as possible before the pandemic upended everything, managers can still ensure that employees are receiving a constant stream of feedback on their work. Before any official meeting discussing an employee's performance, managers should send written pointers detailing their assessment. This will not only make the meeting much smoother by eliminating differences in opinion but would also give the employees time to prepare relevant questions.

Stay Updated

Since it is not possible to track the performance of each employee, anymore, managers have to creatively gather information regarding the performances. Reach out to colleagues and customers to understand whether the employee in question has been able to carry out the tasks assigned to them. Also, look out for employees who have been able to go above and beyond their targets and ensure that proper recognition is given to them.

Empathy is Appreciated

Earlier, it was easier for employees to distinguish their personal life from the professional one. However, the pandemic has merged these two spheres entirely. The challenges encountered during work-from-home are unique to each employee. Thus, while they should still be reminded whenever they miss the mark, their material conditions should also be taken into consideration. Helping out team members who are lagging should always be a manager's first step.

Knowing Where to Draw the Line

Since the personal and professional are no longer two separate identities, managers can often find themselves invading the privacy of their employees. They should approach any personal topic only if the employee has previously mentioned it. If employees are hesitant in revealing the cause of their distress, managers should step back. Try to work out alternate schedules or deadlines, if employees express that they are unable to cope.

Make Peace with Changing Goal Posts

Have your employees been unable to meet the targets that were set for them in the past month or even the past six months? If yes, then it might be time to evaluate the goals, instead of berating the employees. Parameters for performance have been destabilized by the pandemic and it is unfair to ask the employees to match their pre-pandemic performance.

Nothing Beats In-Person Reviews (Or Whatever Comes Closest)

When reviews are scheduled, it can be difficult to convey nuances over a telephonic conversation. Even video calls can be limiting, to the extent that the thrust of the conversation is lost. If possible, schedule an outdoor, socially-distanced meeting with the employees. Driving out to meet the employees shows that managers are actually interested in helping them improve through the reviews.

Professional Growth of Employees

Working from home is not only isolating, but it can also make employees feel stagnated. Performance reviews should then also accommodate discussions centered around the plans necessary for the professional growth of employees. If the takeaway for employees from the review are areas to work on, then for managers it should be action items that will help in the growth of employees.

Try to Uplift the Mood of the Employees

The attitude of a manager trickles down to the whole team, thus, making it important to leave the review with a positive attitude. Ending the review with sincere and comforting words is a good way to encourage your employees. It also assures them that they are not in this alone. Be cognizant of the struggles faced in 2020 and look towards a successful 2021.

The Bottom Line

Employee engagement and retention have created problems for companies, even before the pandemic, but the stress of working from home has added to the problem. What managers should remember is that performance reviews are a tool to enhance the performance of their employees. Thus, they should be constructive and not just plain criticism.

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