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Employee performance review

Adapt the Employee Performance Review for Troubled Times

It’s no surprise that employee anxiety and stress have been at an all-time high during the pandemic. Persistent uncertainty combined with the competing demands of employees’ work and home lives has led to widespread employee burnout amongst newly remote workers. Can the employee performance review be a tool to help inspire and engage these worn down employees?

When managed effectively, an employee evaluation can celebrate work well-done, help identify areas for positive change, and inspire a feeling of forward momentum. Studies show that the performance review may be more important than ever before, as the number of CEOs preoccupied with employee performance and productivity has shot up from 36% in 2019 to 56% in 2020. However, in order to be effective for today’s overstretched, underslept workforce, employee performance appraisals need an update.

Employers need to consider what effective performance really means in light of current circumstances, adjust expectations, and modify their delivery. In this post, we’ll tackle how to conduct performance reviews in a pandemic.

  Download Our Free Performance Appraisal Template

What Challenges Does COVID-19 Present for the Employee Performance Review?

This year has been difficult for everyone. Managers have probably already had to adjust expectations and goals to meet their teams’ new limitations. But is that enough?

It is worth remembering that 2020 has had a disproportionately large effect on women’s careers as mothers take over homeschooling and childcare responsibilities. Many women have already been forced to seek positions with less demanding hours or even to leave the workforce altogether. Managers are thus facing a unique challenge. How to reward employees who are going the extra mile during these crises without penalizing those who have needed to take care of other priorities?

While compassion and empathy are always important, good vibes alone will not be sufficient to support the fatigued workforce. Employers must take concrete steps to modify performance management systems in order to fairly evaluate employees.

 Modify the Performance Management Process for Remote Work

Performance reviews can be stressful for both managers and employees even in the best of times. Here are our best tips to help managers meet employees where they’re at.

Rethink employee goals 

In these difficult times, managers must redefine the criteria for success. The business’s priorities may have shifted profoundly since last year’s performance assessments. Further, all workers have had to take on outsized responsibilities and work hard to persevere in difficult circumstances. Performance evaluations need to reflect these shifts.

Make sure to concentrate on factors an employee can control. For example, with family and home-life demands, many employees do not currently have much power over their flexibility i.e. their ability to work different hours or take on more tasks. They do, however, have control over their adaptability, i.e. their willingness to overcome obstacles and take advantage of new tools in a virtual work environment.

Tackle biases

Unfortunately, unconscious biases can play a big role in the performance management process. That is why it is important that managers clearly define metrics for success. Ambiguous criteria can leave room for implicit biases to affect performance reviews while more specific measurements even the playing field.

To avoid biases, try not to measure employee success in vague terms, like visibility and innovation. You need a new vocabulary to take more accurate measurements. Instead of asking about innovation (not measurable), ask about an employee’s ability to encourage idea-sharing and problem-solving. Pay particular attention to sometimes overlooked skills that have become important, such as managing team infrastructure by sending out meeting minutes and checking in on colleagues.

Get the whole picture: 360-degree appraisal

With all employees working remotely, there’s a lot going on that you can’t see. That’s why it is more important than ever to try to get the whole picture. When conducting an employee performance review, be sure to consider not only the manager’s perspective but also the perspective of the employee’s colleagues and direct reports. That 360-degree appraisal will provide you with a 360-view of the employee’s contributions, collaborations, and development.

Does trying to manage so many perspectives sound daunting? Use performance management software in order to streamline and centralize your performance management process. Supervisors can select reviewees and as many reviewers as they need. They can create multiple-choice, short-answer, or ratings questions. Employees will answer directly on the platform while supervisors track their progress.

Change the format

How to do performance reviews remotely? If your workforce has turned into a swarm of Zoombies tired out by video meetings, another video call might seem like a lot to ask. However, having face-to-face (or screen-to-screen) contact during these interactions is very important to add a much-needed sense of humanity.

It may be difficult to see how your words are landing so be sure to check in often. As Rebecca Knight presciently points out in HBR, the question is often “Did you just crush your employee’s soul? Or is their video just frozen?”

Next, consider doing away with traditional numerical rating systems that may have served in staff evaluations past. Who among us has sufficient self-esteem to look cold-hard numbers in the face? Remember to always end on an upbeat note.

 Employee Performance Review Sample Questions for the New Normal

Want some more specific guidance? Here are our favorite performance review questions to get at specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-based goals.

To measure adaptability:

  • Does the employee help develop strategies in line with our changing business priorities?
  • Has the employee been able to face this year’s challenges with grit and grace?

To measure problem-solving skills:

  • Does the employee collaborate with peers and team members?
  • Do they help facilitate open conversation and an inclusive atmosphere?
  • Has the employee helped streamline routine processes or find unique solutions for adding value?
  • Is the employee able to practically implement creative recommendations?

To measure change management capabilities:

  • Does the employee communicate with management about changing priorities or resources?
  • Are they responsive to changing information and able to pivot away from a pre-planned course of action?
  • Does the employee look for novel applications of new technologies in order to increase efficiency?
  • Is the employee able to effectively translate strategies into action plans?

 Don’t Put Employee Performance Evaluations on Pause

As they have been facing unprecedented personal and professional challenges over the last year, you may (rightly) feel that your employees deserve a break. But the employee performance review is not the place to reduce the workload.

Done well, a performance appraisal can help employees feel more engaged with the company culture, prioritize according to the business’s key goals, and work more productively. Leverage your performance reviews to make a performance improvement plan for employees.

If your business is still using an annual performance evaluation, it may be time to update your model. Studies show that more regular check-ins can boost productivity and engagement. Rather than checking in once a year, make time for a future-focused discussion of goals and employee development. Update your employee performance review with software that will make checking in with employees easy. These are difficult times and performance management software can help prepare your team for the long road ahead. As luck would have it, Factorial’s performance management software just got even better.

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