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The Dos and Don'ts of Remote Performance Reviews

December 10, 2021 Talent Management
Kaya Ismail
By Kaya Ismail

Managing employee performance is crucial for any organization. Whether that means rewarding employees doing well or having difficult conversations with those who aren't, ensuring a team performs to its full potential is necessary for today's businesses. 

According to research from human capital analytics firm RedThread Research, organizations that focus on culture, clarity and capability in performance management are more likely to experience high employee engagement and organizational performance. Employees need to know if their work is being valued and what to do to turn things around if it isn't. 

Remote and hybrid work created new wrinkles in the performance management process. According to Gartner, "leading organizations diagnose what employees need and expect from performance management — and how those needs may shift with, for example, the move to remote work." What are those shifting requirements around performance management, and how should performance reviews adapt to remote and hybrid work is an ongoing challenge.

The State of Current Performance Review Processes

A performance review, also known as a performance appraisal, is an assessment where a manager or supervisor evaluates an employee's work performance to identify areas of strength, weakness and provide feedback for improvement. 

In an office environment, a manager and employee will typically sit down for an annual review at a predetermined time. A performance review will also include a written assessment of the employee. Some companies also do 360 reviews, where employees provide feedback on their own performance as well as the performance of their team members and their manager. How does the process change when it comes to remote work?

According to Logan Mallory, vice president of marketing at Lehi, Utah-based employee engagement software company Motivosity, the only thing that changes is that the review is done via video. "Other than that, it should be conducted exactly the same way as if it were being done in person," he said.

Rethinking Reviews for Remote and Hybrid Work

Regardless of how it is conducted, the key is to create a comfortable environment for both parties. Some argue that video isn't always the best option due to the nature of a performance review.

"Performance reviews should be attempted to be done in person if possible, even if people work remotely," said Jennifer Preston, HR Consultant at Johns Creek, Ga.-based FlexHR. If both parties can't meet at a joint location once a year, doing the video review may suffice. 

Many companies are accustomed to conducting performance reviews once a year. But nowadays, they may need to be done with more frequency. Ongoing coaching and feedback throughout the year can be particularly useful in a remote work environment, according to Andrea Lagan, chief operating officer at Redwood City, Calif.-based Betterworks.

"Conducting an effective, remote performance review is really about the continuous conversations, feedback, and recognition that occurred leading up to the actual performance review," she said.

Related Article: How to Restart Performance Management

Performance Review Dos

Performance reviews are common practice but to get the most out of them, especially when doing them remotely, there are a few things managers should do: 

Schedule the Appropriate Amount of Time

"Schedule uninterrupted time without distractions to ensure the employee knows he/she is the priority during that window of time," Preston said. The remote environment offers opportunities for employees to eliminate distractions common to an office environment. Blocking out time on the calendar when there are no distractions from Slack and other things can be beneficial. 

Conduct Them Regularly

The days of the performance review only happening once a year are going away. "We recommend a quarterly cadence for conversations and feedback," Lagan said. For some managers, it may even be a good idea to provide monthly feedback, in addition to a more formal quarterly review. 

Related Article: Designing Performance Management to Work for Hybrid Work

Performance Review Don'ts

Even though performance reviews may seem straightforward, some still make mistakes when conducting them. Here are a few things to avoid: 

One-sided Conversations

Even though a manager conducts the review of the employee in most situations, that doesn't mean it should be a one-sided affair. When scheduling time for a review, Mallory suggests that managers should treat the review like a conversation.

"They need to leave time for the employee to ask questions and share their feedback as well," he said. Breaking up the review into pieces can allow the employee to process things and react. 

Surprises

Employees shouldn't be blindsided by anything told to them during the review process. A performance review should provide an opportunity to build on general feedback given throughout the year, instead of telling the employee everything that has gone wrong or right in one conversation. 

Focus on the Past

A performance review shouldn't only be a place to review the last month or year. Managers should also find opportunities to provide recommendations on career trajectory, areas for growth and opportunities for further compensation, essentially helping the employee chart their career path. 

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