If there’s anything 2020 has taught us, it’s that the way we used to work is dead. So much of what used to work doesn’t work anymore. That’s a good thing because it’s forcing us to reexamine the way things are and see how they could (and should) be better. One of those areas is the performance review. Never have we been more excited to say goodbye and good riddance to the old way of doing a performance review.

Only 13% of employees and managers think their organization’s performance appraisal system is useful.

Only 29% of employees know whether their performance is where it should be.

Source

If you’ve had a bad performance review, you know this is true. For many, a performance review goes something like this: you meet with your manager once a year and they tell you all of the things you are doing wrong, and to boot – you aren’t getting a raise. Unfortunately, this experience is all too common. But that’s not how it should be! As the world continues to change, employers need to be more aware of their employees than ever before in order to succeed.

Below we put together four ways you should evaluate your employees in the post-pandemic world. But before you begin, we want this to be your objective as you look to improve how you review your employees.

When it comes to evaluating their job performance, “there’s no template and it’s not one size fits all,” says Anna Tavis, a clinical associate professor of human capital management at New York University and an editor at People + Strategy, a journal for HR executives. “Everyone is stretched in their own way,” she says. Your goal, therefore, is “to make an empathetic assessment” based on “where your people are.” – HBR.org

Say goodbye to the annual performance review

Don’t do performance reviews only once a year! This is the rule most often broken. Managers only dedicate time once a year to discussing performance and career growth with their employees when it should happen regularly. Feedback, generally speaking, can and should happen all the time. More formal sit-downs like a review, could happen as often as every quarter. Now that so many workers are remote, giving regular and meaningful feedback is more important than ever.

Think about it. If you notice your employee is struggling with time management, would you wait until the end of the year to talk to them about it? No! You would address the issue as soon as you were aware of it so it can be fixed. If you wait to share feedback, what you share might surprise your employees or cause more suffering than is necessary (for them and for you). When you do the next review, you can follow-up with anything discussed previously and discuss their progress or more improvements.Frequency of Feedback is Key to Engaging Remote Workers

As we’ve mentioned, the world is changing literally from day to day now. These changes will inevitably affect your employees, so having regular reviews will allow you to keep up with how your employees are coping and how it might be affecting their work. During these times you can discuss how to modify work structures, hours, schedules, loads, etc. to make things easier for everyone without comprising too much on productivity.

Feedback should go from the bottom up

Most often, performance reviews are coming from the top down. While management’s opinions are important for the overall big picture and health of a team and business, you’re only getting half the picture when you don’t get insight from the bottom up. It’s a scary to ask what your employees think of you, but if your true priority is helping your employees and the business succeed, then you have to be prepared to take feedback, positive or otherwise.

Your employees are doing work on the frontlines. Oftentimes they are the ones interacting with customers, software, and systems every day. They can tell you what’s working and what isn’t better than anyone. Ignoring their input is a huge mistake. Incorporate time or a process where employees can share their own experiences, what they’ve learned, and what needs to be improved so two-way feedback becomes natural.

Not only should feedback flow in both directions but consider adding lateral reviews into the mix. Ask team members and peers to review their colleagues’ performance to get a more holistic view of an employee’s contributions and needed improvements. Additionally, sourcing multiple sources can help you eliminate bias in a review. It’s easy to assume your employees aren’t working while they are at home, but that’s very rarely the case. Having other’s opinions can help you assess more fairly.

Pump up your employees

Performance reviews shouldn’t be a time just for criticism. Hype up your employees. Let them know you think they are doing a good job. Cite specific examples of exceptional work and behavior. Maybe they kept their calm when a customer was yelling at them, maybe they delivered a project a week early, or maybe they welcomed a new employee and made them feel like they were part of the team. Whatever it is, commend them for it because they need to know their efforts are important to you and the company.

69% of employees say they would work harder if they felt their efforts were better recognized.

Source

In order to do this, you need to be paying attention to your team. That is harder than ever now that so many workers are remote. It’s likely employees haven’t been in the same room as their coworkers in months, so much of their hard work might be harder to recognize, but it is there. People want to be seen. Spend some time looking for how your employees have contributed to the team in a unique way. Sourcing reviews from more than just yourself (as mentioned above) can make this easier.

Adjust your goals to fit the circumstances

The world came to a screeching halt in March of this year, and so did many businesses. If you’re up and running again, you’ve noticed that timelines, budgets and stress levels are not where they used to be. As you prepare for your performance reviews, you most likely need to adjust your previous goals and standards to better fit the circumstances you are operating under now. Perhaps a daily call quota was 25 before the pandemic, but now that your employees are working remotely full-time and have kids at home, you lower the quota by 20% down to 20 calls a day. Removing some of the added pressure on your employees could help retain quality and their own sanity.

It would be unfair to hold your employees to pre-pandemic goals or standards that are impossible to meet now. Rethink what your goals and focus should be. What matters most? What do your customers or clients need? What is realistic for your employees to accomplish? Maybe it’s not just individual employee performance, but how well is your team working towards the organization’s overall goals? You are aligning instead of overhauling.

Consider changing the metrics of your goals so they are less focused on transactional duties or work. Maybe they aren’t quotas at all but are instead, oriented around soft skills. What traits or skills have been invaluable to your team throughout the pandemic? Think skills like good communication, teamwork, adaptability, problem-solving, etc. Having employees with these skills can make or break your team when stress levels are high.

Key takeaways:

  • Recognize that this pandemic has been hard on everyone and we are all trying to figure things out together. Let compassion govern how you conduct your performance reviews.
  • Aim to have ongoing, informal weekly discussions about work, recognition and performance.
  • Establish a process or time to collect and discuss feedback for management and executives. Compile what you’ve learned and share with those above you.
  • Pay attention to your employees and be specific about your praise and constructive criticism. Always tell them why it matters.
  • Approach performance reviews from the perspective that you are trying to help your employees be the best they can be. This way you can evaluate performance based on metrics that matter and will help your employees and team improve.
  • Modify goals and processes as conditions continue to change. Let agility and resilience be your mantras.