A Guide to Conducting Remote Performance Reviews in 2021
Should you continue to do performance reviews while your team is working remotely?
“100% yes, is our answer,” says 7Geese Performance Coach Ashleigh Myerscough.
2020 may go down in history as a turning point in the way we work and respond to crises. Now, many companies are beginning to adjust to new remote work models, having adjusted their priorities and goals in response to how their companies have been affected. As we settle into our new rhythms and strategies, it’s natural for leadership to wonder whether performance reviews still have a place. Is it fair to be evaluating our people for their work during a period of time when “performing” had to take a back seat to pragmatism and forced change? In a word, yes.
The subject of performance reviews can be polarizing burning the best of times. It’s important to remember that when done properly and for the right reasons, they give the individuals withing our company’s the kind of feedback and recognition they crave. “Giving feedback on a quarterly basis and focusing on the quarter not only provides an element of certainty, but it also provides shorter feedback loops in order to see what’s working and what’s not,” says former 7Geese GM of Professional Services Robert St. Jacques.
How the switch to remote work has affected productivity and performance management
For companies who are experiencing remote work for the first time, it can be unsettling to have less transparency into what people are doing. We’ve seen this occurring with many of our clients.
“Leaders report feeling in-the-dark about how much progress has been made on projects progress and worry whether people are still accountable for results,” says Wendy Pat Fong, Chief of Staff at 7Geese. “We’ve fielded a lot of questions from clients about how best to support remote working. The answer to worrying about a lack of accountability is not micromanagement. The solution is more transparency and more precise communication.”
Your goals and targets have likely seen some adjustments or deferrals. It may not be prudent to measure people with the same criteria and objectives as before these changes took place, but is prudent to keep the usual lines of communication and feedback open.
Why reviews are as important as ever
In times of uncertainty, we need to communicate more, not less, says Robert. “Tell people the truth and provide them with as much information as possible. People don’t like uncertainty. Uncertainty creates a vacuum. So don’t create vacuums of a lack of information. Provide people with information, even over-communicate.”
“Let’s remember that the goal of a performance review is to impact performance by influencing behaviour,” says Ashleigh. “Just because 2020 threw some really big curveballs into our plans, doesn’t mean that there aren’t valuable lessons and opportunities worth reflection upon.”
This can take many forms with different individuals in the company. Even in a time of crisis, this can help provide people with the true north they still crave. Some will be looking to grow and want to know that the company still recognizes their efforts and career growth plans. “For your high performers, they want the feedback,” says Robert. “Being in the top one percentile is not good enough, they want to be in the top half of one percentile.” Others will need to feel the company’s support as they align their own performance with the company’s goals.
Your company’s goals may have changed, but your desire to learn and grow remains. Your review process or criteria may need some changes, but offering your people that feedback is as vital as ever.
Should you be having compensation conversations with your team?
Whether you continue with compensation discussions depends a lot on the kind of position your business is in.
“Should we be running regular reviews right now?” asks Ashleigh. “Maybe, maybe not. If your regular review includes compensation-forming components but the business is not in a position to action those components, then no. We would want to acknowledge that in the review, change up the language and share that new purpose but still provide feedback and opportunities for our team members to continue growing.”
If your business is in a position to proceed with compensation changes, you can proceed as planned. It’s more important than ever to remember to focus on rewarding behaviors, not strictly “performance” or outcomes alone. As ever, you need to focus on the processes that drive the outcomes you want to achieve.
How to conduct remote performance reviews
Here are a few helpful tips for conducting remorse performance reviews, while giving special consideration to the current circumstances.
1. State the purpose of the review
This is important, especially if there have been changes to the process, like in the compensation example above.
2. Reflect on lessons learned and how to apply them
“Orient your team towards the future,” says Ashleigh. “Use what we’ve just been through to provide opportunities for new challenges moving forward. Acknowledge that this has been a challenging time that we’ve just performed through.”
3. Turn your cameras on
So much of our communication is non-verbal, so turn your cameras on, enabling both parties to see each other from the waist up. “When you’re having these conversations, remember we lose a lot if we can’t see each other,” says Robert. “If you only see a face, you lose some of the body language. I know it sounds a small and pedantic thing, however, when you’re doing the video, I would suggest both you and your employee are away from the camera. That way you’re able to see more of the person’s reaction, expressions, and general body language, to better understand the whole communication piece.”
For many of our clients, continuing with a transparent performance review process, even in these challenging times, has helped them continue to perform and align around their goals. “It’s been instrumental in shaping the behaviors in our Singapore organization this year to one of more ownership, self-direction, peer recognition, and openness,” says Vicky Chai, Chief People Officer at SingLife. “The transparency of performance reviews, surveys, and targets has nurtured more trust and hence better engagement with our employees. 7Geese is a massive tool for change for us!”
More tips and info about conducting effective performance reviews
In any circumstance, it’s best to follow some best practices in order for your performance reviews to be effective. Here’s a quick checklist of what a strong performance expectation should include:
- Alignment with core values and company goals
- Demonstrate culturally aligned behaviours that drive optimal organizational outcomes
- Demonstrate optimal outcomes
- Metrics that show expectations have been met
- Mutual agreement between employee, manager and company
Ensure that employee goals are well defined, especially in the context of your company or team’s performance review process. At 7Geese, we set OKRs or Objectives and Key Results, a goal-setting methodology popularized by Google’s Rick Klau.
Performance management should be an ongoing process that allows for discussion, improvement, and adjustments based on employee performance. To make the review process easier, consider conducting check-ins and tracking that you can reference often. Your performance management process should include some element of ongoing performance tracking.