Two colleagues conduct a performance review on video chat.
Performance reviews should ideally happen in person, but if you can't meet with your employees, it's important to at least conduct the review on video chat. — Getty Images/nd3000

There are many processes that businesses must adapt to to work in an ongoing remote-work situation. One of those processes is employee reviews. A performance review is a key tool for boosting employee engagement and retention. Here’s how to make sure that your team members are getting the feedback they need.

[Read more: Conducting Employee Reviews? Here's How to Do It Right]

Approach reviews with a different mindset

If your primary reason for performing a review remotely is the pandemic, recognize that your reason for doing the review might need to shift your approach. Harvard Business Review explained, “as the Covid-19 crisis trudges on, you’re not necessarily looking to weed out poor performers or decide who gets a raise. Rather, [a performance review is] to strengthen your organization’s culture and reinforce its values.”

In the best of circumstances, a performance review is stressful for everyone involved. The pandemic can make this process feel even more uncertain. Your goal with any team member’s performance evaluation should be to focus specifically on growth toward a common organizational goal, as well as professional and career growth of the individual.

Prioritize performance and flexibility

Research has shown that remote workers often miss out on the opportunity to discuss their career goals and personal growth with their managers. The pandemic has forced many business owners to become myopic in the way they assess performance. But that singular focus can be a disservice to your employees. “Many businesses are currently panicking and forgetting that the real currency of their success is their people, but employees need strong leadership now more than ever,” wrote Fast Company.

Likewise, the uncertainty of the pandemic has also made it difficult to assess performance relative to your company goals. It would be unfair to judge key performance metrics set before COVID-19, as many aspects of the business have been out of your team’s control.

Focus your performance review instead on each individual’s growth and learning. How has this person adapted to the circumstances? Have they shown empathy, resilience and flexibility? Shift from transactional KPIs – sales closed, projects completed, hours worked – to behavioral traits that can be rewarded.

[Read more: Types of Employee Reviews and Downloadable Templates]

Deliver your review using a video tool or, if your employee feels comfortable, in a one-on-one meeting.

Use a video tool or in-person meeting

Research has shown that about 55% of our communication comes from body language. For managers looking to understand how their employees are receiving feedback, or coping with remote work in general, video conferencing or in-person meetings are absolutely necessary.

Deliver your performance review using a video tool or, if your employee feels comfortable, in a one-on-one meeting. If you do choose to use a video tool, have a back-up plan in case the connection is bad.

“It’s important to maintain the normality of these one-on-one slots during a crisis like this and the best thing you can do to maintain normality is to ensure there are no interruptions caused by tech issues,” Mark Webster, co-founder of Authority Hacker, told Zenefits. “Do not let either side use this as an excuse to not move forward with a performance review.”

Set up a consistent feedback system for the future

Remote workers often feel isolated and unsure of where they stand performance-wise. Make it a priority to set up regular check-ins with your team to provide real-time feedback. “A six-month review might be effective for employees who see you every day and have opportunities for in-the-moment, organic communication with their managers, but with remote employees, you’ll likely need to be more proactive,” wrote Forbes.

Some organizations use real-time, regular feedback to completely replace annual performance reviews. This system also gives you the flexibility to set performance objectives that can be collaboratively adjusted as the situation evolves.

“In this environment, you may need more frequent, smaller evaluations such as semi-annual or quarterly check-ins. This will give you, the manager, an opportunity to provide real feedback and gives employees the chance to make adjustments and calibrations,” one expert told HBR.

Don’t forget to leave time for an employee to give you feedback during a review. These conversations should help both parties assess what is working and how the employee could be better supported. Remote work is an adjustment for everyone, so be open to tips on how you can be a better boss and manager.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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Published September 22, 2020