Best Practices for Performance Reviews in the Age of COVID-19 Part I

By RealHR Solutions

Laying the Groundwork

Performance reviews provide managers and employees with an opportunity to have a formal and structured conversation about performance and an employee’s continued development. They also serve to promote communication, and increase engagement and employee retention. With the impact of a global pandemic, an economic crisis, and the complexities of a remote work environment, performance reviews are more important than ever.  It is also a way to gauge how employees are coping with balancing work with other personal responsibilities (i.e., caring for loved ones, virtual learning for children, etc.) and to understand  and address any obstacles impacting performance..

The performance review process, challenging under normal circumstances, should be even more purposeful and flexible now. Here are some best practices we recommend:

1. Connect via Live Video

In today’s remote work environment face-to-face contact is important. Video conferencing platforms allow for a personal interaction and more focused, direct communication between manager and employee. In addition to the message that is being shared, the tone of one’s voice, body language– including how one sits, facial expressions and gestures– reveals a lot about a person’s openness and receptivity to the communication and the overall success of the performance discussion.

As Amy Cuddy, social psychologist, explained in her TED Talk on nonverbal communication, body language indicates subtle cues about your engagement in a conversation and reveals clues for you to interpret.

Observing and reading cues allows both managers and employees to adjust their approach and shift the conversation where needed. Remember also that the video conference should be scheduled for a time when both parties will not be distracted.

2. Two-Way Conversation

As with any conversation, performance reviews should be a two-way discussion. When conducting a performance review remotely, a more intentional approach to communication is important. Often it is difficult to remember this in the face of potential nerves or discomfort in having a performance discussion.

Consider the times in which we are living and how this is impacting the employee. Ask questions about their well-being without being too intrusive. Explore how these challenging times are affecting their ability to do their work and meet their goals.

Being an active listener and not dominating the conversation while encouraging  employee thoughts and opinions is critical to a productive meeting. Provide open and honest feedback and give employees the chance to share their greatest wins and challenges.

Additionally, ask  employees for feedback about your managerial style and how you can better support them. As a manager you are likely to gain new insights and understanding of an employee’s development needs and how you can play a greater role in their development.

3. Foster Transparency and Build Trust

The relationship between a manager and employee should be based on mutual respect and trust. Start building trust with your employees by being transparent about your own challenges working remotely and how remote work has potentially shifted company objectives. This will create a safe space for sharing information and lay the groundwork for employees to share the impact with you of their remote work situation. According to a study conducted by Gallup, “when employees don’t trust organizational leadership, their chances of being engaged are one in 12. But when that trust is established, the chances of engagement skyrocket to better than one in two. That’s more than a six-fold increase.”

Open, direct communication is important to building and sustaining a strong relationship between managers and employees. When you focus on building a foundation of trust and support, your employees will feel confident in their work, and you will get to sit back and watch them thrive.

4. Show Appreciation

It is important to show your employees that they are appreciated. It might seem like a basic concept but it is one that is often forgotten, especially during stressful times. As people battle fears and juggle their home and work life, providing them with additional reassurance that you are aware of them managing as best as possible. Go a step further and encourage your employees to use unused vacation days if they’re feeling overwhelmed or on the verge of a burn out. This acknowledgement from you will let your employees know that they are valued.

Studies have shown that when people receive gratitude, they improve  their ability to achieve career goals, they are more productive, they demonstrate resilience, they are more decisive in making decisions and they have a higher self esteem. After all, everyone is human. We thrive on connections to other people, our leaders and our businesses.