How to Handle Performance Reviews During the Pandemic

During annual performance reviews, managers typically consider what an employee has accomplished since their last yearly review, especially in terms of meeting goals and making improvements in targeted areas. This year, however disruptions and workplace changes caused by the Covid-19 pandemic make conducting effective and meaningful appraisals much more difficult.

Yet providing effective and honest feedback is still critical – especially when you consider the effects that poor performance reviews have on your employees. For instance, research has shown that an unfair review can result in unrest and dissatisfaction amongst employees, with about 85% of employees stating that they would quit their jobs if they believed that there performance review had been handled poorly.

Don’t Put a Pause on Performance Reviews

Even though the process of evaluating performance needs to change this year, it is important that they are still completed. Skipping them may send the wrong message. Employees may think that the company and their managers don’t really view performance measures and employee feedback as important.

What Does Effective Performance Look Like Now?

Holding employees to the same goals that were put in place during previous performance reviews is not realistic or likely to be successful. The existence of the pandemic has impacted both your business and employees, your performance reviews will need to reflect this.

Review Job Descriptions

Reviewing employee job descriptions is ordinarily the first step for performance reviews. Although the perspective needs to change its still a great starting point. Looking through the filter of the pandemic its important to decide what is reasonable to expect employees to do. Also consider to what extent the pandemic has impacted business operations and individual employee circumstances. Some things to consider are:

  • Change in workload due to time needed to interpret new laws related to the pandemic
  • Extended metrics related to call times or customer contact as customers seek to discuss pandemic related concerns.
  • Criteria for sales people in areas that have seen a drastic decline in demand
  • The impact that working from home or family commitments have had on the individual

Give Credit for Flexibility and Adaptability

Seek to recognise and identify key behaviors relevant to how employees have handled the pandemic. For example:

  • Team members who exhibited innovation and adaptability.
  • People who effectively coped with change and created new ways of working.
  • Managers should be recognised for their willingness to do what is necessary to keep operations going. Did they step outside their comfort zones to lead virtual teams?
  • Technology and HR professionals who quickly got systems in place.
  • Those who helped empower people to work, meet, onboard and communicate in a virtual environment should be recognised for their innovation and quick response time.

Consider Appropriate Change

Whilst you shouldn’t pause performance reviews this doesn’t mean that your approach can’t change. Some options to consider include :

  • Choosing a theme for this year’s reviews and structure the year-end/beginning evaluations around that theme. For example, if you choose team behaviors (which is certainly relevant in 2020), opt for a 360-degree evaluation rather than a traditional supervisor/subordinate approach.
  • Seek feedback from managers and employees regarding what they perceive as the most important measures of success in the current environment. Use that information to develop the equivalent of a one-time use evaluation form, specific to 2020/2021. Gather this information via an anonymous survey and/or web form that team members can use to share their thoughts.
  • Encouraging each division or department leader to work with their team to come up with evaluation criteria specific to 2020/2021 that could be used just for that department or in combination with other departments that faced similar pandemic-related challenges.
  • If you’ve been considering adding one-on-ones to your traditional performance review process, this may be a good time to pilot this approach

Be Transparent About Changes

Company leaders should let employees know what changes are being made to performance evaluations and why. Be open but don’t make promises you can’t keep. 2021 is still faced with uncertainty.

If pay increases are typically awarded at performance appraisal time but the business’s financial situation doesn’t allow for that this year, tell managers and employees in advance so that the news is separated from the performance appraisal process.

Use Appropriate Tools for your Performance Reviews

Consider which tools can be used to conduct your performance reviews. Rather than requiring employees to meet in person, use a video conferencing application for individual conversations. This will, of course, be necessary for those who are working remotely. It’s also a good idea with those who are in the office.

  • This will help demonstrate to employees that management is committed to maximising their safety.
  • It will also show that management are altering their ways of working due to the pandemic, just as they are asking employees to do.

For workers who don’t have their own computer workstations, set up a conference room with a computer that can be used for these meetings and schedule a time for each of them. If they don’t have access to email or lack computer skills, assign a manager or administrative employee to set up their meeting a few minutes ahead of time so that they won’t have to deal with any setup.

Further Reading

How to be an Outstanding Leader

Managing Remote Teams

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