As a manager, you’ve handled dozens or even hundreds of performance evaluations in your career. You have a tried-and-true system that, with a few tweaks over time, works. The problem is that things aren’t what they used to be.
Sooner or later, you’re going to have to give critical performance feedback to employees who you haven’t seen in over a year and a half, or, in the case of people you hired during the pandemic, ever. How will you ensure that remote employees feel valued and walk away from the meeting feeling inspired?
Performance reviews can be challenging even in the best of times. Here are nine performance evaluation considerations for remote workers:
Perhaps more than any other time, it’s important to connect with employees, not only to give feedback on performance, but to realign priorities and ensure that work is goal-oriented and isn’t performed in a vacuum. Before scheduling evaluations, conduct a survey to find out how individuals and teams are coping with remote work. Use the feedback you gather to determine how you conduct performance reviews.
If you’ve shifted to a flex-time model to accommodate for needs such as childcare, traditional performance criteria, like tardiness and even attendance, flies out the window. Better areas to focus on are relationship-building, collaboration, and problem-solving. These skills are key to remote worker success.
If you were running Hogwarts, everyone would get 50 points just for making the transition from in-office to remote work. Add 100 more for doing it well. If employees took initiative to improve their knowledge and skills while they took on the challenge of working remotely, those achievements should be given more weight than traditional review criteria.
Employees may be juggling childcare or elderly care obligations, managing personal health challenges, or dealing with mental health issues. Head into evaluations with empathy and compassion top of mind. Give grace to people who are struggling and explore ways you can support them. Learn from these interactions to set new employees up for success.
Remote employees are already struggling to balance their workload with obligations at home. You don’t want to risk potentially losing a valuable employee, so approach any necessary coaching or criticism with care. Have a plan for motivating remote team members who have fallen behind. Come up with strategies to get them reengaged, reenergized, and back in the game.
Acknowledging outstanding performers among their peers boosts morale and increases retention. Unfortunately, that “Super Awesome Employee” SpongeBob statue adorned with decorations as it was passed from employee to employee won’t have the same impact sitting on a bookshelf in someone’s home. There are several ways to show appreciation for your remote team, but make a plan for demonstrating gratitude on an individual level. Ways you can show appreciation include gift cards, team emails, and mentions on corporate websites. Whatever you decide, make sure you show thanks for valuable remote employees.
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What does your employee need to do (or do better) to grow their career and move up in your company? Create a list of goals, including professional development objectives, to help your remote employee reach the next level. They should contribute to the conversation, so ask them to create their own list as part of their self-evaluation.
All work should be aligned with your company’s mission, values, and goals. If you have taken on new goals, for example, improving diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives at your company, now is a good time to review the changes and open up space for discussion. Let remote employees know what is expected of them, especially if they will be evaluated for their effort in achieving those goals.
Give employees who performed well new responsibilities or consider promotions to keep them engaged. Propose meeting with them more frequently so you’ll have an opportunity to give them praise regularly. For employees who are underperforming, increase engagement so you can correct bad behavior early or create a performance improvement plan to get them back on track. Assess whether working remotely is the cause of the issue, and if so, think of ways you can help them perform as well as they did when they were still in the office.
No matter how you structure performance reviews for remote employees, make sure not to skip or delay them for long periods of time. If you’re not regularly showing praise to exceptional employees or correcting the mistakes of struggling employees, you’re putting your company at risk for turnover. Approaching evaluations with a sense of compassion and understanding on the individual level will boost morale and give you the power to successfully lead a highly productive team regardless of the location where the work is performed.