2020: the year of remote work.

This is the year that most of us were sent home. It was an unplanned experiment, but so far it seems to have gone pretty well. People are happy working from home—so we’re going to have to be happy managing remotely.

Like it or lump it, managing remotely means conducting remote performance reviews. What used to be a private meeting, may over coffee and a snack, is now happening over a video call. While the new video call medium might not be problematic for 1:1s or team catchups, performance reviews are often sensitive conversations—which video calls don’t lend themselves to.

To help you run successful remote performance reviews, we put together a remote performance review checklist covering everything you and your team need to know about this new world.

Preparing for remote performance review

1. Identify the data that needs to be collected. Data is still a key driver of performance management, even with a more modern style of performance review. Consider productivity, volunteerism for new tasks, readiness to help others, social engagement with peers, and other KPIs.

2. Test tools for managing the performance review process. Use tools to assist in gathering and analyzing data in a way that streamlines the review process for employees, managers, and HR. Test tools to discover which one will best suit your organization.

3. Train managers in performance review and empathy. Train new managers and refresh the knowledge of veteran managers with new techniques to improve performance management and the use of empathy to increase team motivation and achievements.

4. Create a system that supports multi-directional feedback. Not only should feedback flow in all directions, from managers to employees, from employees to leadership, and between colleagues, but it also needs to include corrective feedback that is “sandwiched” between two layers of praise. This makes people more receptive to criticism and alleviates the discomfort of

5. Don’t let employees or managers opt-out. Create a culture where participating in an on-going performance review process is expected from everyone in the company. 100% participation will ensure the quality of data and create a sense of involvement in the future of the company.

A pre-meeting checklist for managers and employees

  • Send out a meeting invitation with an appropriate subject title
  • Make sure that your computer equipment video camera and phone connection are working
  • Prepare a quiet place for the meeting and arrange activities for children if needed
  • Make sure you look presentable, awake and focused
  • Re-read assessments or relevant materials to refresh your memory
  • Make notes for any issues you want to raise in the meeting
  • Don’t eat during the meeting
  • Show empathy and recognize that this process also isn’t easy for the other person
  • Remember to be present, focusing only on the meeting and your employee

Holding a successful remote performance review

1. Document performance throughout the year. Since remote communication is less dynamic and flexible than in-office coffee break chat, put communication, and ongoing performance reviews in writing. Look to HR management systems with informal chat or shoutout capabilities to recognize team members, keep them motivated throughout the year, and provide talking points for the formal review.

2. Come prepared with a deck or visual resource. Prepare a visual resource or slide deck for formal performance reviews, including some of your written communications and shoutouts. Sharing this document through video conferencing tools will let both managers and employees keep the conversation focused and ensure that you are both (literally) on the same page. In addition, a visual resource can help ensure that important events or achievements won’t be overlooked or forgotten, and provide a baseline for evaluating future performance.

3. Ask employees to evaluate their own performance. A self-assessment is arguably one of the most important parts of a productive review. It provides insight into how employees perceive their value to the company and how they want to develop. Self-assessments are also an opportunity for managers to learn how they can motivate and incentivize an employee. A self-assessment should include at least six or seven rating-scale questions, as well as three or four open-ended questions. When using HR software, built-in intelligence can analyze employee responses to assess flight risk and compare employee satisfaction among teams, across the company, or with industry baselines

4. Deliver praise and recognize high performance. Managers and employees often think that performance reviews are just for finding mistakes, and employees often underestimate their achievements. To be an example of empathetic leadership, take care to show that you understand their feelings, and repeat fragments of what they say to show that you’ve been listening. Be sure to call out specific achievements, temper self-criticism where warranted, and ask employees to share their own plans for growth in the next year or coming years.

5. Be empathetic and provide advice for improvement when delivering negative feedback. Remember that performance reviews can be stressful or even scary for employees—and even more so when done remotely. Delivering or receiving criticism isn’t easy, so take care to balance it with actionable advice for future improvement. Empathetic delivery will ensure that the performance review is an opportunity for growth that will keep employees motivated.

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From Shayna Hodkin

Shayna lives in south Tel Aviv with two dogs and a lot of plants. She writes poems and reads tarot.