Performance appraisal for remote employees, especially during this unprecedented chaos and complexity, is a burden that companies are not prepared for. Performance reviews are being delayed and salary hikes are decelerated. We also see a sharp cut in higher management compensation. Not only this, in an effort to control the situation, there has been a significant rise in pay-cut and layoffs with marketing activities functioning at a bare minimum. Due to this crippling uncertainty, employees’ motivation, confidence, and will to work have gone for a toss.
The coronavirus has hit all the industries alike. The juxtaposition of recession and performance appraisals is baffling, to say the least. While all the threads of daily lives – personal life, job security, physical and mental well-being – are being pulled apart, companies face a burden to make performance appraisals for remote employees productive as well as considerate. For a lot of organizations that may mean bringing up better-suited strategies and restructuring the existing evaluation system.
While delaying the performance appraisal for remote employees may seem like the most viable option right now, it will only result in causing more damage. Appraisals, honest performance reviews, and transparent discussions can act as an anchor in these challenging times for both employees and employers.
Challenges of the performance appraisal for remote employees
- Tech giants enjoy the privilege of sophisticated performance management systems such as Objective and Key Results (OKRs). But startups and SMEs do not have access to a system tailored for them. This is a considerable hindrance in the new normal where remote working has become the norm.
- Organizations with remote employees often face the challenge of maintaining transparent horizontal as well as vertical communication. If this is not a priority, problems are bound to arise. If the management isn’t aware of the pace and progress of the projects, accurate appraisals can be impossible.
- It is common for remote employees to lose morale and become disengaged. Managers must, therefore, provide them with honest and regular feedback along with a sense of direction.
- The targets of remote employees are often unclear which can result in hampered performance and thereby affect the appraisal. Another challenge is that the remote employees understand the effect of their performance on the bigger picture.
- Studies have proven that remote employees want to be recognised for their efforts at least once a month. Managers need to create sufficient space for such rewards and recognition in some form.
5 tips to ace performance appraisal for remote employees
Start with diving deep into your purpose of conducting the reviews. In these dreading times, you’re essentially looking to strengthen the culture and values of your organisation rather than following the standard procedure of eliminating the poor performers and rewarding the high ones.
Also as performance is measured against a goal, you need to go forward keeping in mind that the pre-and post-pandemic goals are completely different. Acknowledge that this isn’t easy for anyone. While analyzing the deliverables, take into account that your employees are fighting their battles – just like you. For this reason, you might also want to skip the ratings, for now, to make the system flexible for your employees as not everyone can give their 100% currently.
Make sure that you gather enough data before beginning performance appraisals for remote employees. Else, you’ll be at the risk of letting your old perceptions drive the judgement.
Performance Appraisals for remote employees must not be an annual affair:
Make performance appraisal for remote appraisal an on-going process. Don’t be fooled by how basic this step looks – it’s common to miss out on this. You need to actively combine annual performance review with ongoing real-time one-on-one feedback and engagement surveys. There’s no better way to show that you deeply care about your employees’ careers.
The foolproof method to never fail your remote employees is to communicate with them and discuss their personal and career goals.
Real-time feedback will change the game:
Transparent and free-flowing communication is one of the major pillars in assessing the performance of remote employees. Introduce a strong feedback culture or reinforce the existing one – it can be a defining factor in your remote working reality. A study by CEB states that 90% of HR managers doubt the credibility and accuracy of the information in the annual performance review reports. Real-time feedback can not only weed out this problem but can also amplify the productivity of the organisation. Employees can constantly tweak their actions as per the feedback they receive which will significantly improve their performance then and there. This will also keep them alert and motivated throughout rather than becoming anxious around annual reviews.
One-on-ones is the way to go:
One of the major drawbacks of remote working is minimized interactions and no in-person contact. This can lead to a high chance of misunderstanding between you and your employees. There are video conferences to bring the team together but they lack the personalization one would experience in an office.
Body language is a strong cue that plays a major role in understanding employees’ behaviour. Remote working restricts access to such non-verbal interactions. Here’s where one-on-ones come to play. Companies need one-on-ones – now more than ever before. They not only help you minutely understand the employees’ progress but also nurture your relationship with them. One-on-ones are more focussed, effective, quick, and productive tools to engage and assess your employees.
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Leverage surveys for performance appraisal of remote employees:
Lack of data can be more dangerous than you think. Managing remote employees is difficult because managers lack the data around the employees’ pace, progress, productivity, results, and morale among other things. Keeping track of all this for remote teams is impossible. So instead of juggling between unrealistic standards, managers need to turn to the evergreen surveys for support. Frequent surveys are excellent ways of understanding where your employees are so that you can measure their performance against the decided goals.
Go beyond results:
Instead of rigidly focussing on results associated with employees’ roles, make sure you also take into account their personality and the soft skills they bring to the organization. Skills such as proactiveness, integrity, emotional intelligence, and ethics are equally important, if not more, as the results, they put forth – especially in these uncertain times.
I’ll leave you with the fact that your employees are not mere resources. They are humans who have a personal life and are fighting a personal battle, just like you. The pandemic hasn’t made life easier for any of us. And that must be the underlying theme of your performance appraisals for remote employees. Treat them with flexibility and empathy. Recognize the efforts of your top performers. Give your poor performers some space and a grace period to make improvements. Rely on data and not on biases. Most importantly, communicate well and more often.
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