Performance reviews, employee appraisals or staff evaluations – whatever your company calls them, meeting regularly to review the performance of your team is essential to keeping them engaged, motivated and productive.
However, the Covid-19 pandemic and the resulting shift to remote or hybrid working for many businesses presents unique challenges when it comes to conducting performance reviews. According to the Office for Nation Statistics, in February 2022, 42% of employees said they planned to spend most of their working hours at home.
With so much reliance on technology for communication, it is arguably more important than ever to communicate effectively with your employees to manage performance expectations.
In this guide, we’ll give you some tips for conducting virtual performance reviews with your workforce.
Show your face
Ideally, reviews should be conducted via video call, rather than a phone conversation. This can give managers an opportunity to maintain eye contact and read facial expressions during the appraisal process, providing insight into the employee’s reactions and engagement. So, turn that camera on if you can.
Allow some time for small talk
While flexible working has positive effects on wellbeing, according to Microsoft’s New Future of Work Report, working remotely can leave many people feeling socially isolated, guilty and feeling like they need to overcompensate at work.
It’s possible your employee may be anxious going into their review, unsure of how their performance is perceived without a visible presence in the office. Set aside some time at the start of the meeting for non-work-related chit-chat. It’ll put them at ease and set a precedence for comfortable, open, and honest conversation.
Ask for 360-degree feedback from colleagues
If you’re often physically separated from your employees, judging their performance and productivity can be challenging. To get the whole picture, ask for feedback from your employee’s peers – ideally those they work closely with on regular basis. So-called ‘360-degree feedback’, this can offer line managers a wide-ranging perspective and help to make performance evaluation more objective.
Be sensitive and empathetic
Workers have gone through tough times, both at home and at work, over the last few years. A global pandemic, an on-going war in Europe and now a cost-of-living crisis has left many people anxious, affecting their productivity at work.
While it’s always important to make sure your employees are doing their jobs, you may wish to take these factors into consideration if your employee is struggling in their role. Be understanding and open to hearing about any challenges your employee may have faced since their last appraisal.
People communicate without saying a word. During an in-person conversation, the brain focuses partly on the words being spoken, but also on dozens of non-verbal cues, such as body language, hand gestures and eye contact. These cues help paint a holistic picture of what is being conveyed.
Without these cues, it can be difficult to process information – there’s a literal barrier between you and your employee and it’s harder for them to interpret your words and their intent.
When communicating via video call, it’s important to be overly communicative, explain your points thoroughly and ask your employee if they’ve fully understood what you’ve said. In return, listen carefully to what your employee communicates to you and relay what they’ve said back to them to verify your understanding.
Build in breaks
The last few years has seen many new terms enter our vocabularies – ‘furlough, self-isolate and Test and Trace’ to name a few – but have you heard of ‘Zoom fatigue’? Zoom fatigue is a unique kind of exhaustion that comes from communicating almost entirely by video call.
Gianpiero Petriglieri, an associate professor at the graduate business school Insead, explains:
“Being on a video call requires more focus than a face-to-face chat. Video chats mean we need to work harder to process non-verbal cues like facial expressions, the tone and pitch of the voice, and body language; paying more attention to these consumes a lot of energy.”
If the performance review is going to last for more than one hour, consider allowing time for a quick break midway, so you can both have some respite from the screen.
Manage performance year-round
Performance management is an ongoing process. It doesn’t start and end with yearly performance reviews. As remote and hybrid working becomes commonplace for many businesses, checking in regularly is really important. Conducting regular 1-on-1 catch up meetings with your team members can be a great way to increase motivation, engagement, and productivity.
If you’re looking for other ways to keep your staff engaged, you may want to look at the employee benefits you offer.
Providing a good benefits package that motivates employees whilst being cost effective to the business can be good way of promoting your company culture and values, which is arguably even more crucial to convey when employees work remotely.
Death in service insurance could offer several benefits to both employers and employees. Also known as ‘group life insurance’, death in service insurance is designed to pay out a lump sum to an employee’s loved ones should the worst happen to them.
A death in service insurance policy covers employees at no cost to them and may offer them peace of mind by ensuring their loved ones will receive financial help in the event of their passing. It is a low-cost way of providing a highly desirable benefit for your employees, which shows you care about your staff and their loved ones.
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