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How to Approach Performance Reviews in a World Altered by COVID

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Regular performance reviews are crucial in an organization. They help assess employees’ performance and identify their strengths and areas for improvement. This process helps create a culture of feedback and continuous improvement within an organization. It helps employees set personal development goals and ultimately helps sustain the company’s progress.

Employees support performance reviews — as long as the process is seen as fair. According to one study, 92% of U.S. workers want feedback on their job performance more frequently than once a year, and 85% would consider quitting if their performance review was unfair.

The employee performance evaluation process is even more crucial as workplaces continue to adjust to changes brought about by the pandemic. Following a worldwide event that has damaged many people’s emotional and mental health, it is helpful for both the employer and the employees to connect, understand each other’s needs, and support each other. This way, employees can get the guidance and assistance they need, such as training or development programs. Employers, meanwhile, by helping their workforce to meet personal career goals and perform well, will see better outcomes for their organizations.

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed many aspects of work — including the performance review process. Employees may now work in a remote or hybrid setup, which can make it difficult to arrange and ensure an effective feedback session. Many businesses are now focused on cost-cutting measures, which may mean that the importance of performance reviews may be overlooked. Here’s a detailed overview of the benefits of performance reviews for organizations and their employees, as well as some pointers for company leaders in approaching performance reviews in a world altered by COVID-19.

1. Communicate with your employees ahead of time about the performance review process.

There are a few key reasons why it’s essential to communicate with your employees ahead of planned performance reviews. First, it sets employee expectations and avoids unwelcome surprises.

No one likes to be caught off guard and have to deal with an evaluation on the spot. Giving a heads-up on what to expect will help your team members prepare mentally and emotionally — and be more confident in the overall review process. It allows them to put their thoughts together and provide thorough details on their performance for the period. Advance notice is especially important for remote and hybrid employees, who may still feel disconnected from the process.

Along with providing advanced notification of the review schedule, it is also helpful to let employees know how you will conduct the employee performance review (e.g., via video conference, phone call, etc.) and the scope of the review.

Giving employees a heads-up can also help them share detailed thoughts on the processes that are working well and what could be improved within the team and the organization.

Finally, communicating with employees ahead of time shows that you value their input and want to work together to make performance reviews positive and productive. By communicating with your employees ahead of time, you can help ensure that the performance review process is fair, efficient, and positive for everyone involved.

2. Be honest and transparent in your feedback.

Honesty and transparency in your feedback during an employee performance review are essential. First, they help ensure that performance reviews are accurate and objective. If you’re withholding information or sugarcoating your feedback, the review will not faithfully reflect your employees’ performance. That means the review process will fail to help employees address their areas for improvement. If they’re not aware of areas where they need to improve, they can’t take steps to correct them.

Honesty and transparency also help foster trust between you and the employee. If employees feel that you’re being truthful with them, they’re more likely to trust you and be open to your feedback. In an environment where new working patterns have been introduced, ensuring trust is present between leaders and employees has become even more crucial. It can help employees to remain open with their concerns despite remote and hybrid work setups.

3. Avoid making any major changes to the process without first consulting with employees.

Company performance reviews are an important part of the employee-employer relationship. That’s why any changes in the performance review process should be made with input from both parties. Making significant changes without the knowledge of both parties can create confusion and frustration and may even lead to a decline in productivity.

Remember, your employees also have to prepare for performance reviews and then take necessary actions based on the results of the performance review process. So, it’s only fair that they have a say in how the process works. Getting their input also means you can make sure the process meets everyone’s needs. Your employees will appreciate the opportunity to provide their input, and you’ll be able to make the best decisions for the business.

4. Use performance reviews to identify improvement areas for the employee and the company.

Using performance reviews to measure improvement areas for employees can ensure that they are held accountable for their development. As a leader, you can also help remind employees how they have progressed (or regressed) since the last review period and guide them to remain on track with their goals. Performance reviews can also help identify talented employees who can contribute more to your organization.

In addition to the employee focus, this regular open communication between leaders and employees can help you gain better insight into what can be improved among teams and the organization. Employee input and feedback acquired during performance reviews can be used to create a workflow strategy as employees and the organization continues to adapt to changes brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

5. Be flexible in your approach to performance reviews.

While it’s important to be honest about areas for improvement, you must also understand that the pandemic has been a difficult time for everyone. It is vital to consider this when conducting performance reviews. Be understanding and open to hearing about any challenges your employees have faced throughout their adjustment to this new environment. Employees’ circumstances can also affect their performance, so giving flexibility to employees while they adapt to certain changes is important. Remember, every employee is different and will have different goals and areas they want to improve.

Being flexible in your approach to performance reviews means tailoring the process to each employee and the company’s needs at any time. This custom approach allows both the company and the employees to meet the objectives of this routine check-in.

Flexibility also applies to considering the effect on employees of the organization’s changing needs. If necessary changes have to be made — whether to workflow processes or quotas, etc. — it is helpful to take a gradual approach to bring employees along, ensuring they get the support they need to adapt.

6. Add coaching during the performance review process.

Adding coaching during performance reviews is a valuable way to help your team members grow and improve. By providing feedback and guidance, you can help them become more successful in their roles.

There are a few key reasons why coaching is important during performance reviews. First, it helps employees understand not only the what but also the how of their areas for improvement. If you simply tell an employee that they need to improve to reach a goal, it may leave confusion about how to make those improvements. Coaching and feedback during the review process can help provide clarity on how to reach targets.

Coaching provides employees with a safe space to discuss the results of their performance evaluations, to identify areas of improvement, and to develop strategies to move forward. The coaching process provides a unique opportunity for employees to have a deeper connection with you, as a leader, while you help them further develop their skills.

Coaching also shows your employees that you’re invested in their development. Taking the time to provide coaching and feedback in your company performance reviews show that you’re a leader who’s not just giving instructions but also someone who’s invested in your team members’ development. This can help build trust and morale within the team.

Finally, coaching can help employees to reach their potential by addressing any problematic issues at their onset. If you see that an employee is struggling in a particular aspect or skill, coaching can help prevent the problem from getting worse. 

Using Performance Reviews for Employee Wellness

Performance reviews are an important part of workplace culture and can help teams to stay motivated, accountable, and productive. They provide a structured way for employers to evaluate their employees’ performance and identify areas where they can grow. By taking the time to assess employee performance regularly, employers can make sure everyone is receiving the support they need.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a tremendous impact on workplace performance reviews. Remote work has made it more difficult for managers to observe employee performance and conduct traditional in-person meetings, leading many to leverage technology such as digital surveys and automated feedback tools.

Despite changes in today’s working environment, performance reviews remain important. As workplaces continue to adjust to changes brought about by the pandemic, coaching is a critical tool in the performance review process. Integrating coaching into the performance review process helps organizations maintain motivation, engagement, and commitment among employees, leading to better results in the future.

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Co-Active Training Institute (CTI)

Since 1992, CTI has been working with coaches and leaders around the world, helping them navigate toward stronger relationships, integral solutions, and creating meaningful impact in the world. The work we do goes beyond training. Through ground-breaking teaching methods and a global network of world-class faculty and partners, the Co-Active difference delivers contextually relevant and experiential learning that ignites transformation and a life-long journey developing the deepest expression of leadership in each human being.

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