10 Jul How To Run Remote Performance Reviews
In the words of founder Kathryn Minshew, “Done right, a performance review is one of the best opportunities to encourage and support high performers and constructively improve your middle and lower-tier workers.” She is right, they are an opportunity to support your people, and it’s time for mid-year performance reviews. This year, there are many more people having to conduct remote performance reviews, and many for the first time in this way.
It’s not a seamless transition to go from in person to remote performance reviews, but we would encourage you to see it as a new way of doing something rather than a less than favourable last resort. There are several factors to consider when it comes to holding these crucial conversations with your distributed team. Let’s explore them, starting before the session begins.
It’s your role as a people leader to start by setting expectations for the review and communicate effectively to everyone how the process will run. There should be no ambiguity here. It’s then time for you to reflect on what a successful mid-year looks like in terms of outcomes. This will inform you of the kinds of questions you want to ask your employees and your people managers.
Asking good questions is one thing, but considering why they are important is another. You have the opportunity to gain valuable insight here, so we’ll explore in the next section how to ensure you ask the right questions to get it. Then comes time. Give a sufficient amount of it to your team members so they can reflect on their progress and how their manager supports them.
Finally, it’s about preparing for this meeting to discuss the overall outcome of the review. Test out your tech in advance of the meeting. Ensure you do the obvious here like silence notifications and not responding to any distractions. Simple efforts like this aid the smoother running of the meeting but also show your people you value them, their time and the important role of the review.
Let’s look at what to ask and why. To put it simply, go with self-reflection questions, the kinds that feature in our product and look at how the person feels they have performed over the last six or 12 months. For example, employee-led ones could include questions such as:
“What specific accomplishments are you most proud of during this period?”
“What three attributes of yours have developed further during this period?”
“What area would you most like to improve on in the coming months?”
“What would you recommend your manager keep doing?”
The clue is in the name with self-reflection questions and why they are essential. There is great value in your people pausing and taking time to consider their role, their contribution to the company and their development. In the busy environment of the day-to-day, there isn’t a lot of space, and it’s harder for people to see their involvement and progression. This allows space for processing.
When it comes to manager-led reviews, the focus is on the performance of those reporting to them. Here are some examples of what you can ask:
“What are this person’s key areas of growth? Please give some specific examples.”
“What has been the highlight of their performance during this period?”
Similarly, this allows space to step back, take stock and see what people need. This guides you as a people leader in what is required of you to support them in achieving their goals.
It’s vital, especially now, to review all your questions and approach in line with the context of this person and their experience. For example, at the moment, we’d advise going beyond the usual questions and add in extra ones about working remotely, which might be new to many. Find out how they are feeling about it. Here are some suggestions:
“How has the transition been for you?”
“What challenges have you experienced?”
“Are there any tools or resources which would be helpful for you?”
“How do you feel about returning to the office?”
This provides you with the insight you need, helping you to identify obstacles, understand your people and how best to assist them. Most importantly, this time and these questions facilitate much-needed perspective.
When it comes to the session, the main element that makes this different is that you cannot read a person’s body language, which we rely on heavily for understanding in person. At this point, hopefully, you have found your groove with most of your people when it comes to communicating online, but this isn’t a regular meeting, this is a review. There are a broader set of emotions and plenty of apprehension being brought to the digital table. Keep in mind, many of your people have had different experiences of this type of conversation over the years, and you don’t know what preconceived notions they might have so be aware of this.
It’s also coming at a time full of professional challenges for all. They might not be feeling as confident as they usually would before such a meeting about their progress. As always, you set the tone. The aim is that it’s a comfortable one. What can you do if you cannot use your body language to help create this environment? Use your words more but mindfully. Be present when communicating with your people, and be sure to have empathy.
This is about providing your people with their review feedback and coming together to discuss the outcome. It should be balanced, so people need to hear both the good with lots of praise as well as constructive feedback. There also shouldn’t be any surprises in your feedback during the session. Aim for active and open dialogue between you both. This includes active listening. These combined are how you get the best out of the discussion. It’s not about ticking the boxes on the list. It’s about sharing thoughts, observations, feelings and looking at clear takeaways and actions for the remainder of the year.
We’d always favour face to face 1:1s when possible but given current circumstances and for those always working with remote teams, all remote performance reviews require the delivery of outcomes which are clear, specific and focused on positives. The conversation should be framed around development needs and future opportunities.
Especially after discussing the above, it’s imperative expectations are managed regarding the outcomes. The same way in advance, everyone knows what the session is about and what to expect, ensure no one is leaving with unrealistic expectations of themselves or the other person. There should be clarity on leaving the conversation about what happens next, what was discussed and where to go from there. Follow up needs to follow this.
Mid or end of year reviews might be about peoples’ work and their performance, but they are a very personal meeting for your team members. It’s crucial to ensure that if they are advancing in their role, it should be celebrated while if a shortcoming is identified, it’s about how they can be supported in overcoming it. People should be leaving the conversation with clear insight and feeling empowered. To echo the opening quote, we must not forget, regardless of how we carry out our performance reviews, even if doing them digitally is new, they are an opportunity to support our people in progressing. That’s the one fact to never lose sight of before coming to the meeting.