Employee reviews are essential for improving the efficiency of teams and departments across the company. It’s easy to find tips for conducting employee reviews in the office (including the one we just wrote), but how should the process be adjusted when employees and management are working remotely? If your teams have recently adjusted to remote work, performance management is still key and you’ll want to use employee reviews as opportunities to get everyone up to speed with new processes.
Focus on productivity rather than hours
If your hourly employees are working from home, then you already recognize the challenges that come with tracking their hours. Time and attendance solutions like web-based time clocks and timesheets allow remote employees to self-report, but the volume of work per hour will fluctuate for employees with crying children, barking dogs, and other household distractions. Rather than focusing on hourly input, it might be better to set productivity goals in terms of tasks and deliverables, adapted according to the role of each person.
Response time and deadlines
While working hours and break times can fluctuate from day to day, some deadlines aren’t flexible. Your company still needs to deliver finished products on time and clients expect a certain level of ongoing service. Rather than daily attendance and clock-in times, you’ll need to define the response time expectations for employees working remotely. If routine office emails are sent after 6 pm, are employees expected to reply that night or wait until morning? In most cases, particularly for non-emergencies, it’s a good idea to let remote employees work late, but prompt replies shouldn’t be expected outside of normal business hours. If erratic hours and unresponsiveness become a pattern, then employee reviews provide opportunities to address those issues without interrupting normal workflow.
Clearly establish metrics
You may have previously conducted employee reviews in the office, but it’s important to clarify new metrics well ahead of any actual remote reviews. It should never be a surprise that new measurements are going into employee reviews, especially if those scores affect raises and promotions. To help your hardest workers feel like they’re being treated fairly, explain your expectations as soon as you have time to define the new criteria for evaluating remote workers. Completed tasks, quality assurance scores, and other qualitative assessments may be more effective for remote workers.
Schedule video meetings in advance
Phone calls are great for casual check-ins and priority questions, but employee reviews should be conducted by video if possible. Nonverbal communication is a huge resource for managers trying to connect with individual members of the team. Someone might claim to be handling their current workload well, but their posture and mannerisms might hint that further discussion is needed. Trust and camaraderie are important for collaborative teamwork, especially when remote work makes individuals feel disconnected.
Video calls shouldn’t be an unscheduled surprise, however, since this can feel like an invasion of privacy to employees who might normally work wearing pajamas in an untidy bedroom. Employees should be given latitude when wearing t-shirts and clothing that might not be normal in the business casual office setting, but managers should probably continue putting effort into their dress and appearance before video calls. Professional attire is a subtle non-verbal way to communicate that work expectations are still high, even if telecommuting has disrupted the normal processes.
Don’t disregard self-evaluations
An employee’s self-worth and how they view their own work is just as crucial as peer evaluations. With self, peer, and manager evaluations, you are able to get a more complete view of the employee, particularly how an employee views themselves which can help in more ways than one. This also makes the employee feel more a part of the process, therefore driving more employee engagement. It encourages them to honestly assess themselves and their work, and hopefully, push them to set better goals for themselves and work harder to reach them.
Celebrate positive achievements
Even if you already feel connected to employees, managers should still make a point of celebrating their achievements. Positive feedback and encouragement are especially important for remote employees. In the office, it’s a lot easier to casually congratulate someone and communicate appreciation for a job well done. When telecommuters do great work, they typically feel further removed from the consequences. After a task is completed, there may be no further follow-up or news. Make employee reviews an opportunity to celebrate “wins” and your employees will be more motivated to do quality work.
Make adjustments for feedback
Don’t settle for one-on-one reviews that mainly focus on numbers of tasks and quality assurance scores. Especially when employees are working remotely through a messaging service and email, everyone needs to have open channels of communication. Feedback from peers and subordinates should help with identifying personality conflicts that might worsen without face-to-face interaction even with a remote team. Performance management software like NetPerform allows for highly customizable evaluations to be delivered to employees on a regularly scheduled basis. You can synchronize reviews with hiring anniversaries and other relevant dates.
In the midst of economic and business uncertainty, businesses need to be more flexible than ever. It’s hard to keep up with how those changes affect individual employees and company-wide efficiency, but regular employee reviews are great for keeping track of the most important metrics. When employees and managers work remotely, either as a temporary measure or long term decision, it’s particularly important to adapt and strengthen the review process. Once you’ve collected data from reviews, quality analytics and reporting can identify opportunities to improve the overall business.