How to Manage Performance Evaluations in the Work-From-Home Era

How to Manage Performance Evaluations in the Work-From-Home Era

How to Manage Performance Evaluations in the Work-From-Home Era

How to Manage Performance Evaluations in the Work-From-Home Era

Support vs. Privacy: Conversations about performance can quickly turn personal these days. There’s a fine line, though, between empathy and privacy, Ms. Holland said. Managers can ask employees what’s stopping them from doing their best work or inquire about specific accommodations that they may need, she continued, but should leave it up to employees to decide which personal details they want to reveal. Once an employee has shared a concern, the manager can brainstorm fixes like a change in group meeting time, or reimbursement for noise-canceling headphones or ergonomic office furniture.

It’s OK to check in, for example, to ask how the employee’s parent is or how online school is going, once they’ve mentioned it, Ms. Holland said. “Managers can also share their own challenges,” both to offer advice and to show that they can empathize with the struggles that many people have faced this year.

Recognize the Goal Posts Have Moved: Did the employee meet previously stated objectives? If not, it might be because the year’s chaos and change rendered goals from six months ago, or even last month, obsolete. For goals that remained or were added, evaluate what the employees had to work with to accomplish them and how they adapted. Personal qualities like flexibility, creativity, initiative and teamwork might have loomed larger than task lists and should be recognized, Ms. Kline said. Even just keeping a positive attitude and encouraging and helping others while the work world changed means a great deal to a team, she said, and should be called out.

The Closer to In-Person, the Better. When it comes to scheduling the review conversation, a video chat beats a phone call for communicating nuance and understanding reactions, Dr. Rockmann said. Even better, he suggests, plan a socially distanced in-person meeting. If it’s possible, meet at a park or an outdoor coffee shop, or take a walk, he said. “A manager who is willing to drive to meet an employee shows that they truly care about helping that employee improve,” Dr. Rockmann added. “It also makes it easier to connect and talk about any difficult issues.”

Help Them Move Up: A frank conversation about the employee’s career advancement objectives is more important than ever in a work-from-home performance review, Ms. Holland said. Without the usual in-person exposure to other groups, employees can feel they are working toward company goals but not their own. Take time to discuss the employee’s professional development opportunities and ways to help each person on the team move forward. The manager should leave the meeting with action items to take on the employee’s behalf, and check in with the employee periodically to report progress.

Keeping worker engagement levels and productivity high becomes more challenging the longer the pandemic stretches on. Managers need to make sure their top performers are happy, though, or they may start looking for another job. Pandemic-proof specialties like technical and sales roles are still in great demand, despite the downturn, Ms. Holland said.

End Upbeat: Recognize emotional contagion — a manager’s attitude and mood can affect the team. If it’s sincere and not too corny, end the meeting upbeat with language like, “We got this” or “I have your back.” Reflect on 2020 as a year of upheaval, Ms. Kline said, “then transition to what shared success will look like in 2021.”


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