The end of the year is fast approaching and chances are, no one ever prepared you for how to lead a performance review conversation during a pandemic.
You may have found that while some goals were put on hold there was also an expectation that many, if not most of the company goals were expected to be delivered upon, on time and on budget. The typical competencies that you measured may have seen a few additions, including communicating remotely, being self-motivated, working autonomously, or building high performing teams while juggling children, school, dogs and managing cold callers on your home line (if you still have one). With the new challenges that have been presented as many workers Zoom in from their home office, feeling the stress of huge levels of change and uncertainty, you might want to keep the following tips in mind.
We are experiencing a new reality, unlike any we have experienced before: Talk with your leadership team.
- What are your philosophies around performance?
- What types of values and competencies do you want to reward? Have these been communicated as expected or desired?
- Where do you stand on performance? Is it business as usual, or have you modified expectations given the circumstances?
Communication is more important than ever: Make sure that you are over communicating with your people about the expectations your organization has of them. When there is uncertainty, try to create as much certainty wherever you can. If deadlines have changed, let them know and document the conversation. If it is business as usual, discuss strategies for staying on track during these uncertain times. If you haven’t communicated any of this, it is not too late! Make sure you have the conversation before you write or discuss your final performance review. Chances are you will see other perspectives that may modify your messaging and, very importantly, you don’t want any surprises in the review.
Review Preparation: Much of the hard work of reviewing performance should be carried out before the formal meeting.
- Encourage involvement by asking your employee to provide feedback on their performance and solicit feedback from key stakeholders.
- Ask your employees how much time they get to spend every day in their strengths. If you hear a shockingly low number, explore it with them. What are their barriers to spending more time doing what they are really good at and truly enjoy.
- Explore your employee’s development goals. Why are they excited about taking on the new challenges of a more senior position? Are they looking for a title change or do they really understand what the promotion would entail? What skills are they looking to learn and why?
- Understand what they love most about their job and see if you can get beyond what engages them to what truly fulfills them.
- Throughout the process, maintain a coaching versus assessor mindset.
- The best evaluations are reflective of the entire review period, they take into consideration their current performance and development goals, reflect any changes that have occurred throughout the year, include key stakeholder feedback, and do not have surprises.
Manage Discussion Challenges: Your employee’s self-evaluation will provide insights into any potential disconnects in performance perceptions, which allows you to better prepare for the discussion.
- Ask open-ended questions and seek a deeper understanding of your employee’s perspective.
- If the employee has expectations that will not be realized, reflect and identify why not.
- Be prepared to share how the employee’s performance needs to change to be a qualified candidate for promotion, for example.
- Identify the link’s from your employee’s activities to the organization’s performance. This will help them to make the connection their work has to the greater purpose and mission of the organization. Everyone’s work matters.
- Understand your employee’s development expectations.
- Ask for feedback on your leadership and close the conversation on a high note.
Review Discussion: Create a framework that starts and ends on a positive note.
Open by sharing the agenda for the meeting. “First, we will start by reviewing your goals and your successes related to them. We will then discuss any areas where performance wasn’t what we hoped it would be, the contributing factors and how they can be resolved. We will wrap up by discussing your goals for next year, including performance goals, and also your development goals for the short and long term. Be straightforward and consistent, encouraging and clear. Your goal is not to bring your employee to tears, but rather to ensure your communications are clear and supportive and provide a path forward. Use examples to reinforce your feedback. Maintain a dialogue, not a monologue. Ask open-ended questions. Check for understanding. Ask if what you shared aligns with their thinking. At the end of the review, ask your employee what they heard. Make sure they heard all of the good as well as the areas for improvement.
Utilizing these tips can help reduce the anxiety surrounding reviews, especially during an already anxious time. Members of your team want to know that you are committed to helping them as people, supporting their growth, both personally and professionally. Your ability to be resilient and flexible while holding to your organization’s high standards can make performance reviews a time for growth and excitement about the future.
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