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Adi Janowitz

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5 Ways to Improve Your Remote Performance Reviews


Year-end performance reviews are stressful even in the best of times. Throw in a shift to remote work, a pandemic, and changing organizational priorities, and you have a recipe for difficulty, if not disaster.  For many people, this will be the first time they’re participating in a remote performance review. However, while the setting might have changed, many of the core tenants of these conversations remain the same.

Performance reviews are meant to be an intentional analysis of the past year’s successes, as well as areas of improvement and development. They provide space for managers and employees to align perceptions and expectations while setting goals for the year ahead.

The remote landscape is changing the way that we communicate. It’s difficult to read into the nuances of tone in Slack or email, or body language when you can only see someone on your computer screen.  Because of this, there are several considerations to keep in mind when conducting a remote performance review.

1. Be present and engaged

The first key to running a successful remote review is to stay present and engaged. This is a time to focus solely on your employee, their review, and their reactions to feedback. In doing so, be conscious of your ‘on-line body language.’ Your camera should be on, with complete focus on the meeting—this is not the time to answer Slack messages or review emails while they share their thoughts on their performance for the past year.

By showing engagement, you’re also showing empathy and respect for the other person. Performance conversations can be stressful. By dedicating your full attention, you’re helping the other person feel seen and heard, and you’re more likely to have a productive and fruitful discussion.

2. Put the year into context

Every company dealt with an extraordinary amount of change in the past year. This might have looked like layoffs, pay decreases, shifts to remote work, as well as the shifting company priorities to stay afloat. Many managers and employees experienced numerous changes in team structure, which affected work planning and output.

With this context, if someone on your team is not performing, use this review as a time to dig deeper into the ‘why.’ Performance is never a black or white issue, and this statement is especially true after a period of intense change.  High performers should be recognized and rewarded for their achievements even through adversity, but think deeply about how to coach struggling team members. This is a great time to talk about clear performance expectations for the year to come and focus on clarifying and working towards the new year’s initiatives.

3. Come prepared

Performance conversations require preparation and thoughtfulness. Read through your direct report’s performance review ahead of time to organize your thoughts, which helps you structure your feedback in a more easily digestible manner. Come prepared with any peer or upward feedback you want to discuss during the meeting, as well as any clarifying questions you have.

Some topics to think about ahead of time are:

  • The impact their work has had on the organization
  • How their work has aligned with team and company goals
  • Ways in which they’ve developed their skills over the past year
  • Areas in which they can improve in the year to come
  • How they’ve demonstrated company values in their work and interactions with others

4. Have a conversation

Keep in mind that performance reviews should be a conversation, not a one-sided lecture. Make sure to pause occasionally and let the other person ask questions or share relevant information. Build trust and credibility with your team by making sure the other person has sufficient time to share their thoughts. This might look like asking them:

  • How actively engaged have you been over the past year?
  • Do you like the work that you’re doing?
  • How can I help you find work that feels meaningful to you?
  • What kinds of projects are you interested in taking on?
  • Where do you want to grow your career?

Try this tip: Before you move on to your next topic or piece of feedback, make a conscious effort to pause for five seconds. You can also add a reminder to your notes to ask if the other person has questions after each piece of feedback. This helps to keep the conversational tone without awkward pauses or rushing through silent moments.

5. Look to the future

At the end of the conversation, direct your vision to growth in their current role and beyond. While the past year might have been tumultuous, how can you set clear performance expectations for the year ahead? Which parts of their performance have been useful and should continue?  This is the perfect time to dive into their larger career goals to find out what inspires them and what kind of projects they want to contribute to in the coming months.

Wrap up your conversation by asking employees what their biggest takeaway was and how they plan to utilize the conversation’s information. Use this to positively project into the future to further develop strengths, work on areas of improvement, and determine how this can help them grow their career.  By sparking conversations that are not necessarily part of the review packet, you can gain more in-depth insight into performance and future goals.

Even with all of their perceived differences, remote performance reviews are very similar to in-person performance reviews. With a little more preparation and demonstrated empathy, you can have just as productive of a conversation as you would if you were in the office. Just remember that you’re talking to a person on the other end of the screen. Be sure to center the conversation around the human you’re talking to. With these tips, you’ll walk away from your performance reviews feeling energized for the year to come.

 Adi Janowitz is VP of Customer Success at Hibob.  






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