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10 ways to prepare for remote performance reviews

7 minute read

Conducting an effective performance review can be daunting at the best of times – for all parties involved. Add in the stress of doing so remotely – with all the additional potential for communications pitfalls, and in the middle of a global crisis – and it becomes obvious that a little more preparation is required.

Dealing with troublesome technology, noisy neighbours or unavoidable family interruptions can all add to stress levels, as can the blurring of work and home lives in what should ideally be a private meeting. Both reviewee and reviewer need to understand potential emotional sensitivities and extend a modicum of patience, even when having a business-related discussion, as ‘performance’ is an inevitably personal topic.

Having said that, there are some best practices that can be applied to technologically-facilitated performance reviews, which are likely to become more common and deeply embedded in the future – so read through ObjectiveManager’s top tips below.

1 Tame the technology

Make sure the reviewer has tested the technology to be used for the meeting. It should be tried and tested, and all users should have been properly trained on it – dropped calls will cause frustration for everyone. And wear a headset if possible: audio quality will usually be significantly better and it’s important both parties can hear each other clearly.

2 Find some face-to-face time

If video is available, it’s a good idea to switch it on and increase engagement. Having said that, the reviewer should first get permission from the reviewee to do so, as they might be in a physical location where they feel self-conscious or uncomfortable sharing video, such as in their bedroom or with parents around the corner – through no fault of their own.

If video is being used (and we strongly recommended that it is) ensure you’re able to gauge the reviewee’s responses. Video calls undeniably make this more difficult than in-person, so it’s even more important to pay close attention to body language and expression.

3 Avoid interruptions

Although we all accept it’s sometimes impossible to ensure total freedom from distractions while working from home, a review discussion is one of the most sensitive remote interactions, so any proactive measures that can be taken should be – cats wondering into shot can raise morale in an informal team meeting, but probably belong on the other side of a locked door during a review. It’s especially important for the reviewer, so as to ensure the reviewee has their full attention.

The same goes for online interruptions: remember to turn off email and all other applications that send notifications.

4 Do your homework

Both reviewee and reviewer need to be prepared for the meeting. The reviewer should set an agenda for the discussion and send it out a week in advance, so the reviewee has time to properly consider it and prepare. 

Also try to avoid scheduling multiple video calls on the same day as a performance review, especially immediately before the conversation. Everyone gets VCF (video-call fatigue) these days, and it’s best to have your wits about you before a review discussion!

Leave an hour either side of your meeting time – this will give you both time to prepare and not feel rushed. It also allows time afterwards to follow up on any agreed-upon actions, such as adding or approving objectives or adding post-meeting comments into performance review software like ObjectiveManager. It also gives you the scope to let the meeting run over – it’s important a reviewee gets the time needed for a full and frank discussion.

5 Manage expectations

The reviewer’s initial communications must clearly explain the goals of the discussion, such as focusing on key achievements to identify strengths and areas for further development or setting clear and appropriate goals for the next year. Depending on your firm’s process, the call may be solely about performance rather than, for example, career progression – it’s important everyone knows what’s going on well in advance.

6 Self-assessment

Ideally, the reviewee should have completed the review form and sent their comments back to the reviewer at least a couple of days ahead of time. Also ensure you, as the reviewer, have read the self-assessment thoroughly before the meeting.

7 Appraise in advance

Depending on your firm’s processes, it’s good practice to send an appraisal of the reviewee back a few days prior to the performance review so they have time to digest and reflect on the comments. If you’re taking this route, try and position the appraisal feedback as a provisional assessment which can be still be altered – otherwise, the conversation can seem redundant and the reviewee might feel your mind has already been made up going into it.

8 Ask around

Since direct, day-to-day contact between reviewer and reviewee is likely thin on the ground at the moment, the reviewer won’t have seen as much first-hand job performance as normal. If that is the case, make sure you get as much feedback as possible from people who have worked with the reviewee during the remote working period.

9 Set the scene for new goals

The above approach assumes that the reviewee has a clear set of goals they’re being appraised against and that there have been conversations throughout the year about them. If that’s not the case, use the conversation to establish a new baseline for the following performance period.

10 Use your performance management software while ‘live on air’

If using an online appraisal tool, both parties can have this up on screen at the same time to make sure they refer back to the form as necessary. The reviewee can also input any objectives they’re discussing for the year ahead within the system, making sure they’re accurate.

Alternatively, the reviewee should add their objectives as soon as possible after the discussion to ensure they are as discussed – then, they can be approved quickly, while both reviewee and reviewer have the discussion and the outcomes fresh in their minds.

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