How to conduct effective performance reviews for remote employees

by Carlo Borja
performance review for remote employees

Regular performance reviews are a staple of any successful company. They identify employees’ needs, help managers provide better support, and indicate what works and doesn’t work within your business.

They can also help managers understand performance gaps, uncover roadblocks, streamline processes, identify training needs, and even get a picture of what new hires they need to make. In short, performance reviews are critical to give leaders visibility of where their operations are at.

You may have conducted thousands of in-person performance reviews in the past, but how familiar are you with remote performance reviews? With the rise in remote and hybrid work models since the pandemic, many companies are conducting performance reviews via video feeds. So, how do these differ from in-person reviews?

In this article, we’ll cover the significance and challenges of conducting remote performance reviews. You’ll learn how to prepare for and conduct an effective performance review remotely and how to overcome any potential obstacles.

The importance of remote performance reviews

Performance reviews are extremely important in the modern business world, whether conducted in person or via video link. With around a third of US employees in remote-possible jobs working from home full time – and many more in hybrid roles – remote performance reviews have started to become the new norm for many.

Their importance in ensuring a thriving and productive workplace cannot be understated. For one, remote performance reviews help employers tailor their support to each employee. By discussing the needs of their staff, managers can subsequently provide them with the best, most appropriate training, support, and resources.

Employees don’t get as much informal face time with their line managers when working from home as they would in an office. It’s therefore less likely that non-critical but nonetheless important issues, such as an uncomfortable chair, will get raised during the more formal one-on-one or team sessions that take place on a regular basis.

In a performance review, you shouldn’t be talking about business as usual, so there is an opportunity to focus on these issues that can otherwise get overlooked.

Another crucial aspect of performance reviews is that remote employees can receive due recognition for their work, which helps them feel more appreciated. In an office setting, praise (and even criticism) can be passed on casually in the corridor or by the coffee machine, however there are fewer opportunities with remote workers to have these kinds of exchanges.

Yet remote workers need to feel validated in their work, as praise is a motivating force leading to higher productivity and quality. A study by BetterUp showed that employees who feel valued and recognized are 50% less likely to quit and show a 56% increase in job performance.

Additionally, performance reviews help remote team members stay in the loop about company updates and provide an often much-needed opportunity for human interaction. In the following sections, you’ll learn how to prepare for and conduct an effective remote performance review.

Preparing for the remote performance review

Before you begin a remote performance review, you must adequately prepare ー, just like you’d expect from your employees. You can do this by gathering performance data, requesting employee self-assessments, defining the performance expectations the employee should meet, and establishing clear and functional communication channels.

To enable your employees to prepare well for their performance review, you should ensure they know precisely what is expected of them and that they have an open channel of communication with you and their team leaders.

According to a Gallup survey, around half of US employees are unfamiliar with exactly what’s expected of them. Clearly communicating job responsibilities, goals, and company values will help your remote workers visualize their objectives and perform to their targets. If you have not already done this during the onboarding process (hint: you probably should), the next performance review is a good time to communicate this crucial information.

Once your employees know what’s expected of them, ask them to complete a self-assessment form. The lack of face-to-face interactions means that managers often have to rely on the self-reflection of their remote workers to understand their work processes. Encourage staff to share their honest feelings and feedback, as this is the best way to identify and resolve issues. Remind them that one of the main goals of a performance review is to make their job easier by removing any performance roadblocks – so they shouldn’t be shy about coming forward to identify these.

Finally, you should gather as much performance data as possible before conducting the performance review. Monitoring employee performance using non-intrusive time and activity tracking software will help you gain a much better insight into the productivity of your remote workers. It will also help you identify whether your employees are failing to hit any performance metrics targets and goals.

Conducting the remote performance review

Once you’ve adequately prepared for the remote performance review, you can begin. Ensure you have a stable internet connection and use reliable and accessible video communication software, such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom, or Skype. Send your employee a video link and arrange an exact time to meet. Clear your inbox, desk and diary to ensure you give the employee your full attention for the duration of the review, just as you would if you were meeting face-to-face away from your computer.

Structure the performance review like you would in person. Start by giving your employee a brief overview of the agenda and reiterate the importance of honest and open discussion. Then, using the data obtained by tracking employee performance, discuss past targets, current limitations, and future goals, leaving space for your employee to voice any concerns.

When providing feedback, ensure it is constructive and actionable. Don’t overwhelm your remote worker with criticisms. Here is also a chance to flex your active listening skills by allowing your employees to talk. After all, performance reviews are two-sided discussions. It’s also important to share positive feedback and give due recognition where merited.

Utilizing Time Doctor in remote performance reviews

Time Doctor is an excellent tool for monitoring and tracking employee performance. Sitting unobtrusively on your employee’s desktop, Time Doctor gives managers real-time insights into their remote employees’ productivity, working hours, and habits. You can then use this data to conduct accurate and honest remote performance reviews and provide the proper support for the individuals who need it most.

Time Doctor tells you what applications employees are using and how long they are using each one. It’s an accurate way of understanding how your remote employee spends their day without being there to witness it personally. Beyond reassuring you that they actually are at their desk, you get visibility of all the tasks they perform.

A useful feature for performance reviews is the ability to compare the performance of team members on similar tasks. This way, you can set a benchmark performance standard, understand how certain team members are achieving that benchmark, and train the rest on how to perform the task optimally.

Overcoming challenges in remote performance reviews

To conduct effective remote performance reviews, you must be aware of the potential pitfalls and how to avoid them. Here are some common challenges and the strategies you can take to mitigate them:

  • Communication barriers: Virtual communication will never match up to physical interaction. Technical faults and poor connections are common challenges of remote communication. Still, the best solution is simply to ensure you have a stable internet connection and are in a quiet and private environment. It can help to have a backup option, such as a second laptop in case of a hardware failure or a Zoom link in case Teams goes down (or vice versa).
  • Handling sensitive issues remotely: Physical interaction is often more than a simple exchange of words. Body language plays a vital role in effective communication. Remote performance reviews lack this element. Therefore, handling sensitive topics over video can be more challenging as much of the nuance and subtlety of expression just get lost. Employers must take extra care in their use of language, ensuring they speak clearly and demonstrate evident empathy.
  • Understanding employee habits: The lack of physical contact makes it hard for managers to understand their employees’ feelings and habits. To gain a better insight into these, there are essentially two options. You can introduce employee monitoring and time tracking software to build a picture of what employees do, or you can ask them to fill out a self-assessment and then question them during their review to gain a clearer picture of their challenges.

Final thoughts

Remote performance reviews are critical in fostering company growth, building a team, improving employee well-being, and increasing productivity. However, they do not come without challenges, including communication barriers, online privacy, and a lack of in-person interaction between staff and senior figures.

With Time Doctor, managers can conduct more successful remote performance reviews as they will have real-time insights and data to provide tailored support to their distributed team members. Take advantage of our free trial and book a demo with Time Doctor today.

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