Performance Management

4 tips for managing employee performance in a remote world

Blog Author

by ChartHop Team

July 20th, 2021


The ChartHop Team

Long before the pandemic, leading organizations and academic researchers dismissed the performance review—it was deemed deeply flawed; “broken.” HR leaders said the performance management process was ineffective because feedback was infrequent and evaluations too backward-looking.

In 2021, the mass shift to remote work triggered new calls to reform the review process. As COVID-19 accelerated the adoption of remote work, human resource leaders were quickly forced to abandon traditional approaches to managing employee performance. Organizations had to find new ways to assess job performance and provide meaningful feedback in the absence of in-person interaction.

To successfully manage employee performance in a remote world, you need to change your tactics to serve the needs of a distributed workforce.

1. Establish clear employee performance goals

It used to be that workers could arrive early and leave later to demonstrate their commitment or productivity, at least superficially. But in remote work, effective employee performance can no longer be tethered to hours worked or tasks completed.

Companies must clearly define how an employee’s contribution will be measured in the remote work environment. Doing so will help you align employee performance to company goals and build employee trust in the review process.

In its Human Performance Survey, JLL, a commercial real estate services company, found companies weren’t measuring employee performance effectively because they relied on metrics that were no longer relevant for the modern workforce, like work hours.

“Knowledge workers are being asked to focus on complex activities and are enduring increased cognitive loads. “Being productive” no longer equates to working longer hours or completing more tasks. And this has become striking with the mass homeworking experiment we have lived through during the pandemic.”

Consider what high-quality work looks like for your organization. Create concrete metrics based on a standard definition of superior performance in the remote office. It may even be worth revisiting your current performance goals. In its analysis of performance standards for distributed teams, Cornell University suggests creating new core competencies for employees working remotely. These updated competencies could include employee communication and collaboration via remote working tools.

Example Map on ChartHop showing breakdown by Performance Review for remote workers.

Example Map on ChartHop showing breakdown by Performance Review for remote workers.

The key to establishing clear performance goals is to talk to employees about what the company is basing reviews on well ahead of the formal assessment. Wayne Turmel, the co-founder of the Remote Leadership Institute, says companies need to set clear metrics and performance expectations. “Managers need to be crystal clear about what is important to the job and the person’s success and then find ways to provide proof. These expectations—along with how they’ll be assessed—should be done (sic) in conversation with the person so everyone is working under the same set of assumptions.”

2. Host regular performance check-ins

Remote workers can end up feeling disconnected without frequent discussions on performance, according to an Argonne National Laboratory study. When working remotely, you need to host regular one-on-one meetings with employees to track progress toward goals and tackle poor performance in real-time.

The traditional annual review process isn’t appropriate for remote teams because remote workers want regular conversations on performance and growth. Without these discussions, it’s easy for employees to disengage; they feel uncertain about their performance and how their work connects with company goals.

Gallup Panel Survey results from 2019

Gallup Panel Survey results from 2019 (Source)

Your 1:1 conversations on performance should be an ongoing dialogue—not an annual event. Encourage managers to use these 1:1s to address performance issues as they happen, but don’t only talk about challenges. Sharlyn Lauby, HR consultant, writes: “These feedback sessions should involve a two-way dialogue between the manager and employee. Feedback meetings aren’t just where managers talk, mostly about negative stuff, and the employee listens. The feedback should be positive and constructive on both sides and help the employee perform at a higher level.”

3. Collect multiple sources of data to combat biases in performance appraisals

You need to collect multiple sources of performance data when you conduct employee reviews to avoid falling prey to performance biases.

The shared office setting gives managers multiple opportunities to evaluate the employee. When you’re face to face, you can witness a team member’s willingness to assist colleagues or ability to respond to challenging work situations.

Without these real-life exchanges, managers might rely on biases in their performance reviews. Mark Mortensen, associate professor of organizational behavior at INSEAD, tells Harvard Business Review: “Your old biases, positive or negative, are going to be amplified.” One common form of bias in the workplace is recency bias, our tendency to emphasize recent experiences. A manager, for example, might only evaluate recent job performance instead of reviewing someone’s work over the whole performance management cycle. The halo-horns effect is another bias that’s been shown to present in performance evaluations, particularly in the case of women and people of color. This bias happens when managers generalize employees’ strengths (halo) or weaknesses (horns).

To mitigate bias in performance management, incorporate feedback from multiple sources.

Gather feedback from an employee self-assessment. Consider using a tool that supports self-evaluation so that employees can maintain a record of their contributions, wins, and challenges. Employees must be encouraged to bring this data to performance review discussions.

Also, gather peer feedback. Gathering feedback from people who regularly work closely with the employee provides a holistic perspective on performance. The Performance Promoter Score (PPS) is one method of collecting feedback from colleagues. It’s a short review made up of three questions managers can share with multiple raters:

  1. How likely is it that you would recommend working with (name of employee) to a friend or a colleague?
  2. Why did you provide the rating that you provided?
  3. What would it take to raise the score just by one point?

You might want to implement a performance management software solution that easily enables people to share real-time and 360-degree feedback. ChartHop's Performance Management module makes it all possible - and ChartHop brings the data together so you can leverage it for compensation planning as well.

4. Establish a strengths-based coaching program

You need to establish a strengths-based coaching program so that you can identify and develop an employee’s strongest skills. Doing so will support team members to do more high-value work for the company.

Back in 2013, the Cornell HR Review explored obstacles to effective performance management in a remote work setting. Limited and low-context communication made it difficult for managers to detect issues that may affect performance. The analysis showed that a “coaching relationship” might address some of these challenges.

Gallup’s Performance Management report recommends “strengths-based coaching.” Strengths-based coaching is an ongoing process of identifying and developing an employee’s strongest skills so they are able to do more high-impact work for the business.

A strengths-based coaching program includes:

  • Working with employees to identify skills they can develop into strengths through coaching
  • Adjusting work tasks to allow the employee to spend more time on the work they do best
  • Identifying areas of poor performance and partnering with the employee to form a performance improvement plan

Strengths-based coaching shifts the focus from “performance management” to “performance development.” In this model, employee development and growth is a partnership between the employee and manager. Development plans are tied to employees’ strengths and organizational goals.

Build a performance management process that drives remote work success

Managing employee performance remotely involves making sure people feel supported and heard. It also means noticing a team member’s strengths and allowing them to use those skills to deliver for the company.

In the remote world, HR leaders have an opportunity to adjust the performance management system around the organization’s goals and employees’ needs.


Blog Author

Written by ChartHop Team

Head of Growth & Partnerships

Performance Management

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