Long before The Great Resignation, leading organizations and academic researchers dismissed the performance review. It was deemed short-sighted, deeply flawed, and broken. People leaders said the performance management process was ineffective because feedback and evaluations were too infrequent to make an impact.
Luckily, the mass shift to remote work has triggered new calls to reform the review process, assess job performance, and provide meaningful feedback.
To successfully manage employee performance in a remote world, you need to change your tactics to serve the needs of a distributed workforce. Below are three performance management tips to help you succeed in leading your remote workforce.
Learn how the 2022 People Pioneers successfully empower their remote employees.
1. Adopt a Continuous Performance Management Strategy
A continuous performance management strategy – one that provides frequent touchpoints, evaluations, and feedback to individual employees throughout the year – is highly suggested for an in-office or hybrid company. It is a must for a remote one.
Below are the benefits you can expect from introducing continuous performance management.
You’ll Create a Culture of Open Communication
Remote workers can end up feeling disconnected without frequent discussions about performance. The traditional annual review process is no longer appropriate because people want regular conversations on performance and growth. This is especially so with remote teams. Without these discussions, it’s easy for employees to disengage because they feel uncertain about their performance and how their work connects with company goals.
Scheduling regular one-on-one meetings with your direct reports helps build trust, track progress toward goals, and tackle areas of support in real-time. These meetings also give employees a voice and allow them to acknowledge their achievements and needs, especially if performance management templates are used to drive the conversation. 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.”
In essence, by scheduling consistent check-ins and providing regular feedback, empower your people, and help create a culture of open communication, collaboration, and growth.
You’ll Gather Better Feedback
Continuous performance management requires collecting feedback to gain clearer insights into employee performance. Because this information is gathered continuously and from a variety of sources, you aren’t just gathering more feedback. You’re gathering better feedback.
Besides 1:1 feedback, consider adding (or refreshing) the following to your remote performance management:
- Self-evaluations. Using a solution that supports self-evaluations helps employees maintain a record of their contributions, wins, and challenges. Encourage your people to bring this data to performance review discussions for further visibility.
- Goal/OKR check-ins. Tracking progress on goal and OKR achievement provides further data points and helps employees align their initiatives with those of the company and team.
- Peer feedback. Looking at feedback from the employee’s peers 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:
- How likely is it that you would recommend working with (name of employee) to a friend or a colleague?
- Why did you provide the rating that you provided?
- What would it take to raise the score just by one point?
You’ll Reduce Performance Biases
Another benefit of collecting metrics from multiple sources is avoiding falling prey to performance biases.
That’s because managers might unconsciously rely on biases for their performance reviews, especially if your company was once in-office. Mark Mortensen, associate professor of organizational behavior at INSEAD, describes this performance management downfall when shifting to remote work: “Your old biases, positive or negative, are going to be amplified.”
Besides unintentionally conducting reviews based on previous in-office performance or personality, there are two other common biases to watch out for. The first is recency bias, or the tendency to emphasize recent experiences. For example, a sales manager might only evaluate through the lens of a recent account loss instead of reviewing work over the whole performance management cycle.
Another bias that can pop up in performance evaluations is the halo-horns effect. This bias happens when managers see an employees’ strengths (halo) or weaknesses (horns), then unconsciously generalize that all of their traits and performances fall into that category. One common example of this bias is that of attractive employees. According to a study by the University of Pittsburgh, the halo effect causes managers to assume that attractive people have other positive traits, which in turn leads to frequent promotions and higher salary raises.
Therefore, by introducing multiple data sets from a variety of sources, as well as looking at everything contextually, you can further reduce biases in your performance reviews and positively impact your people’s experiences within your company.
2. 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.
Now, companies must clearly define how an employee’s contribution will be measured in their 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 office-turned-remote employers weren’t measuring employee performance effectively. They were relying on metrics that were no longer relevant, such as time worked or higher output. The research recommended to not “obsess over quantitative outputs,” but instead create a workplace that enhances creative thinking and collective intelligence.
Knowing this, you must consider what high-quality work looks like for your organization. Consider the following:
- Remote Competencies. An important step, especially if you are transitioning from an office setting, is creating and communicating new core expectations for your remote workforce. How will you ensure security and confidentiality? What are your communication expectations? What will your remote onboarding process look like? What platforms and templates will you use to ensure consistency across your organization?
- Performance Goals. Establishing clear performance goals is essential for increasing organizational justice and transparency among your company and people. Wayne Turmel, co-founder of the Remote Leadership Institute, says companies need to set clear metrics that tie to 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 in conversation with the person so everyone is working under the same set of assumptions.”
- Employee Experience. Analyzing your remote employee experience will give insights to your employee lifecycle, employee engagement, and culture. Since happy, engaged employees consistently out-perform their peers, it’s critical to prioritize your employee experience. Remember, taking care of your team not only makes you a responsible leader, but one that’s investing in the future of your company.
3. Establish a Strengths-Based Coaching Program
The final of the three employee management tips is to establish a strengths-based coaching program. Doing so will help identify and develop your people’s strongest skills, as well as support team members as they contribute high-value work.
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.
And that recommendation hasn’t gone away. In fact, Gallup’s Performance Management Report still recommends the introduction of a strengths-based coaching program for companies.
What is Strengths-Based Coaching?
Strengths-based coaching is an ongoing process of identifying and developing an employee’s strongest skills so they can 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.
- Adjusting tasks to allow employees to spend more time working on what they do best.
- Identifying areas of poor performance and partnering to form a performance improvement plan.
Strengths-based coaching therefore shifts the focus from “performance management” to “performance development,” and that development can also be tied to company goals.
Strengths-Based Coaching and Succession Planning
Succession planning involves identifying and investing in employees to replace current C-suite executives when the time comes. To do so effectively, you need to have an in-depth understanding of your organization as well as your people and their knowledge sets.
With the right technology, you can map out your people’s skills to see what knowledge is needed for each role.
This is where strengths-based coaching comes into play. If you identify a solid candidate, and their performance development is tied to skills of a C-suite position you’ll eventually need to backfill, they should be added to your succession plan. By using a strengths-based coaching approach, you’ll help expand their competencies and feel more prepared to make future strategic business decisions.
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.
As a leader, you have an opportunity to adjust your performance management system around your organization’s goals and employees’ needs so that everyone feels successful.
Have you adjusted your compensation plan since going remote?