Performance management | Empowering employees in 2021 with a virtual performance appraisal

Empowering employees in 2021 with a virtual performance appraisal

After a challenging year of lockdowns, flexible working and endless Zoom calls, 2020 has finally come to an end.

For organisations, this provides an opportunity to review the past year – finessing individual progress reports, reviewing what went well (or not so well) and preparing for the appraisal season ahead. With remote working here to stay for a while longer, how can we ensure that the new virtual performance appraisal will empower and motivate our employees for the year ahead?

A survey from the Society for Human Resource Management found that 95% of employees were dissatisfied with their company’s appraisal process. However, this process is entrenched in many key activities, such as talent management and pay rewards. This year, HR managers must ensure that all processes support employee engagement and help people to feel valued and connected, especially as the usual office-based contact has been removed. Allowing managers to go through the motions with out-of-date objectives and tick-box appraisal conversations was always the wrong approach. In a virtual workplace, it’s even more important to adopt a human-centric approach to performance management and appraisal, to make it relevant, fair and empowering. The upshot of this is that if we kick-start the year with an effective virtual performance appraisal, we will be getting 2021 off to a positive start.

CEO of Actus, Lucinda Carney believes that for a virtual appraisal to be effective and empowering, it must be a two-way conversation and based on evidence. She outlines some key tips for conducting an effective virtual performance appraisal set to empower employees well into 2021. For further support, register for our popular virtual management training here.

Choose an appropriate environment

Make sure you set aside enough time for the virtual appraisal to fully focus on the individual. You don’t want to be setting up Zoom calls just before and straight after your meeting, nor do you want unwelcomed distractions and outside noise (much harder to do when we are not shut off in a meeting room!). You also want to ensure you use the right tools for the call with screen sharing set up so that you can review key objectives and outputs together.

Be realistic about objectives and milestones set in 2020

Consider the following. Were the objectives that were defined from the outset SMART? Did they remain achievable and relevant throughout the year? Good practice would have been to adapt these objectives with the changing times, but the likelihood is that for many, they would have been left untouched. Therefore, would it not be unfair to measure performance against them?

Think outside the box and use a coaching style

Perhaps new objectives emerged throughout 2020 that the individual may have delivered against, but they may not have been documented? Did any circumstances outside of the individual’s control genuinely affect their ability to achieve? For example, someone working in client services might not have met their target for visiting X number of clients by X date because of lockdown 2.0. However, they may have instead met a new, undefined target of having 10 quality phone conversations by the same date instead? The key here is to think outside the box but also to ensure that the appraisal has a coaching style. Ask questions and listen first. This will allow employees the opportunity to explain how they met certain targets, albeit in a different way perhaps.

Gather behavioural evidence and feedback

More time will need to be invested in gathering behavioural evidence for our remote employees. Try to think of specific things that you have seen or heard. For example, how have your employees interacted over video or chat? Have they shown proactive support? What has been their response time to emails and chat messages? Have they arrived promptly on Zoom calls? Using a competency framework can help provide inspiration here. You can download our competency dictionary for help via this link: click here. By gathering this evidence, you will be able to offer clarity and constructive feedback, thereby motivating employees rather than focusing on any negatives.

Colleagues and customers offer another valuable evidence-based source. Consider how this information could be collected effectively whilst working remotely. Are there any obvious sources of feedback available? If you have been using a performance management software with a recognition tool, perhaps you can check whether colleagues have sent recognition against your companies set of core values. Feedback might be informal or formal and you could request specific examples. It is important to be aware of subjectivity though – look for clusters. If you require help on this, take a look at our e-book: feedback: the gamechanger for performance management. This evidence-based source also presents a further opportunity to motivate employees for the year ahead by focusing on the positives from 2020. Be prepared to also offer recognition, direction and clarity of expectations for the year ahead.

Looking ahead in 2021

Now more than ever a performance appraisal must be evidence-based and see to motivate our employees for the year ahead. As we continue to be less visible, any rating of performance must be well thought through and backed up with examples of behaviours. No longer can we rely on traditional tick-box methods of conducting appraisals, but instead harness a system of co-creation that inspires and empowers our workforce.

For more on the topic of carrying out an effective virtual performance appraisal, watch Lucinda’s webinar on the topic below:

Access Webinar Here

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