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Conducting Better Employee Performance Review During COVID-19 featured image

Conducting Better Employee Performance Review During COVID-19

What a year we have had on which to grade employee performance. With so many people working remotely and stepping away from time to time to care for children and family, or dealing with the COVID-19 virus, directly, how can there ever be a level playing field for employee reviews?

Now is an excellent time to reconsider how you conduct these reviews, carefully weeding out your own stereotypes and biases, so everyone gets a fair shake in a year like no other.

Managers face tough decisions right now trying to figure out how to reward employees who “step up” without penalizing those who must now juggle work and life like never before. Rethink how your company handles these performance reviews.

The world has changed with the COVID-19 pandemic, and it is time to make these reviews more human-centered. In some ways, the traditional performance review is just not reasonable. For one thing, the typical employee review looks backward at a time when all companies need to be looking forward. Also, such reviews can seem judgmental when employees are struggling with so many new issues, including the most challenging work-life balancing act in modern history.

Some companies have switched to working with employees one-on-one and giving “in-the-moment” feedback, so they immediately know how to adjust, instead of finding out at the end of the year what they should have done differently. Let them regularly know what they are doing right and how they can make improvements.

Add Flexibility

Just like employees must adapt to the crisis, so must managers. Employees are taking on new roles they never imagined and helping in areas where they never previously stepped.

One New York City company now sends each employee a questionnaire a week ahead of their review. Instead of spending the entire review on output, they now ask employees where they need help, what they would like to work on, and to give three takeaways on which they will focus. They also discuss what they can expect at the next review.

Communicate More

The traditional review focuses too much on the small stuff and not enough on development, what employees can do better. Having those one-on-one “in the moment” meet=-ups will leave employees feeling more motivated and ready to get the job done.

Since there is no longer a leader standing nearby to address immediate concerns, some companies are rolling out new employee guidelines, including giving employees more autonomy. Staying in contact is key to helping your team stay on track and meet company goals.

Consider anonymous surveys employees can submit online to bring up processes they do not believe work well. That opens the door both ways, for management and employees.

Consider Postponing Reviews

Some companies are waiting it out, pushing performances back until after the coronavirus is under control, and work-life gets back to a little more like normal.

The difficulty of finding the appropriate parameters to judge an employee’s performance has been too much for some businesses. So, instead, they opted to wait. They are trusting their employees to hold themselves accountable.

Watch Out for Your Own Biases

Even during the best of times, it is not easy to figure out the best way to review and reward employees. The pandemic has brought in even more challenges.

Biases and stereotypes can easily infiltrate the system if not kept in check. There is much ambiguity from predicting how COVID-19 will impact business in evaluating performance with employees working remotely. It would be best if you found a balance between flexibility and supporting the individuals’ needs, all of whom are facing different circumstances.

Management typically sees the ideal worker as the one who can leave home life and focus on work at the office. This places an additional burden on parents, especially mothers working from home. They can face inaccurate assumptions about their workload and commitment. Do not be the manager who makes more allowances for men staying home and homeschooling than for mothers doing the same thing.

Using a checklist or questionnaire can help block biases. One such process is called “criteria monitoring,” which involves three steps managers can practice eliminating their own decision-making bias.

Define your criteria. Ambiguity in standards can lead to bias. Thoughtfully developed and clearly defined criteria can eliminate it.

Outline what is essential in a particular role and define success factors in clear and measurable terms. For example, to say you want someone to “be innovative” is not measurable. To say you want an employee to work across company teams and encourage problem-solving is a measurable criterion.

Seek out hidden preferences in your criteria that allow bias or stereotyping to creep back in and get rid of them. Terms like “stepping up” are often used to describe the ideal worker. But if you are a parent working remotely and homeschooling, this may not be the time you are most likely or even able to “step up.”

The same goes for visibility. A parent may miss a Zoom meeting due to a homeschool conflict, but that same employee may also make other meaningful contributions. During these difficult times, some employees need more latitude to take care of their families and health.

But even if managers give more latitude, that could be overlooked if evaluations only focus on “step-up” results. Meeting heightened customers’ demands while also looking out for an employees’ wellbeing should both be recognized.

Monitor One Another

Encourage those within your company to monitor one another when discussing performance. Bias is often unconscious, so this peer monitoring can help avoid it by reviewing how another manager gauged performance.

Consistency and fairness are of utmost importance. Keep the playing field level for all employees.

By providing your managers with useful review strategies, they can help you continue to advance your organization even during these unusual times.

John Kenney has over 45 years’ experience in the roofing industry. John started his career by working as a roofing apprentice at a family business in the Northeast to operating multiple Top 100 Roofing Contractors. As Chief Operating Officer, John is intimately familiar with all aspects of roofing production, estimating, and operations. During his tenure in the industry, John ran business units associated with delivering great workmanship and unparalleled customer service while ensuring his company’s strong net profits before joining Cotney Consulting Group. If you would like any further information on this or another subject, you can contact John at

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.