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6 Ways to Improve How You Conduct Performance Reviews for Remote Employees

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The main goal of a performance review is to identify strengths and weaknesses of your workforce. Performance reviews for remote employees can provide a way for employers and employees to connect. A well-done performance review will increase the overall understanding of how employees are doing and make employees feel valued, appreciated, and supported.

Best practices for conducting remote employee reviews

An annual review for a remote employee isn’t much different than having one in-person. If you want to strengthen your remote employee performance reviews, here are a few areas you’ll want to pay extra attention to. 

Keep reviews simple and straightforward

We all have an impression of what an employee review is like. Often, they can be a bit over-the-top and kind of exhausting. However, they really don’t have to be. 

At its most basic level, the performance review should include your core values and competencies and simple questions about what’s working and what’s not working for an employee. Performance reviews should be appropriately tailored to reflect the different roles and responsibilities of positions, rather than the individual currently in the role. 

A simplified version of a review might cover: 

  • Core values
  • Core competencies
  • Review company goals
  • Review individual goals
  • Discuss what’s working
  • Discuss what’s not working
  • Create next steps based on mutual feedback

Access to the right software solution makes a big difference in the evaluation process for both employees and employers.

Have performance reviews more than once a year

Employees who work remotely may have fewer casual conversations and contacts with their reviewers, so more frequent communication is helpful and healthy for the relationship. Additionally, the pressure of an annual performance review can be a source of stress, so we recommend having performance reviews more frequently, such as every quarter. 

These reviews are less lengthy, and typically there's less anxiety over them, since everyone knows what to expect every time. The annual review may be timed to include some bigger questions, such as where someone may want to go in your organization. Do they want to stay in their current position, or do they have aspirations to do something else? Perhaps there’s a role you have identified that they would be great in that they may not have considered themselves. The annual review is also a good time to discuss bonuses or merit increases. 

Use software to track and support your review process

The most important thing you can do to support your review process is to have a system software that does that and tracks it for you. A good system will schedule reviews or prompt staff to schedule them, reducing the work of an already busy human resources team. Trackable software can quickly show what reviews are coming up, who’s overdue for a review, and can show both company-wide and individual progress over time. 

Put a reliable communication system in place

When a face-to-face meeting isn't possible, you can facilitate reviews with video calling. Video calls are helpful because they provide the benefit of face-to-face communication over a distance. Be sure that your system is able to meet your needs, however, since a technical interruption could throw both employee and reviewer out of the moment, which can be hard to recapture. 

In addition to availability and ease, another advantage of the video call is that with an employee’s permission, the call can be recorded, which isn’t generally possible for in-person one-on-one meetings. This can be helpful in review situations in which, for example, an employee disagrees with their supervisor’s evaluation (or vice versa) and they wish to contest the review. In that instance, a video could be beneficial in providing documentation that can be reviewed by a moderator.

Evaluate your supervisors, as well as employees

The performance review should also be a way to evaluate how supervisors are doing. It’s essential to provide a place for employees to safely share how their work life is affected by their supervisor. Sometimes, the improvement needed doesn’t rest with the employee, but may be due to a supervisor who would benefit from leadership development. 

According to a SHRM survey, 84 percent of American workers say poorly trained people managers create a lot of unnecessary work and stress and more than half say they’d benefit from their supervisors having stronger management skills

Approach reviews with kindness and confidence

Even when they’re transparent and overwhelmingly positive, reviews are stress-inducing. Reviewers should be emotionally intelligent enough to read the room and deliver feedback effectively, in a way that’s productive and helpful. Ensuring that supervisors and other reviewers have had training in how to conduct effective reviews can make a big difference. It’s also important to understand that we're all human and that we don't always do things the right way.

At Dominion, we encourage everyone to learn how to talk to people and to deliver bad and good news in a way that’s both confident and kind. 

Challenges for reviewing remote employees

The challenges for reviewing and evaluating remote employees isn’t that much different than for in person employees, but there are some situations that are more common when working with remote employees.

Some of the largest challenges include:

Fewer in-person interactions

It’s hard to know how someone’s feeling when you don’t see them often, and it can be even harder if you’ve never even met in person at all! In an office setting, overall behavior trends can be observed, whether actively or passively. It’s harder to do this with remote-only employees, since most people can rally for an online meeting. Open, regular communication is key when it comes to establishing trust and a sense of how someone’s “doing” overall.

Accurately assessing productivity

One of the biggest concerns business leaders have is how to accurately assess whether or not employees are being productive. Whether justified or not, a lack of frequent and casual interactions, productivity often comes up as a concern more frequently when it comes to remote workers than for those who work in-office.

Insufficient software

Not having software to support a confidential review process makes an effective review challenging, obviously. Many products exist which are a great improvement on the “video call and a paper or digital form” method. Software designed to help with employee reviews provides trackable, secure data that can provide a long-term view of employee success and satisfaction as well as company health.

Creating relationships

Many businesses struggle to gain and retain a strong and trusting relationship with employees. Without that relationship, it can be hard to tell if someone’s being truthful on their evaluation or if they're just saying stuff to get it out of the way and get it done. More frequent evaluations can help uncover trends or issues more quickly than an annual review will.

Providing expectations to employees

Preparing remote employees for reviews can make the entire review process more successful. Reviews are stressful for many people, and remote employees may not feel comfortable asking what the review will entail. Proactively prepare them by telling them what the review consists of, when and how it will happen, and let them know your expectations of the outcome. 

It’s also helpful to include these expectations in your remote work policy, so it’s clear that reviews are a part of your company’s employment culture. 

At its most basic level, the performance review should cover your core values and competencies and what is and isn’t working for an employee.

How the right tools can help improve your employee reviews

Access to the right software solution makes a big difference in the evaluation process for both employees and employers. There are many software solutions, but the best include features that support scheduling, preparation, and employee access. 

Streamlined System

The best part about having online software is that it’s a bit like having a project manager: you can pre-schedule the reviews and the software sends the notifications, including reminders and updates. You’ll be able to track what is and isn’t complete, while the software does the prodding. 

Some human resource software, like Dominion's proprietary performance review platform, are fully integrated with the rest of the suite. This comes in handy if you choose to provide a merit or bonus increase, which can flow right into payroll without any fuss. Most will have checks and balances to prevent accidents or abuses of the system. For example, Dominion ensures that the changes are reviewed on the payroll side, preventing a supervisor accidentally giving 25% raises to everyone, (for better or worse.)

Review Preparation

Prepping your staff ahead of time, especially if this is new or you are adopting a new policy around how often or when you do performance reviews, is critical for their success. Online tools can improve the transparency of the process, and help reduce fear and anxiety over the unknown. Software can guide employees through self-evaluation questions and allow them insight into the process. It can also prepare supervisors for the review by giving a clear framework for keeping the meeting on track. 

Improved Transparency 

An employee portal that allows employees to access their reviews helps increase their trust and confidence in the process and their employer. Many services (like Dominion’s) offer customizable portals that can help employees see and track progress against their goals. In addition, employees can see when a review has been scheduled, and access pre-review information, and see how they’ve performed over time, which can lead to better outcomes for both parties. 

Download The Free Remote Work Policy Guide

How Dominion can help with employee performance reviews

Dominion’s system is fully customizable. You can set review schedules, hide or show content on a review, and assign stock or custom competency models. There’s no cap or limit, so you can create as many of those first-month new-hire reviews, quarterly employee reviews, and annual team reviews as you wish.

If you’d like to hear more, schedule a demo with us.

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