A crucial part of a manager’s job is to conduct effective performance reviews. Performance reviews of employees are essential for several reasons. They provide a structured opportunity for employers to assess an individual’s contributions, identify strengths and areas for improvement, and set goals for professional development. Additionally, they facilitate open communication, and alignment of expectations, and can serve as a basis for making informed decisions regarding promotions, compensation, and overall workforce optimization.

Remote And Effective Performance Reviews A New Managerial Challenge

In the new norm, teams are becoming hybrid, and several members of your team could be located remotely. Remote and hybrid team management comes with challenges never seen at such a scale by managers before. Regardless of the composition of teams, a good mix of remote and hybrid teams is a new reality that is here to stay.

Conducting Remote And Effective Performance Reviews

While the process of performance review remains largely the same, you need to be extra careful about how to conduct the review of remote employees. I have a large team spread in various countries. I conduct performance reviews over Zoom calls almost every year. There are a couple of things that one should be aware of to make sure it is as effective and clear as an in-person review.

1. Leverage a Regularly scheduled call

Naturally, employees may experience a bit of anxiety before coming to that call. So, it is vital not to make that discussion come across as too formal and rigid, which may feel worse through remote communication media.

I generally do not mark a special performance review meeting on the calendar to address that. Instead, I conduct it as part of my regular recurring one-on-one meeting. I refrain from setting a call or meeting called ‘Performance Review’ because it puts employees in a different state of mind instead of considering it part and parcel of regular interactions. However, make sure in your mind you are prepared for which 1-1 occurrences you want to use towards performance review.

2. Prepare them for the Review

In remote settings, it is best to send them the written copy of the review, probably a few hours earlier, so that they have time to understand it. Recognize the unique challenges remote employees may face, and show empathy and flexibility when discussing their work environment and needs.

3. Address Employee Anxiety

Conduct the review via video to allow for face-to-face interaction, which helps build rapport and non-verbal communication. I dedicate the first half of the meeting to routine discussions, which puts the employees at much ease and in a more receptive state for the later part of the meeting focused on performance review. Foster a two-way conversation by asking open-ended questions, listening actively, and addressing the employee’s concerns or questions.

4. Anticipate Tough Conversations

If an employee is not happy about the review or revolves around poor performance ratings, it may lead to some emotional exchanges. When I anticipate such a situation,  instead of meeting in front of a small laptop screen and webcam, I use life-sized conference rooms with a large video screen where I can use the power of body language for more effective communication. It also gives an experience and interactions akin to in-person discussions.

A good practice is to schedule follow-up meetings to discuss poor performance, track progress on goals and offer ongoing support and feedback. The follow-up meetings better be titled correctly to ensure that you, as a manager, have the evidence of following up the discussions formally.

5. Document discussion

If you follow the first tip and don’t set up a meeting titled explicitly as ‘performance review,’ you better document the discussion in your notes. Keep detailed notes of the conversation and share them with the employee afterwards to ensure clarity and accountability. After the review, send an e-mail to the employee documenting what was discussed and any specific things you would like to follow. This comes in handy in the event of any claims made by the employee (such as unfair reviews).

Effective performance reviews are the time that can make or break a great manager-employee relationship if it is not done with sensitivity.  In essence, there are only minor differences in how the review is conducted remotely versus in-person.

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Dr Raman K Attri
( Chief Learning Leader )

Dr Raman K Attri is a multifaceted personality as a scientist, author, speaker, L&D leader, and artist. Awarded as one of the Brainz Global 500 leaders, Transformational Business Leader of the Year, and one of the most Admired Global Indians of the Year, he is featured in over 200 media features. An award-winning learning scientist, he specializes in the science of speed in personal and professional performance. A prolific author of 50 multi-genre books, he writes on leadership, learning, performance, and workplace learning. He is an authentic accelerated learning guru who walks the talk by earning two doctorates and over 100 international educational credentials. Permanently disabled since childhood, Dr Raman K Attri is a hallmark of positivity and inspiration. He has transformed his inability to walk into a unique expertise to teach others techniques to ‘walk faster’ in what they do. His remarkable achievements inspire others to strive for excellence in their personal and professional lives.