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    Y’all may have conducted hundreds of performance reviews over the course of your career, but in the era of Covid-19 everything is different. You and your team accept been working remotely for months at present in an extremely hard situation. How do you begin to evaluate your employees’ performance at such a challenging time? How much should yous consider the impact of Covid-xix on your assessment? And how practice you brand sure yous’re off-white-minded given everyone’s different circumstances?

    What the Experts Say

    Even in the all-time of times, no manager actually enjoys doing performance reviews. They are “tense, stressful, and anxiety-inducing,” says Marker Mortensen, associate professor of organizational behavior at INSEAD. Now, amidst a global pandemic and economic crunch, functioning reviews present an even greater claiming. “People are wrestling with uncertainty and existential dread,” he says. Suffice information technology to say, your employees — fifty-fifty those not directly affected past the health emergency — are not operating at their all-time. When it comes to evaluating their chore performance, “at that place’s no template and it’south non one size fits all,” says Anna Tavis, a clinical associate professor of homo uppercase direction at New York University and an editor atPeople + Strategy, a periodical for Hr executives. “Everyone is stretched in their own way,” she says. Your goal, therefore, is “to brand an empathetic assessment” based on “where your people are.” Hither are several strategies to aid you practice this.

    Reflect on your purpose

    For starters, think about why you lot’re conducting these reviews in the first identify — considering, as the Covid-nineteen crisis trudges on, you’re non necessarily looking to weed out poor performers or decide who gets a raise. Rather, it’due south to strengthen your organization’s culture and reinforce its values. “How the company treats its employees in this state of affairs will make or intermission the culture,” says Tavis. So, think hard nigh what you aim to achieve with these evaluations. “Functioning evaluations are 1 of the strongest anchors and artifacts of your corporate culture,” and yous should employ them wisely, says Mortensen. Talk to your boss and colleagues about the visitor’s near-term and long-term goals. Work together to figure out how to communicate those to your workforce as part of the evaluations. “What leaders practice and say now in these times is going to be remembered,” he says. Show your managerial mettle. “Tend to your flock.” And recollect, your primary objective hasn’t inverse: “You’re still trying to assistance your employees get every bit strong as possible.”

    Think about what you’re evaluating

    Similarly, be articulate in your own listen what yous’re basing your assessment on, says Mortensen. Are you looking at their widget sales prior to the health emergency? Or how well they’re doing now? “From a principled standpoint, think about what’south near of import,” he says. “Performance is a measure out of success confronting a goal,” adds Tavis. And at near organizations, the targets that were set last year before the Covid-nineteen crisis emerged “are no longer applicable” every bit the “goalposts have shifted” and the context has changed. Since it would be unfair to judge your employees against the company’s pre-pandemic objectives, she recommends concentrating on your individual employee’s growth and learning. “Information technology would be actually unfortunate if you focused on the transactional aspect of operation” when instead y’all could look at employees’ “empathy, resilience, and capacity to arrange” during this challenging period. “Teamwork and collaboration are at a premium during this crisis,” and those behaviors should be best-selling and rewarded.

    Summon compassion

    Adjacent, fully admit the vastly different and varying circumstances your squad members are operating under. With your squad members working from home, your approach calls for a “picayune more flexibility, a little more heart, and a little more than leniency,” says Mortensen. Some may be juggling client calls with entertaining their toddlers or helping their tweens with algebra; others may be overseeing projects while caring for elderly family members; nonetheless others may be trying to work while struggling with feelings of isolation. “You don’t know exactly how crude it is for your employees.” As a manager, “you can’t merely expect at the deliverables people are providing” while “ignoring their home situations.” Show pity. “The psychological impact of Covid is hitting people in different ways,” he says. “Y’all need to give people a little more than breadth.”

    Consider doing away with ratings

    In that spirit, Tavis recommends temporarily “suspending numerical ratings.” Rating your employees “is going to be extremely difficult because, for objective reasons, many are not able to give 100%,” she says, adding that many schools have done abroad with pupil grades and are opting for a pass/fail model this semester. In place of ratings, she suggests creating “a flexible system that recognizes the hardships that many people are enduring,” and doing “more than of a narrative assessment” that provides employees with specific and helpful information about what they’ve done well and where they could ameliorate.

    Gather different kinds of data

    1 of the most hard things about conducting operation reviews at a time when your team has gone remote is that you don’t have as much data as you ordinarily do because yous’re not seeing your employees in person, says Mortensen. The risk is that “your old biases, positive or negative, are going to be amplified.” Your star performers are sure “to be doing not bad” while your stragglers are “dropping the ball.” To tackle the problem, you need “to be conscious of those biases” and “wait for other sources of information,” he says. Request self-evaluations and canvas peers for their thoughts. Tavis recommends request others: “How is this employee proactively communicating? How are they connecting with clients and colleagues? Who are they helping? Put those [positive] questions front and middle.”

    Prepare the right tone

    Zoom fatigue is existent but “for these kinds of conversations, video is really of import,” says Tavis. “It’s more personal and humane.” It also allows you to see “people where they are — whether they’re working from their living rooms, their kitchens, or their closets,” she adds. Exist open and warm. Pay close attention to trunk language — both yours and your employees. Because you lot’re not contiguous, there are no “context cues, and it’southward easy to take misunderstandings,” says Mortensen. “[On a screen], your employee’s caput is a teeny-tiny 2-dimensional thing and information technology’s going to exist harder for yous to judge” the subtext of what’southward happening. Did you just vanquish your employee’due south soul? Or is their video frozen? “You’re going to take to be much more explicit and much more verbal,” he says. Mind carefully and encourage back and forth communication. “Spend the time to really make sure things aren’t lost in translation.”

    Tread lightly with poor performers…

    In normal times, task reviews are a chance for managers to confront poor performers by demanding improvement. But these are non normal times. “If someone is not performing, now is non time to vanquish them upwardly,” says Tavis. “You need to make a conscious decision which battles to fight correct now. It’south non worth it to run around chasing non-performers.” Instead, if someone on your team isn’t delivering, you lot need to “discover out why past request what’s going on in their lives,” she says. Mortensen advises creating some “slack in the arrangement” to bargain with problem employees. If normally yous’d put someone on alert because they’re faltering, you lot could instead offer a “time-leap grace flow” to permit them to “get used to remote working” and plough things around. “Give those who are struggling some space” mayhap even until “the stop of the calendar year.” But, of class, there comes a “bespeak at which you will take to make some tough calls.”

    …And be effusive with your stars

    On the flip side, information technology is critical to admit your high performers — both for their morale and your system’south ability to retain them. “Your top talent will ever take places to get,” even in a tough employment market, says Tavis. Make sure y’all seize this opportunity to recognize and show appreciation for employees “who are working hard, engaged, committed, and offering their support to others.” Reassurance and praise volition mean a lot to your workers’ peace of mind, adds Mortensen. In this economy, “people are experiencing a lot of dread and fright that they’re going to be out of a job.” The best fashion to help them “cope with doubt is to create some certainty,” he says. Give people a baseline. “If you know that somebody’s operation is non going to put them at risk, let them know.”

    Expect to the future

    Since working from dwelling house is the new normal for the foreseeable future, information technology’s important to consider how you lot want to practice functioning evaluations going forward, says Mortensen. “In this environment, you may need more frequent, smaller evaluations such as semi-annual or quarterly bank check-ins. This volition give you, the manager, “an opportunity to provide real feedback” and gives employees the chance “to make adjustments and calibrations.” Tavis recommends thinking about how this crisis could “be a catalyst for irresolute your system’s performance culture.” This catamenia “represents an opportunity to pivot toward a people-focused management system, built around resilience and agility, instead of efficiency and competitiveness at whatever cost,” she says. The former is “more sustainable in the long run.”

    Principles to Remember


    • Arroyo your evaluations with more flexibility, leniency, empathy, and pity.
    • Recognize and show appreciation for employees who are engaged and working hard. Information technology’s disquisitional for their morale — and for your organization’south ability to retain them.
    • Use video for this chat. It is more personal and humane.


    • Be hard-hearted toward your poor performers. Give them a time-leap grace period to go used to working remotely and to turn things around.
    • Let your former biases creep in. Seek out alternative data. Inquire colleagues and reports for data on how well other employees are communicating, collaborating, and helping.
    • Revert to business as usual — instead, retrieve about how to exercise functioning reviews better. In this environment, semi-annual or quarterly evaluations may be optimal.

    Communication in Practice

    Case Report #ane: Bear witness your tiptop employees how much yous value and appreciate them

    Sara Holtz, senior director of internal communications at Ellie Mae, the mortgage software company, had already completed the 2019 review portion of the performance management process for her team. However, due to the pandemic, the company’due south head of Hour urged her and other frontline managers to appoint in more frequent conversations near employee performance and development.

    “During this unprecedented time, information technology is important for me, as a manager, to set the right tone and to visibly and actively support my teammates,” she says. “I need them to know that my goal is to help them develop and meliorate even as they adjust to unbelievable circumstances.”

    Farther Reading

    One of her recent conversations with an employee — we’ll call her “Jennifer” — was especially illuminating. Jennifer has long been a peak performer on Sara’s team; and recently, she had gone above and beyond her usual responsibilities. Sara wanted to make sure that Jennifer knew how much her actress efforts were being noticed and appreciated.

    When Sara started the give-and-take over the video conference line, however, she learned that Jennifer had a dissimilar perspective. Since the crisis started, she’d been working non-finish and she was feeling overwhelmed and on the verge of burnout. On acme of that, Jennifer found it challenging to arrange to virtual communications with colleagues.

    Sara empathized. She offered resource and back up. “I encouraged her to break and have a break,” she says. “I bodacious her that I know things are tough correct now, but I also wanted her to know how much we value her.”

    During the conversation, Sara talked to Jennifer about how the company’s objectives were shifting. She encouraged Jennifer to make goals for the future.

    “We are in a different globe at present than when our 2019 operation conversations happened,” she says. “Our roles and demands were changing due to Covid and a fully remote workforce, and I wanted to assist Jennifer call back about what that meant for her professional career.”

    She and Jennifer ended upward having a productive performance chat virtually ways that Jennifer could continue to develop and contribute to the company.

    “We’re all humans showtime, and the more than nosotros feel connected to the business, our leaders and each other, the more productive and engaged we become,” she says. “At the cease of the day, business concern continues, simply a shared emphasis on delivering for the concern while understanding personal challenges is key.”

    Example Study #two: Be compassionate and offer to assistance your employees

    Sirmara Campbell, Master Human Resources Officeholder at LaSalle Network, a national staffing, recruiting, and culture firm, says that while employee performance reviews accept no dubiousness changed due to the pandemic, the goal remains the same.

    The bespeak of performance reviews, she says, is to “give employees the opportunity to develop,” which in turn helps the company abound. “Even at a time of heightened stress, we still need to brand sure we are providing useful feedback to assist the employee and the company motion forward.”

    A recent performance evaluation with one of the visitor’southward employees — we’ll call him “John” — stands out in Sirmara’southward mind. Prior to the health emergency, John had been a consistent performer. Merely since the role has gone virtual, Sirmara noticed that he wasn’t quite the same. “John is someone who thrives working closely with colleagues — it was his source of learning and motivation,” she says. “Of a sudden he’s had to get 100% virtual for the first fourth dimension, and it’s been a transition. He’s had to make a lot of adjustments.”

    Sirmara needed more than information to identify the reason behind the performance dip, so she spoke with John’south direct director. She learned that John, who is a father, suddenly became a both full-time employee and total-time parent when his children’due south schools were airtight due to the pandemic. “John’s director and I were empathetic about the situation, understanding John and other employees are experiencing things now that no ane planned for.”

    When it came time for the quarterly virtual operation evaluation between John, his manager, and Sirmara, this was addressed. “Nosotros acknowledged that he had a lot going on,” she says. “However, this is why it’s important to evaluate the employee for the unabridged performance catamenia, taking into business relationship performance prior to the outbreak, and not autumn into the trap of being impacted by the recency effect, where y’all but consider an employee’south recent performance.”

    Sirmara wanted the overall message to John to reinforce his personal goals, also every bit the visitor’s goals. “We explained to him that we understand he tin can’t hit every deadline like he once did in the part, however, we also outlined our expectations of what nosotros believe he tin can attain.”

    Sirmara and John’south directly manager offered their assistance. “He needed to know that we would do everything in our power to help him and that he had our continued investment in him as an private.” Together, they figured out a way to shift his hours so that he could get his piece of work done, and also be there for his family. John was appreciative of the added flexibility.

    A week after the evaluation, Sirmara and John’s managing director checked in with him. John was getting used to his new schedule, but already found that information technology was better. Sirmara also felt good about the review. “Managers must be able to take transparent conversations with their staff,” she says.

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