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Why virtual performance reviews need to reflect the current working climate

Nel Woolcott - Anne Corder Recruitment

Remember those days of employer and employee sitting across the desk from one another for their PDR or appraisal? As working from home and virtual communication look set to continue, the landscape of the office has changed considerably – meaning many more employees now face long term remote working.

But having even less contact with some employees may leave them feeling like they have been cut a-drift; dealing with feelings of isolation amid work-related pressure.

Peterborough-based Anne Corder Recruitment believes that the ‘traditional’ performance review should now be re-imagined, taking into account the current working climate.

Recruitment Partner Nel Woolcott said: “We know from speaking to many employers and employees that time consuming performance reviews can be stressful for both sides. Now is the ideal time for employers to revisit their reviews; and we would suggest placing less emphasis on the word ‘performance’.

“Any review going forward should no longer simply be a tick box exercise; based around hitting goals, winning new business and behaviour within the office setting.”

“Goals and targets, and most certainly office life, will have changed as a result of the pandemic. Looking at the bigger picture and talking to staff about how they actually feel and how they believe they are performing should start the conversation.”

“We appreciate that many businesses may not have been able to operate on a face-to-face level, but the relaxing of restrictions will allow for that vital contact to resume – whether in the office setting or local coffee shop!”

The thoughts are echoed by Rachel Wells, head of HR at Lincolnshire-based Polyco Healthline Limited. She said: “Against the backdrop of the pandemic, we’ve recently rejuvenated our own performance review process. Like many businesses, we have a wide range of roles; some of which could be worked remotely while others could not, and we’ve really focussed on wellbeing and connectivity during this time believing these to be key to engagement and productivity.

“Introducing a ‘one size fits all’ prescriptive approach to performance review wasn’t really for us, so to ensure consistency and minimise change we’ve overlaid a light touch process to compliment what managers are already doing.

Our process is rooted in the concept of continual conversation to keep things relevant and catch any problems early. We also want to encourage the idea that reviews are not a once-a-year event that everyone dreads.”

Employers could consider:

  • The purpose of the review and how does the process need to change because of the pandemic? Maybe an annual review is replaced with quarterly shots.
  • Re-imagining the assessment. Goals may have changed, focuses may be different and the emphasis may now be on the wellbeing, learning, adaptability and growth of the employee.
  • Not just ticking boxes. You may not have seen your employee for several months, other than during a virtual meeting. Things may have changed dramatically in their professional and personal life without you realising. Request self-evaluations.
  • Meeting face to face – Zoom fatigue is real, but it’s important to have performance review conversations face to face, as you would if you worked onsite together.
  • Showing compassion; recognise and acknowledge the extremely different circumstances employees work under now – such as trying to juggle dependent care with their work and home duties. Just ask them how they are doing!

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