Setting up a performance review can feel like herding chickens, which is hard enough on its own. Now add blinkers to each of the chickens you are trying to herd… and this is how many HR teams feel while setting up the 2020 Mid-year Performance review.

Unlike in an office setting where you can observe how people are working, being remote makes it difficult to constantly be in the loop about what employees are working on.

This is Part 5 of our Remote Work & COVID-19 Response Series where we will give you practical tips on how to prepare and run a successful mid-year review, even while working remotely. In case you missed it, last week we discussed how to drive recognition via a Praise campaign, helping to boost recognition whilst working remotely.

This week we will focus on:

  • Why you cannot afford to skip the mid-year 2020 review

  • How to prepare for a successful review

  • How to track review progress

  • Tips on report sharing and follow up 1:1 conversations

Why you cannot afford to skip the mid-year 2020 review

Being remote is not a reason to cancel the mid-year review. Staying on top of remote work performance and monitoring how employees are performing both in their roles (as well as their careers) is a surefire way to get the best out of people and to create an environment they want to be a part of, regardless of where they are located.

Following through on the mid-year review makes your teams feel seen and heard. This is key to a successful business during COVID-19 and after.

The mid-year review provides the opportunity to reflect on the first half of the year and have that documented, making the end of year review a much faster process, with no surprises. All those emails from team leads and department heads directed at HR for End of Year review extensions could become a thing of the past.

Remote performance reviews do not have to be drastically different from the performance reviews you were already running, yet there are some important elements you should take into account.

How to prepare for a successful review

For this year’s mid-year review, we recommend putting the emphasis on an individual’s output along with their learnings. After all, we are all participating in the world’s largest remote work experiment, and capturing those learnings is key to making the most of the situation.

3 tips for preparing for a successful review:

Communication - Give managers the heads up that the mid-year review is happening and ask them to block time to give feedback in advance. Next up, give individuals two weeks' notice of the upcoming review - it will give them enough time to reflect on their performance without having too much time to ‘worry’ or overthink it.

There are more things to consider when communicating the upcoming mid-year review. Be sure to include:

  1. As Simon Sinek says; Start with the ‘Why’.

  2. Explain who is reviewing who

  3. Include a self-assessment.

  4. Provide a feedback Framework to be constructive.

  5. Communicate the timeline.

  6. Who has access to the report & with what purpose

  7. What happens after the review

Questions - Make sure the questions are focused on output rather than input. Even though the world has drastically changed in the past few months, make sure that the mid-year performance review is actually about an individuals’ performance and the things they can control.

Feedback tips - Just before a review is a good moment to remind people how to write constructive feedback, especially when reports will be read at home, with no in-person meetings to explain the feedback. We recommend the COIN framework in order to empower employees to give each other objective, meaningful and practical feedback.

See a full review communication template, along with best practice remote review questions in this downloadable guide

How to track review progress

Now that once the review has started, the most important role for the HR team is to track the progress.

By monitoring the progress or lack thereof, you will be able to intercept people who are struggling and to ask the teams or individuals what is holding them back. Having someone available within HR that can help with the verbalization of noticed behaviors can provide extra confidence to those that are completing the review.

It's normal to see a spike in participation at the start of the review, with little to no activity up until the 48 and 24-hour reminders are sent. Providing between 7 to 14 days to complete a review is a good window to still feel the urgency, but not having to drop all the balls that remote workers are already keeping in the air.

Remember that review tasks can be reopened for people who have 'outlier' circumstances, rather than designing the whole review timeline around them.

Tips on report sharing and follow up 1:1 conversations

Reading a report on your performance can be confrontational or a delight. You might read about blind spots, things you were not aware of that you do, or don’t. You may also uncover hidden strengths that others see in you, which you are not aware of or even take for granted.

Regardless of what is in the report, people must have time to process the contents. We recommend finishing the review so that reports are sent out during working hours, for example on a Thursday around lunchtime. This way, people can share their enthusiasm or have the option to talk to their peers and managers when clarity is needed.

It’s essential that managers plan a conversation with each team member to discuss the outcomes of the review. This will help to see the feedback within the context and helps the individual to set goals for the coming quarter(s). This makes the feedback actionable and helps managers and their team members align. Having an agenda for this 1:1 before it takes place will make sure both parties have a sense of accomplishment and no pressing matters will be missed.

Go get them, review tiger!

We feel very confident that you can and will make the 2020 mid-year performance review happen with the above tips.

To summarize:

  • Communicate why, who, when, and how in a timely manner

  • Focus the questions on learnings

  • Be available and monitor daily and you will set yourself, your managers, and all the people of your organization up for success and growth.

Next in our Series

Next in our Remote Work & COVID-19 Response series, we will focus on Ask for Feedback, and how HR can put individuals in the driver's seat of their own performance and development, by asking for feedback as and when it suits them best. Keep an eye out for the article in two weeks' time!

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