By: Ber Leary on March 10th, 2021

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How to Conduct Performance Reviews for Remote and Hybrid Teams

Business Management & Strategy | Employee Relations

In an ideal world, performance reviews would be 100% objective. Every employee would face the same yardstick and you would get a consistent assessment of their contribution.

But the world isn’t ideal, and managers have to account for this. While you can (and should) take a systematic approach to performance reviews, there is always an element of bias and personal opinion in each appraisal. When you look around the office each day, you get a sense of who’s delivering and who’s struggling, who’s on the right track and who needs a course correction.

But how do you get a sense of individual performance when everyone is working remotely? And how do you keep things fair when you have a hybrid team of at-home and in-office workers?

How to conduct performance reviews for remote teams

When the world made the pandemic-fueled rush to remote working, we all hoped it would be temporary. But, a full year later, 1 in 4 Americans are still working from home, which means that managers have to find ways to give fair appraisals of remote performance.

Here are a few things to bear in mind when giving performance reviews for remote staff.

  • Recognize the New Normal: People have endured a lot of disruption in the past year, and they’ve often had to improvise. As a manager, try to acknowledge and respect this. Give some slack to people who have struggled and acknowledge those who’ve worked hard to adapt.
  • Look out for systemic problems: Remote working presents all kinds of issues, from connectivity to resource availability. These issues could impact performance in some unpredictable ways. It’s good to take a bird’s eye view and even consult with other leaders so you can identify common issues that are impacting remote workers.
  • Make use of self-evaluations: An employee self-evaluation can help fill in some of your blind spots. It gives people a chance to celebrate successes and highlight difficulties that you might not know about.
  • Offer continuous feedback: Remote workers benefit from regular updates on their performance. Rather than waiting for an annual review, consider setting up a monthly feedback session. You can then base your yearly appraisal on the notes from those sessions.
  • Set clear expectations: The worst thing for a remote worker is feeling unsure about what to focus on next. You can avoid this by setting SMART goals at the end of each performance review. Let them know your precise expectations so they can focus on exceeding them.
  • Stay on track with professional development: Performance reviews should mostly be about the future rather than the past. That’s why development is the most important topic in any review, although it may have been overlooked during last year’s chaos. Use each appraisal session to check on the employee’s professional development progress. If they’re not moving forward, find out how you can help them.

Performance reviews for remote workers are no different from other types of appraisal. You just need to be mindful of the kind of communication problems that can sometimes arise when people aren’t co-located with the rest of the team.

How to conduct performance reviews for hybrid teams

From now on, many companies will find themselves with hybrid teams. That could mean a mix of in-office staff, at-home workers, and people who divide their week between multiple locations.

Hybrid teams can sometimes be a little uneven, simply because people in the office have an advantage over those working from home. In-office workers are more visible and get to join in casual conversations, which means that they get more chances to make a good impression.

If you want to give everyone an objective performance review, you have to make sure that they’re all playing on a level field. Here are some tips on how to maintain balance.

  • Understand the imbalance: Someone who’s in the office every day is more likely to be picked for projects or client meetings, which will reflect well in their performance review. Remote workers miss these opportunities to shine. You have to acknowledge the potential for unfairness and try to mitigate as best you can.
  • Make sure credit goes where it’s due: Remote workers also sometimes lose credit for their hard work. For instance, if an at-home worker makes a presentation and someone in the office delivers it, all the kudos will go to the presenter. Keep a note of everyone’s contribution so you can attribute wins to the right person.
  • Educate everyone about remote workers: Sometimes, people don’t go to their remote colleagues with queries. They might not be sure if their co-worker is logged in, or they might mistakenly feel that they shouldn’t bother someone at home. Educate everyone on the best ways to collaborate with remote co-workers, so that hybrid teams become real teams.
  • Redesign the job: A change in work routine can mean a change in the employee’s contribution. Remote workers may struggle with some duties that are easy for on-site workers and vice versa. Instead of giving a negative appraisal and putting stress on the worker, you might consider redesigning the job so that it plays to their strengths.
  • Deliver each appraisal the same way: Finally, you need to avoid inequalities in the way you deliver performance reviews. A face-to-face meeting is more powerful than a Zoom call, and both are preferable to an email. Try to give everyone a face-to-face appraisal if possible. If you can’t, then consider delivering them all by video call.

Remote work is here to stay, and hybrid teams will be the foundation of most companies. This is great – everyone will benefit from the flexibility of being able to work outside the office.

But this is also a new and fast-moving situation. Managers will have to think on their feet and adapt to the changing needs of their people. Performance reviews are a great way to make sure that you and your team are on the right track.