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Performance reviews for remote workers: making it simple for managers

It's hard to support managers as an HR business partner. They don’t always listen. Many of them have been in the business longer than you. And half the time you're asking them to do things they don’t want to do, like performance reviews. But, as you know, done well great performance management drives productivity, increases profitability and improves employee engagement. But business practices have shifted. So you need a process that reflects recent changes in business practices and supports performance reviews for remote workers. And managers need help to adopt the new approach.

Some managers are bad managers, others struggle with technology. And those issues each need specific support. But this is about those managers who understand the principles and know what they should do. They just find it hard to manage remote teams. And they need guidance to make that process easier, so let's consider:

  • Why your current process doesn't work for managing remote workers
  • Prioritising how best to support your managers
  • Making managing performance for remote workers easier

Understanding your current performance management process

"If you always do what you always did, you'll always get what you always got." Henry Ford's production lines made cars accessible to all, and significantly changed working practices of the time. He revolutionised the transport industry. And in the last two years, many businesses have seen similar levels of change. Huge numbers of employees now work remotely and work-life balance a priority for many. But some managers are struggling with these new ways of working.

So you need to assess the effectiveness of your performance reviews for remote workers and support managers to change their approach.

How effective are your existing performance reviews for remote workers?

Review the list below and add one point for each item that applies in your business.

  1. Disconnected process - individual goals lack obvious links to business priorities.
  2. Standard approach - the same rigid process and timelines apply to everyone.
  3. HR-driven - performance appraisals are seen as an HR process; managers and employees taking little or no ownership.
  4. Focused on participation – it’s all about getting people to submit the form, not about setting relevant objectives to impact business performance.
  5. One-way communication – it’s top-down so managers give feedback but there’s little opportunity for employees to comment.
  6. Maximum quarterly discussions - objective discussions are infrequent (often only once or twice per year).
  7. Out-dated feedback - manager comments come long after the event so employees are unable to take action.
  8. Subjective assessments - goals lack tangible measurements and instead focus on a best guess of achievement.
  9. Snapshot of performance - reviews reflect a single moment in time, not a pattern across the year.
  10. Lack of transparency - people use anonymous feedback and hide issues, rather than discuss concerns openly.
  11. Time-consuming - managers moan they need large blocks of dedicated time to complete annual reviews.
  12. Tick-box exercise - managers and employees focus on getting it done, not on the quality of their discussions.

Your priorities for managing performance for remote workers

Your score helps you prioritise how best to help your managers. Employees are focusing on personal goals and work-life balance, and employers of choice are responsive to these needs. But many managers are struggling with the shift to remote working. And traditional performance management processes make it harder. So it's important to know where to direct your efforts.

8 to 12 points: Start with the performance review basics

You probably have a traditional annual appraisal framework. Fixed timescales; top-down, disjointed communication. So teach managers to have two-way conversations. Introduce regular employee check-ins and develop strong manager-employee relationships. Get managers setting shorter-term OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) that link to the company vision with measurable, data-driven results. And encourage managers to understand and support employees’ personal goals.

4 to 7 points: Build on your foundations

Managers are holding regular conversations, but employees are still unsure where they stand. So help managers focus on giving recognition to celebrate success and providing timely feedback, with opportunities to adjust if needed. Managers must be supportive and active in removing blockers, so employees feel comfortable raising concerns. And you must allow managers to run reviews flexibly so they find ways that work best for them and their teams.

0 to 3 points: Fine tune your performance review process for remote workers

You're on the edge of performance management best practice. A holistic approach. Company vision links with employee OKRs. Managers give regular feedback. Employees raise concerns. Communication is two-way, open and data-driven. And managers and employees own the process. So you can focus on patterns. Spotting managers who are struggling. Seeing early signs of disengagement. Your priorities are company culture, proactive engagement strategies, and tackling the remaining managers who need different support.

Making managing performance for remote workers easy

Whatever your process, everyone who's managing remote workers must do these three things:

  1. Focus on the relationship: Regardless of their location, an employee without trust won't be open. Managers must get to know their teams. They need to understand what motivates and annoys each individual. And then provide appropriate support.
  2. Give clear direction: Understand the vision. Share it. Help employees see where they fit. Remote working means you can't see how someone's doing the work. So their outcomes become the priority. And adjust goals if business priorities change, so employees continue to deliver real value.
  3. Feedback first: People need to know how they're doing. So provide timely and relevant feedback. Celebrate successes as they happen. Give opportunities to take corrective action. And be open to receiving feedback yourself, so employees are more willing to share their concerns.

For any business who wants effective performance reviews for remote workers, regular conversations are key. You need a simple structure so managers and employees can update progress, raise concerns and feedback on successes.

At Weekly10, we're convinced the foundation of great performance management is a weekly check-in. So take a look and see how it could help you.