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Performance reviews for remote workers: Getting it right and improving productivity

Remote work is great for businesses and their staff; employees get flexibility, and companies can save on the costs of running an office and when done right, can see considerably bosts to productivity. 

But remote teams come with their own challenges, which we're all currently learning the right now. Effective communication becomes more important than ever for guiding personal development and driving performance. 

The finer points of employee appraisal become more difficult to manage when you can't just sit down for a chat with someone. 

Managers need to have a clear framework for providing these appraisals, so we'll be going over some suggestions and tools for conducting effective performance reviews for remote workers.

Why effective performance reviews for remote workers are vital

Research by Gallup has found that roughly half of employees are unclear about what is expected of them. According to Gallup, some of the blame for this rests on outmoded forms of employee appraisal. 

While this doesn't mean we should do away with them entirely, it's vital for managers to make sure their appraisal methods are fit for purpose. 

The problems associated with ineffective performance reviews are also likely to be exacerbated for remote workers, who have more barriers to communication and can fall out of the loop much more easily.

Effective performance reviews are important for any employee, but they're arguably even more so for remote staff. Aside from ensuring consistent work output and aiding personal development, these reviews can go a long way in making your telecommuting employees feel involved with the organisation.

Performing a remote employee appraisal

Extra communication barriers can add an additional layer of stress to performance reviews for remote workers. You can't read each other's body language, and you can't break the ice by offering them a drink. But by building a solid framework for remote appraisals, and making that framework clear to the employee, you can help things run more smoothly.

The right tools for the job. There is a huge benefit in being able to see one another during any 1:1

Some useful tips:

Use the proper communication tools: The first thing to do is make sure you have the right tools for the job. 

In order to get as close to that in-person experience as possible, you'll want to use video conferencing software when it comes to your meetings. We've previously recommended Microsoft Teams, which has integration with our performance review software, but there are plenty of options out there to suit your needs. 

Teams also has a built-in calendar, so you can mark the review date and give your employees time to prepare.

Make sure employees can access documentation from their appraisals: What's the point in getting feedback if you can't reflect on it? Given how anxious employees can be about these reviews, it's understandable that they might not remember everything you said to them. With that in mind, you'll need to provide documentation of anything you've discussed with them.

How you provide access to this is up to you. Secure file-sharing websites like Google Drive or OneDrive (the latter being integrated into Microsoft Teams) are a quick and easy solution. If you're a Weekly10 user, you'll not only be reminded of upcoming reviews on your dashboard, but have a plethora of post-review options for documenting outcomes and future goals.

Supplement performance reviews with regular check-ins: It's all well and good to have a scheduled performance appraisal. But when Gallup found that almost half of employees were unclear on what was expected of them, they found the classic annual performance review to be part of the issue. 

When these reviews are an employee's only chance for "˜real' feedback, critique tends not to be given in a timely enough way to be applied constructively. Without regular check-ins, the sense of dread many employees feel in the build-up to an appraisal can stem from the fact that they don't know in advance how it might go.

It's essential to check in with employees between reviews, especially if they're working remotely. 

Scheduling quick, regular updates enables you to get an idea of your team's engagement and wellbeing as regularly as suits your business, while allowing them to bring issues to your attention as soon as they appear. 

Performance reviews and check-ins are two aspects of the specialised services we offer through the Weekly10 platform, but regardless of how you implement these practices in your organisation, they are best used in combination with each other.

Facilitate effective two-way feedback: Performance reviews are about more than just critiquing your employee's work. It's also your opportunity to hear what they have to say. 

This is especially important for managing remote employees, who are out of sight, and therefore, at risk of being out of mind. But remote teams also need ways to seek advice or flag problems between appraisals.

For example, Weekly10 helps employees to raise concerns immediately with their own ad hoc updates and allows managers to fully customise a variety of different question types. This helps you gather a range of quantitative and qualitative information to make the best decisions for your remote team and empowers them to supply feedback as soon as they feel they need to. 

Each question you include will have a history of previous responses attached, and you'll be able to respond to individual answers when you review their update.

Performance reviews for remote workers should feature a session on goal setting.
Goals, goals and more goals - make them realistic and clear.

Have realistic expectations, and make them clear: When telling an employee what you expect of them during an appraisal, it can help to explain the impact their role has, and how their previous work has benefited the organisation. 

Context is incredibly important in building great, lasting employee engagement as it gives intrinsic meaning to the tasks you ask of your people. That intrinsic meaning is a key element in motivation. 

Remote workers are at greater risk of feeling isolated from the goals and culture of your organisation. Showing them how their work feeds into company goals give them a sense of involvement, and a better understanding of how to develop.

It's good to have a combination of short and long-term goals, which should be attainable and built on past accomplishments.

All of this means that when you prepare to conduct a performance review, both you and your employee will go in with a clear understanding of where their performance is at, and what obstacles might be impeding performance. 

This can remove much of the ambiguity that employees typically feel on the run-up to the dreaded performance review. 

Finally, it enables you as a manager to take advantage of all the information to give the most insightful appraisal possible. If you would like to learn more about managing remote teams, and other employee engagement topics, why not visit our blog home page and take in a few more articles?

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