Performance Reviews in 2020: Best Practices During Times of Uncertainty

As HR teams around the world align and prioritize during this time, they’re re-thinking traditional performance programs. Many of them had 360 reviews scheduled, and are unsure how to proceed. Do they hold performance reviews as normal? Do they postpone reviews until the pandemic ends?

Reflektive has consulted with dozens of global customers on reviews during this time. Read more for our best practices and recommendations.

Before You Start…

If you decide to make any changes to your reviews, keep in mind employee expectations. Workers look to performance reviews for promotions, pay raises, and goal-setting. If these programs will be paused or altered with your new review cycle, inform employees at the get-go to better set expectations.

How to Develop the Right Program for your Organization

If your company has been impacted by the pandemic and recession, our recommendation is to simplify your reviews program. The current situation has made life for many employees more stressful and uncertain, and adding a 3-month review program may exacerbate their stress. Specifically, we recommend that companies:

  • Adopt a shorter timeframe for their review cycle
  • Simplify 360 reviews by limiting peer feedback to 1-2 employees, or only including peer feedback for specific cohorts (e.g., promotion-eligible employees)

By making the process faster and less complex, companies can show empathy for the challenges that many employees are facing.  And by holding reviews during this time, organizations can reinforce their commitment to employee growth and development.

Decide on the objective of your review

Before you start planning your review, think through what is most important to your company right now. Some questions that all companies should consider are:

  • How has COVID-19 impacted my business?
  • What are my strategic HR priorities? (e.g., retaining top talent, minimizing workforce disruption)
  • What is our appetite for change at this time?
  • What is the current state of our feedback culture?
  • How should review data be used? (e.g., influencing promotions or raises)
  • How should goals be used to evaluate performance?

Based on how Reflektive customers have responded to these questions, we’ve observed five common objectives for review cycles now:

–   Building a culture of feedback: Boost productivity and engagement with a holistic conversation that spans skills, goals, and career growth

–  Improving alignment: Ensure that all employees are working towards top-line business goals with frequent conversations on priorities

–  Developing careers: Motivate and retain talent with a conversation on skills and leadership opportunities

–   Improving performance: Empower employees by developing their competencies and helping them better align with company values

Informing talent management decisions: Plan for pay raises and promotions by collecting formal qualitative and quantitative data on employee performance

Include the optimal questions for your review type

Once you’ve identified the right review for your workforce, you can start the next phase of question development. In general, it’s best to keep your form short and limit it to 4-7 questions. We recommend the following self-assessment questions based on your review type:

  • Building a culture of feedback:
    • Appreciation: What are 3-5 accomplishments you’re proud of?
    • Alignment & Evaluation
      • Think about your main goals. How have you performed relative to these goals in the past quarter?
      • Think about the main responsibilities of your role. How have you performed relative to these responsibilities in the past quarter?
    • Coaching: What is the most important thing you could have done at least 10% better last quarter? What would you do differently next time?
    • Career: What do you want your next career step to be? What step can you take to get there?
  • Improving alignment:
    • Have your goals changed or should they change?
    • What went well this quarter? 
    • What could have gone better in the last quarter? List 1-2 learnings that can be applied going forward.
    • What help do you need to make better progress toward your goals?
    • Manager: Provide 1-2 pieces of feedback that could help this employee make better progress toward their goals.
  • Developing careers:
    • How did you grow your career here last quarter?
    • What knowledge, experiences, and/or collaboration opportunities would benefit you in the next quarter?
    • What do you want your next career step to be? 
    • What steps can you take to get there?  What support do you need?
  • Improving performance:
    • Manager evaluates each value and/or competency and how frequently the employee shows the value
  • Informing talent management decisions
    • What goals did you accomplish?
    • What goals were you unable to achieve?
      • How will you tackle them differently in the future?
    • What skills would you like to use more of in your role?
    • In an ideal world, what would your next role look like?

Additionally, if employees are providing peer feedback, we recommend using the “traffic light model” of “start”, “stop”, and “continue” questions. Some sample questions include:

  • Start: What could this person start doing that would benefit their career and the company?
  • Stop: What could this person stop doing to benefit their career and the company?
  • Continue: What does this person do well?

More question ideas are available here.

Carve time to sit down and deliver the review

Talking in real-time – whether that’s in-person or on video – helps managers better understand the context of their employee’s responses. Additionally, managers can provide helpful feedback on areas that employees are looking to improve.

Other Best Practices to Complement Reviews

Performance reviews aren’t the only way to help employees stay aligned and engaged. We recommend the below programs to complement reviews and equip workers for success.

Encourage more frequent 1:1 conversations

Weekly or bi-weekly 1:1s with managers help employees work towards the right objectives. While we generally recommend that 1:1s are employee-driven, manager-driven 1:1s are also appropriate for driving alignment and following up on important business updates.

Onboarding employees during coronavirus

Boost company-wide recognition

To drive awareness of wins across the organization, we recommend more frequent employee recognition. HR teams can create a contest or a challenge to encourage kudos from workers.

Encourage employee-driven feedback

Between review cycles, employees can proactively request feedback from managers, peers, and cross-functional colleagues. This will help them grow professionally and develop core skills. Additionally, if your HR team is overburdened and cannot run reviews now, employee-driven feedback can replace reviews.

Modify goals as needed

Finally, to ensure that employees are set up for success in this ever-changing environment, enable workers to adjust goals downward if needed. We’ve seen this done at many companies for sales professionals, who may have difficulty hitting their previous quotas, and customer success managers, who may be experiencing more churn outside of their control. Additionally, if it’s too difficult for certain employees to work towards numeric results, managers can create qualitative scorecards to reward employee behaviors. 

If you’re interested in consulting with an expert on performance review options for your company, contact us here.