The goal of performance reviews is to provide employees with feedback that boosts performance. But for many organizations, performance reviews don’t always hit the mark. In a LeadershipIQ study, only 13 percent of employees and managers said they believed their organization’s performance appraisal system was useful.

The Covid pandemic complicated the process of conducting performance reviews, as some managers and employees were (and many still are) physically separated and can’t discuss performance face-to-face. While video feels more personal than a phone call, it’s not the same as an in-person discussion over coffee. Moreover, the shift to remote work and other stressful challenges facing employees have impacted individual and team productivity and made it harder to measure performance.

Despite the WFH shift and the need to communicate with your team differently than before, there are actions you can take to get the most out of performance discussions. Take these steps to host productive and worthwhile virtual performance reviews:

Set the right tone

Whether you conduct performance review discussions quarterly, annually, or on some other schedule, it’s important that you set the tone for a discussion where you and your employee can feel at ease. By doing so, you open the door to a frank discussion with valuable information-sharing.

Before launching into a discussion about goals and progress, engage in a little small talk. Show empathy for whatever else may be going on in the employee’s life. And look for subtle cues in facial expression and body language that are a little harder to read when you’re on video.

Establish two-way dialogue

Every performance review should be more of a conversation than a one-sided lecture of where employees succeeded in their goals or fell short. In addition to giving feedback, ask employees about their career aspirations, what support they need to improve performance, and what they see as their more challenging performance goals.

By encouraging dialogue and asking for feedback as much as you give it, you empower employees to build accountability for their own performance. You also position yourself as a leader who is dedicated to helping them improve. One study found that leaders who asked for feedback were more likely to be considered effective leaders within their organization.

Start (but don’t stop) with video

A performance review discussion is too important not to conduct it over video. When face-to-face isn’t an option, video is the next best thing. However, because “Zoom fatigue” is indeed real (new research shows how draining it can be), it’s a good idea to incorporate other means of communication when it makes sense. For example, when you want to send a note of positive feedback, send a text through the company’s instant messaging platform. And after each video performance review, follow up with an email summarizing everything you discussed. It reinforces the feedback and helps to build a stronger understanding between you and your employees.

Have performance discussions frequently

Conducting a performance review discussion only once or twice a year doesn’t do enough to recognize great performance or help employees who need to make improvements. It’s why an increasing number of companies are moving away from traditional annual performance reviews to quarterly or more frequent feedback processes. Employees also appreciate receiving regular feedback. One study found that more than half of surveyed employees wanted performance check-ins at least monthly. To maximize the impact of performance review discussions, conduct them more regularly. Schedule regular one-on-one video meetings where you can share feedback, discuss training and career development ideas, and provide coaching.

Virtual performance reviews are here to stay in today’s hybrid workplace. By learning effective strategies for delivering feedback virtually, you can enhance the remote work experience for you and the members of your team, now and into the future.

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