Performance reviews are vital for hybrid workplaces and teams, providing a formal way to evaluate performance, set goals, give feedback, and align expectations. In the hybrid setting, where employees may work remotely or have flexible schedules, monitoring productivity and progress can be challenging.
Balancing the management of a hybrid team can be a daunting task in itself, let alone ensuring that the review process is both enlightening and appreciative.
Enforcing fairness and transparency at every step of the review process can result in an equitable evaluation, regardless of work arrangements. When performance reviews are fair and transparent, employees are more motivated, engaged, and committed.
However, it is easier said than done.
What is a performance review?
Performance review, also referred to as performance appraisal, is a periodic and formal evaluation of an employee’s overall performance based on established task requirements.
A performance review session will typically include the attendance of managers and other key stakeholders in charge of assessing your performance. Depending on the company’s policy, a performance review can take place annually, every six months, or even weekly.
The main purpose of a performance review is to give employees constructive feedback regarding their strengths and weaknesses to help enhance their skills and expertise in the future.
How to make a performance review fairer and more transparent in a hybrid work environment
Emphasising culture and values
It is essential for all employees at hybrid workplaces to thoroughly understand and act in alignment with the vision, mission, and value of their companies, regardless of their background and location. One effective method to reinforce culture and values is through a performance appraisal.
For instance, Zappos - an American online shoe and clothing retailer, evaluates their employees not only on performance but on how they promote Zappos culture as well. According to Mr. Tony Hsieh, founder and former CEO of Zappos, “We’ll fire people if they’re not good for the culture, even if they are doing their work perfectly fine.”
Similarly, the performance assessment process at Johnstone Supply, a leading wholesale distributor for HVACR equipment, is always centred around values. According to CHRO Chris Geschickter, “When we do performance reviews, our values are our leading criteria. The majority of how we do performance evaluations is by reflecting on our core values and then assessing whether an employee’s behaviour is aligned with them in terms of customer service, teamwork, and such. To us, performance evaluation is a conversation throughout the year, with a lot of self-evaluations.”
This value-based approach to evaluation creates a popular platform for assessing the performance of employees of multicultural backgrounds while promoting a unified workplace culture.
Set up clear evaluation goals and criteria
When conducting performance reviews, especially in a hybrid workplace, establishing clear evaluation goals and criteria plays an essential role in ensuring transparency and that each employee undergoes the same experience.
Setting up SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound) and aligning them with the company’s and the team’s objectives will help employees understand how they will be evaluated and what is expected from them.
You can utilise online tools and platforms to keep track of the progress and monitor the outcomes, as well as provide further feedback for improvement.
A crucial factor to consider is the criteria to assess the performance of in-office and remote employees cannot be the same as their working conditions are vastly different.
For instance, annual reviews may not be sufficient for remote employees; instead, a biweekly check-in or self-evaluation submission will be more suitable. Besides these two assessment approaches, it is necessary for managers to collect feedback from colleagues to have a more objective overview of an employee's performance.
Reinforce fairness during performance evaluation
Embracing fairness in performance appraisals not only creates a sense of trust, motivation, and engagement among employees, but it also helps drive businesses' success.
In a hybrid work environment, you need to diligently apply fair approaches to evaluate employees regarding both the quantity and quality of the task as well as the demeanour and qualifications demonstrated by them.
Biases should be avoided at all costs, as they can affect the accuracy and outcome of the appraisal. In addition, collecting feedback from various sources, such as peers, customers, or even the employee themselves can provide you with a more comprehensive and objective overview.
Choose the appropriate performance review method for your organisation
If done right, performance reviews can help bolster the relationship between managers and their employees. Today, there are a plethora of performance appraisal methods, tools, and solutions available, all of which have their own merits and demerits. Choosing a suitable method depends greatly on your company’s policy, culture, and goals.
Below are some common performance review approaches:
- Self-evaluation: employees will evaluate their own performance based on predetermined criteria. The result will be used for in-depth discussion afterwards between their line managers, colleagues, and subordinates.
- Behavioural checklist: a checklist of appropriate behaviours an employee should follow. Depending on the job and the culture, each company’s behavioural checklist may differ.
- 360-degree feedback: this method will provide managers with a more comprehensive overview of an employee by collecting feedback from various sources, including peers, supervisors, etc., with whom the employee works regularly.
- Management by objectives: each member will work with their managers to set individual performance objectives they need to fulfil before a determined deadline.
- Rating scale: the most commonly used method for evaluating employees based on specific criteria, with rating scales ranging from 1 to 5 or 1 to 10.
Reduce comparison between employees
Each employee is unique. They have different strengths, weaknesses, skillsets, and thus, it is impossible and unfair to compare an employee with anyone else.
Appraisals based on comparing different employees can trigger unhealthy, competitive practices, resentment, or demotivation within the individual and their team and can potentially lead to distrust and conflict within the company.
Besides, when an individual is exaggeratedly praised and regarded as a role model, it can erode other employees’ self-confidence. As a result, they struggle more to realise and nurture their potential.
Another aspect worth noting when evaluating a remote employee is individually controllable factors. For example, in some situations, late attendance to a virtual online meeting should be addressed individually at some point but it should not count against the employee in a review. They might experience technical issues or an unexpected power outage.
Likewise, when it is not compulsory for all staff to be present in the office, an employee who regularly comes to the office should not be rewarded more than an employee who primarily works from home due to long distance or health issues.
To minimise the possibility of bias, managers should become aware of the proper way to reflect and focus on providing feedback/ feedforward that can actually help employees improve rather than factors beyond their control.
With the rise of companies following a hybrid working style, it is important to carefully develop a fair, transparent, and inclusive performance review process.
This will help ensure every employee has the same opportunities to be acknowledged for their contributions, work attitude, and competencies, thus raising job satisfaction, boosting productivity, and creating a more equitable and engaging workplace for an increasingly diverse workforce today.