How Managers Should Do Performance Reviews During A Pandemic

Is this the year that you should ease up on your evaluations?
Is this the year that you should ease up on your evaluations?
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Clearly the pandemic has changed just about everything having to do with going to work. As the season for end-of-the-year performance reviews starts to arrive, many team members may be starting to experience the standard level of dread that they feel every year. However, the pandemic has changed everything else and so perhaps it should also change the way that evaluations are done. This is something that managers need to carefully consider.

This Year Everything Is Different

Many managers say they are using their manager skills to take a gentler approach to evaluations as the pandemic wears on and team members face trials on the job and at home. For much of the labor force, the idea of checking off goals set during the comparatively rosy close of 2019 now seems so last-year. Many companies have shifted what they are doing dramatically, teams have been redeployed, and workers are often doing the jobs of departed colleagues in addition to trying on the role of teacher or caregiver for a chunk of the workday.

In response, some managers are scrapping parts of their performance-management systems, like mid-year reviews and numeric ratings. Others are instituting a sort of performance-score inflation, managers are being urged to avoid doling out that dreaded “does not meet expectations” label.

It’s all part of a new pandemic-driven management style being taught in manager training called empathetic leadership. To be sure, some managers remain unmoved, expecting things to march on as if nothing has changed. But many say these days they are recognizing—and evaluating—the employee as a whole person and not just a worker bee. Empathy, caring, supporting people is really the theme this time around. Performance reviews which were once reckonings that could lead to a swift departure are now turning into health checks. Managers are mostly using the time to make sure their people are OK and to inject some energy into flagging teams.

How Best Use Evaluations

Managers believe that workers probably have two years of leniency before the performance reviews that kept them up at night return. For now, most companies aren’t completely canceling reviews, according to surveys, but many are adjusting the process. Some companies won’t be handing out bonuses or raises at all this year, as they weather economic turmoil. In those situations, a glowing review might help soften the blow of a stagnant salary managers hope.

Some managers say they worry employees will burn out or leave if they feel they’re being held to unattainable standards during the crisis. Managers know that they need to get people through this with them. Other managers are realizing that no one has time for endless forms and tedious meetings these days. The message to employees is often, “Take on this. I know you don’t know what it is, but just do it for us now.” If workers are preoccupied with hitting old goals or worried about ratings, they won’t be able to pivot. We want everyone to work on team building.

So managers have simplified their performance-review template. This may mean whittling a “spiderweb matrix” of competencies and objectives down to just three questions. Eliminating formal mid-year reviews can save managers 20 hours. For year-end assessments, managers are urged to consider effort, not just outcomes.

What All Of This Means For You

The Covid-19 pandemic has changed just about everything having to do with working in an office. As the end of the year starts to approach, managers need to be getting ready for the annual evaluation of their team members. However, since the work has changed, perhaps this year the annual evaluation needs to change also.

One of the reasons that a manger may consider changing how evaluations are done this year is because what their company does may have also changed due to the pandemic. Things like mid-year reviews have gone out the door. Now managers are trying to practice what is called “empathetic leadership”. Performance reviews can be used to simply check in on how team members are currently doing. If the company won’t be paying bonuses this year, perhaps a good performance review might make up some of the slack. Keeping the performance review simple this year makes life easier for both the team member and the manager.

Managers need to keep in mind that the members of their team are currently living with a lot of new stress in their lives. From attempting to keep members of their family safe while lamenting the loss of all of the routines that they used to enjoy before the pandemic, their lives have become much more complicated. Perhaps this is the year that we should all take a step back and use the annual performance review to thank everyone who is on our team for their efforts during this time of upheaval.

– Dr. Jim Anderson Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Management Skills™

Question For You: How should managers deal with low performing team members this year?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Technology is a wonderful thing. It has allowed managers to use their manager skills to build teams that no longer have to be located in the same location. However, when a team is distributed, there are set of new challenges that managers need to be aware of and find ways to deal with. A team that does not have to work side by side may not develop the same sense of team spirit that can help a team to be successful. What this means for managers is that we need to find ways to create a sense of teamwork among our remote teams.

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