How To Make Remote Performance Reviews Work

By Lorena Schott | September 2, 2020

One of the greatest challenges any small business faces is the effective delivery of employee feedback, and especially those periodic performance reviews. In the time of COVID-19 and its remote nature, many managers now find themselves tasked with how to lead and direct employees from afar. If you’re tasked with delivering critical conversations like performance reviews, these simple tips can help you get the most out of having this conversation virtually.

  1. Let employees know that you would like to see them. Sensitive conversations like performance reviews are far more streamlined when you can see the employee’s facial expressions and reactions–even if the review is positive. Schedule at least one hour to have your performance review conversation, and let employees know that the review will be the focus of the meeting. Try not to schedule too close to the breakfast, lunch or dinner hour. 

    Give your employee several days of advance notice that you would like to have the conversation using live video tools so he can prepare for a private and professional exchange while working from home, particularly now that so many employees are tasked with juggling homeschooling, pets and their job.

  2. Make it a two-way conversation. Traditional performance review conversations tend to focus on basics like compensation changes, granting of promotions, or areas in which the employee succeeded since the last review, as well as opportunities for improvement, skill development, and growth.All of these factors still apply to a remote performance review, but remember that employees likely have more questions about the present and future of their employment and the company as a whole than the past in this new environment. Approach the review as a collaborative conversation, first and foremost, and plan to listen more than you talk. Invite the employee to ask questions about the “new normal” in the company as you review past performance, new goals, and development areas.
  3. Discuss any changed priorities that are a result of this new normal openly and honestly. Business priorities may have shifted in your company over the last weeks or months, and employees may now fear for their job security. Dedicate time in the performance review to discuss the wins and misses of the past, and how the employee can remain a valuable contributor moving forward. Clearly outline duties that may evolve or change in the coming months so the employee understands where to focus, and why.
  4. Lastly, create a plan for how to support your employee. There’s plenty of evidence to suggest that remote workers are more productive than those who work in a physical office, but those stats are based on employees who have chosen to work remotely. The fact is, remote employees currently may not feel connected to company culture or co-workers. Remote work arrangements can be isolating (especially in our current circumstances), and require a level of self-direction, motivation, and discipline that’s not intuitive for every employee. Regardless, many employees do not have a choice about where they’re working right now and acknowledging this with supportive language and actions is really important.

Performance reviews remain a critical management tool for all businesses. Without them, you risk lower morale, decreased productivity, and potential legal trouble if you need to terminate. In the remote work environment, it is more important than ever to make sure you are prioritizing them in your small business, and executing these performance reviews to the best of your capabilities requires great care and attention.

At WESST, we can provide careful consultative guidance in HR topics such as these, and even connect you with professionals from our Advisor Network who can provide you with their consulting services, templates, and important documents for improving your human resources capacity as you grow and thrive.  To connect with a WESST business consultant, please complete the online Business Assistance Request Form.

About the Author


Lorena Schott

Lorena Schott is a native New Mexican that brings a wealth of experience to the WESST team. Before joining WESST in 2009, she worked for Intel where she was acknowledged for her establishment of Intel’s centralized on-line system, rewarding and recognizing employees worldwide.


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