When managers tell remote employees what to expect, the remote employees are more prepared and engaged in the process and feel cared about by their manager. In this video, learn how to describe the virtual performance appraisal process to your direct reports.
- A few years ago, I was facilitating a program for new managers. I asked them about the worst performance appraisal they've ever experienced. One of them told me this. His manager had tapped him on the shoulder, led him into a conference room, handed him his review, and said, "We're going to do your performance appraisal now." That's it! No warmup, no preparation, nothing. If it's one thing I love, it's examples of what not to do and this is that. I think don't blindside your people is always a good rule of thumb. A successful performance review starts with the lead-up. That's even more important when you're doing it virtually. You know, when all you all are virtual, you only have such a clear view into what they're doing, and they won't pick up your game plan organically when you tell them bits and pieces of what you're thinking when you're having lunch together. Also, to me, it's incredible how many surprises there are when people are not working in the same environment. One of the leaders I coach invited a new employee into a staff meeting. Not only was her presence a surprise, a number of his team hadn't even realized that she'd started yet. Not such a big deal, but it caused a little kerfuffle that he had to go and soothe. Surprises are not your friend, especially when it comes to virtual performance appraisals. Now let's assume that you discuss goals with your employees upfront. Good job. It's not a bad idea to tell them at that point how you'll do the performance appraisal process. For example, you might say, "You know we do a midyear performance review in July or so and a year-end performance review in late January. I'll remind you about this a month or two beforehand and give you more detail about the process." But you also need to tell them what exactly will happen, like this, "I'll ask you to do a self-appraisal and then I'll get some input from the people you interact with. We'll sit down together over virtual coffee and have a conversation. I'll be keeping track of your wins and your accomplishments throughout the year and you should do the same. And by the way, since we're virtual, I'll try to over-communicate with you, and I would ask that you over-communicate with me what you're working on and your wins and your problems. Let's both work on not surprising each other. We'll also talk about how you want to develop yourself, where you want to go in your career, and how to get there. Let's aim to talk about that a couple of times this year. Make sure you think about it." When the time gets closer, say six or so weeks out, remind them of the same process. Ask them if they have questions and then work out the fine details, like when you'll have the review and if you will get their input on who you should talk to about their work. You have to build trust and over-communicate throughout the year to make sure your virtual performance appraisals is set up for success. A heads-up now saves headaches later.