Contributed by Dr. Gleb Tsipursky, CEO of the boutique future-proofing consultancy Disaster Avoidance Experts, which helps forward-looking leaders avoid dangerous threats and missed opportunities. A best-selling author, his newest book is Returning to the Office and Leading Hybrid and Remote Teams. We asked Dr. Tsipursky how leaders can better manage their teams by revising their performance review process. Here’s what he shared:
The pandemic forced leaders to reconcile with the need for effective hybrid and remote team management strategies, including in performance evaluations. Research shows the benefits of replacing large-scale quarterly or annual performance reviews with more frequent, brief reviews focused on task performance, effective feedback and coaching. To survive and thrive, leaders need to benchmark to best practices on performance evaluation for hybrid and remote team management in our new normal.
Hybrid is our future
During the pandemic, two-thirds of all US workers worked remotely some of the time, and over a half full-time. Surveys show that between two-thirds and three-quarters of employers intend to permanently switch to a mainly hybrid schedule of one to three days in the office combined with a minority of fully remote employees.
The question is: If a large majority of employees work most of their hours at home, how will their performance be measured?
Performance evaluation in the new normal
Too many managers and companies still rely on “time in the office” as a primary measure of evaluating performance. This has led to employees focusing more on “time logged” rather than their actual contribution to the company.
As survey responses show, many employees and top leaders feel concerned about the possibility of hybrid and remote work undermining their career growth. To allay these concerns, employee performance evaluation systems need to stop relying on time worked.
The companies I helped guide through this transition shifted to regular, weekly or biweekly performance evaluations of team members by team leaders. Some added an occasional 360-degree evaluation component by one’s teammates and other stakeholders once every month or couple of months.
Weekly performance check-ins
The weekly performance evaluation takes place during brief check-in and review meetings of 15-30 minutes between each team member and the team leader. The day before each meeting, the employee submits a concise report, containing:
- Top three to five individual or collaborative task accomplishments for the past week, compared with what they planned to accomplish
- Challenges experienced in achieving their goals for the week
- Measures to address these challenges and future plans in similar scenarios
- Ideas to improve professional development against goals that the employee identified during their quarterly review
- A numerical self-evaluation of the week’s performance in all of these areas, typically in a range of 0 to 4 (0 = greatly below expectation, 1 = somewhat below expectations, 2 = meeting expectations, 3 = somewhat exceeding expectations, 4 = greatly exceeding expectations)
- Their plans for next week’s top three accomplishments, addressing challenges, professional growth, and any other relevant projects
The supervisor then responds to the employee’s report, in writing, at least two hours before the meeting. That involves:
- Comparing and assessing the accomplishments for this week against the plan from the prior week
- Evaluating how the team member addressed any challenges remaining from the past week, as well as new ones arising this week
- Assessing their professional growth against previously-set goals for the quarter
- Approving or suggesting revisions to the employee’s plans for next week
- Either approves the employee’s self-evaluation or suggests they discuss it further
During the check-in meeting, the team leader and member discuss anything that needs to be clarified from the report. The leader coaches the employee as needed on improving their ability to accomplish weekly goals, address challenges, make the best decisions, cultivate relationships effectively, and grow professionally. The supervisor also addresses any issues surrounding the self-evaluation, revising it up or down. The supervisor explains their reasoning, gives the employee a chance to respond, and then makes the final call.
This rating goes into the team member’s quarterly performance report. The report is largely determined by the weekly evaluations, which make up anywhere from 60-80 percent of the employee’s final score for the quarter. Team evaluations account for 20 percent while the supervisor also gives an overall score for the quarter, which makes up the remaining 20 percent.
With this system, each employee remains aware of their performance, and areas for improvement, both in their tasks and in professional growth. Problems can be mitigated earlier, rather than blindsiding team members in a quarterly review. This system not only maximizes productivity, but also minimizes turnover, as well as concerns about career growth via proximity to supervisors by team members who come to the office a couple of days per week vs. those working remotely.
Performance evaluations are a key indicator of any office’s productivity levels. Yet the old style of performance evaluation simply doesn’t work in hybrid and remote team management. To address this issue, leaders must adopt research-based best practices for performance reviews to ensure employee productivity remains high for all hybrid and full-time remote employees.