Making Virtual Performance Management count

One-on-one’s can be effective, even on a video call

Vidhi Kumar
Director - People Capability 14 Feb 2021

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Making Virtual Performance Management count

One-on-one’s can be effective, even on a video call

It’s that time of the year again. We are scheduling reviews, blocking one-on-ones with direct reports and managers, and going over our performance records (even photos of that virtual game show you hosted to showcase your team management skills!). Like every year, performance management time brings a certain whiff in the air – part excitement, part trepidation and definitely a lot of time pressure. But that was every year and 2020 has not been like ‘every’ year! Just like the other aspects of people management, performance appraisals are also impacted this year. With most of the workforce working remotely for a large part of the year and many targets getting impacted, companies are rethinking their performance metrics closely. Not only are organisations reconsidering the year-gone-by, they are also reviewing how new targets should be set up. One could see an opportunity in this adversity. Many organisations are evaluating a move from their traditional annual performance appraisal cycle to the continuous performance cycle or an OKR-based (Objective and Key Results) approach. This was something that so many of us were mulling over for years but never found the right nudge. 2020 seems to have given everyone the right reasons to shed the traditional performance approach and move in favour of more progressive ones. There’s no doubt that this year’s performance exercise will be unlike anyone in the past. While there are several differences, we have put together this go-to guide to help us tide over one unique aspect of this year’s exercise – remote appraisals! For many managers, this could be the first time that their employees are not face-to-face with them during the appraisal. This guide is to help them prepare better and ensure they make the best of the appraisal session.

1. Choose an appropriate environment

Distractions are a reality in the virtual meeting, and so are technological ‘glitches’. Being prepared for both is important. Don’t keep a meeting immediately before or after your one-on-one with a team member. Encourage the team member to do the same. Work out a time when both of you are most productive to avoid virtual fatigue. Also align times with other people at home – perhaps a time when your internet bandwidth will be used least! The review should definitely be a video-based session otherwise it will slip into a monologue of one person talking, and the other listening with their audio and video switched off! And just like you would keep your review documents ready in a physical feedback session, keep everything handy for screen share in this case. If your organisation’s people practices allow, it might even be a good idea to share the doc ahead of the meeting, so your team members can go through it with less anxiety and jot down their thoughts or doubts. This way you can focus the meeting on actionable.

2. Be realistic

2020 was tough for everyone – some more than others. Have you taken a good assessment of how targets changed during the year for your team members? If you had already called this out sometime during the year, great! If not, this may be a good time to have a detailed discussion around what comprises of realistic goals. Use these one-on-one’s to read the pulse on your team members better and build confidence that their performance is being fairly evaluated in the light of the changes.

At the same time, look at the team members who have gone over and above their work. Did they adapt their styles to meet the goals? Did they take extra initiative in another area? Did they do something that was not there on their original KRA sheet? Discuss with your HR beforehand, what your approach is to handle these outliers?

3. Coach more, listen more

A classic performance feedback session is a discussion where the managers and employee speak about KRAs one by one, listen to manager feedback and close with ratings. This year calls for more. More listening. More understanding. More empathy. Your team members have gone through a lot to achieve what they have. Give them the platform to share their stories – struggle or valour as it may be! Appreciative Inquiry (AI) is a great tool to coach your team members in this situation, instead of just giving a direct feedback. AI is a strengths-based model that seeks to engage your audience in self-determined change. Because it focuses on the positive and encourages change from within, the results are far more sustaining that any other feedback model and that’s the reason we at Samriddhi also love using this tool a lot.

4. Think out of the box

Use your creativity this performance appraisal. Think of new metrics that may be more relevant in a virtual work setup, for e.g. response time could be an easy metric to find. Review notes from your slack or teams’ channels or zoom recordings. This could also be the time to really start implementing a competency framework if you don’t already. It takes all subjectivity out of the discussion.

Now more than ever, a performance appraisal must be evidence-based and competency-focused. As we continue to be less visible, any rating of performance must be well-thought through and backed-up with examples of behaviors. Consider making 2021 goals short, objective and adaptive. Also, consider increasing the frequency of your performance discussions. Here’s wishing everyone a highly productive appraisal season in this new normal!

If you liked our article, we also have a visual deck to share with your managers as part of your organisation preparedness for this appraisal season. Drop your details here and we’ll email it to you!

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