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Performance Reviews for Remote Workers

Performance Reviews for Remote Workers: An Actionable Guide

Make remote worker performance reviews simpler by following these nine steps, including creating metrics and preparing an agenda.

Performance Reviews for Remote Workers: An Actionable Guide

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In 2019, only 5.7% of the American working population was fully remote. As of 2022, this number had jumped to 26%. And we all know this trend is here to stay.

Remote work has put more employees on the “blind side” of managers and leaders. Previously many managers relied on what you may call the eye test—watching employee interactions in the office and with each other. 

This includes things like who’s actively attending meetings, who’s being proactive and taking charge of situations, and who’s engaging and collaborating with other team members. 

Now managers can’t 100% track these things because they happen inside digital tools and apps, sometimes in employee-to-employee chat rooms. That’s why performance reviews for remote workers are not exactly straightforward. 

Often a manager might even feel that they don’t know their remote workers well, and having formal reviews over video calls might initially feel offputting. But managers can make performance reviews more comfortable and efficient by having a streamlined and well-defined process for conducting them. 

In this article, we dive deep into the nine steps you can incorporate into your performance reviews for remote workers to make your reviews fairer and ensure every employee is productive and engaged. 

How To Conduct Performance Reviews for Remote Workers

Only 25% of companies in North America believe that their performance reviews are effective. One of the ways to make performance reviews simpler and more effective is to have a repeatable and well-defined process. 

Below, we have outlined nine actionable steps to help you fine-tune your performance review process. 

1. Set the schedule

woman scheduling on her calendar

Creating a routine around remote worker performance reviews allows you and remote workers to plan. Ensure employees know how often reviews will happen. 

How often should you have them? Too spread out, and some employees may get away with bad performances. It may be harder to help such employees till it’s too late. Too regular, and it may be bordering on micromanagement. 

In one survey of 1,000 US employees, about 50% said they had annual or semiannual performance reviews. The same study found that 28% of organizations were conducting reviews quarterly.

Quarterly reviews are likely the better option. First, it allows enough time to catch poor performances and help employees improve. 

Second, quarterly reviews allow you to build a more comprehensive view of an employee’s job performance; waiting a year or six months may affect your ability to recall some of the employee’s good works. 

Another benefit of regular performance reviews is that employees know where they stand and what is expected of them.

In addition to the quarterly reviews, it’s a great idea to incorporate regular one-to-one chats with remote team members to give informal feedback. This would ideally be by using video conferencing platforms or, if scheduling is an issue, an online chat tool, which may feel more personal than using email. About 96% of employees regard regular feedback as a good thing, and sometimes a quick chat is all that’s needed to provide some useful feedback. 

2. Prepare an agenda

Performance reviews are notorious for giving employees heart palpitations. The primary cause of employee anxiety when they have impending reviews is the fear of the unknown. 

You can eliminate their fear by preparing and sharing an agenda of the performance review before the review day, perhaps a week prior. The agenda will help employees know what to expect and help them prepare for the appraisal. 

Preparing an agenda before the review meeting ensures the appraisal is laser-focused rather than all over the place. In thinking about the agenda of the meeting, let the overarching premise tie back to enshrining your organization’s culture, values, and goals. 

For example, you may want to include vision casting. You can relate your discussions back to your company’s vision. This allows your remote worker to see the role they have to play in achieving the company’s near- and long-term goals. 

When it’s time to schedule you remote performance review, send the employee the agenda along with the invite for the video conferencing tool you will be using. 

3. Create metrics

OKRs v KPIs infographic
Source: What Matters

Developing metrics helps employee performance reviews to remain objective. There’s nothing more objective than using data. The main question is: What are you measuring and why? Are you collecting data on key performance indicators (KPIs) or objectives and key results (OKRs)? 

For example, you can give a web editor the KPI of proofreading 20 blog posts per month. This KPI may be tied to an OKR to improve the blog’s overall quality. 

You can add other KPIs to this OKR, including developing content creation guidelines and creating a process for quality checks. 

Whichever metrics you’re using, you must define and communicate them early on. It’s imperative to share what an employee will be judged on during onboarding, including KPIs and OKRs. Setting expectations early on is one of the best practices for a great virtual onboarding process.

Ultimately, you need data to cover a remote employee’s productivity, efficiency, and growth. Productivity measures an employee’s output, while efficiency measures how well they use resources like time and how they communicate. Growth measures an employee’s improvement over a set time. 

So how do you measure productivity, efficiency, and growth for remote employees? Depending on the role, the KPIs for remote workers you may want to look at include:

  • Reply times
  • Time it takes to complete tasks 
  • Knowledge and skill retention

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4. Include everyone

To get different perspectives about an employee, you should get feedback from everyone who works with them. You may only be privy to one side of an employee. But talking to other employees can give you 360-degree feedback. 

Seeking others’ perspectives is even more imperative for remote workers because there are a lot of micro-interactions between coworkers in chat rooms and email threads that you’re unaware of. You can’t evaluate how collaborative and helpful an employee is without speaking with other team members. 

A remote worker may be responsive to you, but their replies to and work with colleagues might be halfhearted and indifferent. Involving other team members and managers that work with the employee will help you unearth such cases.

It’s also good practice to allow team members to discretely answer questions like who they go to for help, who they see as a high performer, and who they think is underperforming and why. 

5. Use assessment tools

If you were managing one or two persons, you might get away with doing performance reviews on paper. But as your team grows, you need a tool that makes the process simple and easy to track. 

With such tools, assigned users (employees and managers) can provide feedback on other employees and document performance. Employees can also perform self-assessments with these tools. The top three remote worker performance review tools are:

  1. Engagedly
  2. Reflektive
  3. Workhuman Conversations

Some HR management systems also have built-in performance review features. These tools or apps provide a seamless way to document everything about an employee in the same place. The top three HR management systems with performance management features are:

  1. BambooHr
  2. SAP SuccessFactors HXM Suite
  3. Workday Human Capital Management

6. Include a self-assessment

Career developent model
Source: Monday.com

Provide a structured way for remote workers to assess their performance over the review period. One of the benefits of self-assessments is that you can gauge how much value an employee thinks they are contributing to the company. 

Another benefit is that you’ll hear directly from them about where they think they can improve, which can lead to more focused goals. Last, it’s a chance for employees to provide more evidence about their value to the company. 

A structured self-assessment encompasses the use of questionnaires with both open-ended questions and questions with ranking or rating scales. The key is to include questions that allow the employee to paint a complete picture of their performance and contributions. 

7. Aim to motivate

Employee performance reviews can be a chance for managers to motivate their remote teams. At every step of the performance reviews, ensure employees feel you are here to help and not to look for scapegoats. Every action must reflect this, from word choice to the tone you use to deliver your feedback. 

Your overarching goal is to help employees identify what they’re doing well and where they’re lacking. For the former, you praise and reward them so they can do more. 

For the latter, you work with employees to set SMART objectives and provide tools to meet these objectives. These tools can include providing training vouchers or assigning employees new mentors. 

It’s imperative to be careful with poor performers, especially if they were great in the past. That includes digging deep to find out why their performance slumped. It could be a communication issue regarding expectations and their role. It could also be just a personal problem unrelated to the workplace. 

Showing you care beyond slapping an underperformer tag on them can be a source of motivation and commitment to do better. 

You can attach performance bonuses to the SMART objectives to reward employees for improving their performance. According to McKinsey, specific financial incentives can spur rapid performance improvement

8. Welcome feedback

At the end of the review session, give room for the employee to share their thoughts. It could be about the performance review, their line manager, or other subjects, like their career development. 

Account for this in the agenda you’ll share with employees so they can come to the meeting with questions and feedback. You can also create prompts for those who may feel they have nothing to say. Cues like ‘How are you feeling about your home office setup?’ or ‘What do you think about ABC incentives?’ could encourage employees to open up to you. 

Make it clear that you’ll treat everything they discuss with you with the utmost decorum and, if necessary, strict confidentiality. 

9. Define the next steps

For the high performers, be very effusive with praise and ensure they get any rewards or bonuses they have earned. Try to learn what motivates them and the key factors they attribute to their success. This information can help when you’re recruiting other remote workers. 

Also, ensure they’re aware of the established promotion pipeline in the company and what extra things they need to do to advance. 

For the average performers, it’s imperative to understand what motivates them, especially if they’ve meandered around this level for a long time. Ask for their job aspirations and where they see themselves in the company in a few years. 

For the underperformers, jointly create SMART goals and objectives and a development plan that makes the goals more feasible. Set goals not too far from the remote worker’s previous performance. 

For example, if they made 20 sales within the review period, you can set the next target at 30 instead of 50 or even 100. And you may want to commit to weekly sessions to both encourage and monitor progress for a set period. 

The employees have work to do, but so do you. 

If there’s a knowledge gap in the organization, then you must evaluate the existing training curriculum to see where it can be improved. 

You may also discover you’re not hiring the right fit for some roles. In such cases, you must go back to the drawing board, from analyzing the job descriptions to evaluating your onboarding process. 

In the same vein, you may need to review employee compensation in your company to ensure it’s fair and commensurate with the skill level of each employee. 

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Final Thoughts

Performance reviews for remote workers are x-ray scans for both employer and employee. They say a lot about a company’s culture and hiring and onboarding processes. 

The steps above will help you create a performance review process that keeps your employees engaged and productive. From creating a schedule to preparing an agenda to defining the next steps for each employee, the aim is to help employees perform better. 

That said, continuous and consistently poor performance from multiple remote workers is a sign of poor hiring. 

Near can help you hire motivated and driven remote workers in Latin America, often at lower rates than US-based talent. You don’t have to worry about spending hours scouring through job platforms and hundreds of CVs to find the right fit—we bring the best-matched talent to you. 

Interested? Fill out this form, and we will have the best talent ready to join you within three weeks.

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Set Up Your Remote Team Up For Success

Set Up Your Remote Team Up For Success

Streamline performance reviews, goal setting, and improvement tracking with the Remote Employee Performance Improvement Plan

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