Are You Struggling to Conduct Employee Assessments Remotely?


HR Insights for ProfessionalsThe latest thought leadership for HR pros

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Remote working is set to become a permanent feature of how many businesses operate. Make sure your staff assessments don't suffer as a result.

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Are You Struggling to Conduct Employee Assessments Remotely?
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COVID-19 has had countless consequences for people and organizations all over the world. At the height of the pandemic, one of the most significant everyday repercussions employers had to deal with was a sudden increase in remote working as social distancing rules took effect.

There's lots of evidence to suggest this will be a lasting trend. A PwC survey showed that more than three-quarters (78%) of chief executive officers saw remote collaboration as an 'enduring shift' that will continue after the pandemic. Six out of ten (61%) said the same about low-density workplaces.

Many workers appear to be on board with this change. More than four out of five Americans (83%) currently doing their jobs from home told YouGov they enjoyed this way of working, and a similar proportion (86%) said they would be interested in making it a permanent arrangement.

Remote working certainly has its benefits for businesses and employees alike, but there are also potential downsides to consider. For HR, one possible drawback is the difficulty of maintaining crucial processes like staff assessments when you're physically separated from the person you're assessing.

So what measures can you put in place to overcome this challenge?

Use video technology

Starting with the basics, it's vital that you can make eye contact with the employee and speak to them 'face to face', even if the face in question is displayed on a computer screen. This makes it easier to form a human connection and build a clearer picture of how the person is feeling, based on their body language and general demeanor.

The pandemic made technologies like Zoom, Skype, Google Meet and Microsoft Teams invaluable communication tools for countless businesses and individuals. Make sure you're taking advantage of them to keep your appraisals running smoothly.

Take the opportunity to address remote working challenges

Remote employee assessments are a good opportunity to speak to your workforce about the fact that, while the option for them to work from home has many benefits, there could also be some disadvantages. Invite workers to discuss the aspects of this change they’ve found difficult and how you can help them address these issues.

It could also be beneficial to look forward and talk about expectations regarding remote working (from both sides), relevant goals and how the business can help employees develop new skills to succeed at this time of rapid change.

"While performance evaluations necessarily look back, they also provide an opportunity to look ahead and set goals for the coming year." - Susan W. Stang, Vice President of Consulting Solutions at PSI Online

Stay in frequent contact

When you have a large remote workforce, employee assessments shouldn't be annual events. You'll get much more benefit from them if they happen on a regular basis, even if this means they're less formal and structured.

Research by Gallup has shown that frequent conversations between managers and employees lead to the biggest improvements in engagement. Remote workers are reportedly three times more likely to feel engaged if they receive feedback from their manager at least a few times a month.

Some hugely successful businesses, such as Adobe, have abandoned annual reviews and replaced them with ongoing performance management, which is based on consistent dialogue and conversations between managers and staff.

Make it a two-way street

A common problem with traditional staff assessments is the feeling on the employee's part that they don't have an active role in the process. When they're conducted poorly, assessments can feel like they're only happening so a manager can check a box, or tell workers where they're falling short and need to improve.

This raises the likelihood of the employee switching off and coming away with a negative impression of the whole experience - a particularly big risk if they're working remotely and might already feel less engaged with their managers, co-workers and the day-to-day goings-on within the business.

You can address this problem by making sure every worker going through an appraisal has an active part to play in the process. These meetings should be two-way conversations where the employee is encouraged to talk about their recent experiences at work, things they’ve found difficult, areas where they feel they’ve done well and their goals for the future.

Collect and act on feedback

The most valuable source of insight into the effectiveness of your employee appraisals will always be the people who are experiencing them firsthand. There's a lot to be gained from collecting as much feedback as you can about how workers feel the process is functioning, particularly when it's being conducted remotely.

Give your people plenty of opportunities to share their thoughts on the company's assessment methods, which elements they think work well and where they believe improvements could be made.

Taking these opinions on board and acting on them will not only lead to a more responsive and effective performance review system, but demonstrate to your workers that their input is valued. This will lead to long-term benefits such as increased staff satisfaction and a stronger employer brand.

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