Conducting employee performance reviews

Category: Performance Management.

Employee Performance Reviews are a key tool for measuring and forecasting the progress of the employees as well as the organization. Performance reviews can take up a huge amount of time, energy and resources, and can be taxing for the managers as well as employees in the best of times.

Employee performance reviews

The pandemic has wreaked havoc on the way we work and how we perform. It has forced us to think how we can understand and assess performance during lockdowns and market uncertainties. Conducting performance appraisals during these times have become even more of a monumental task as a result.


Most of us spend too much time on what is urgent and not enough time on what is important.

Stephen R. Covey, Author, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

Performance appraisals during the pandemic

The two key questions that arise while planning for performance reviews during a pandemic are.

  • What to measure during the review?
  • How to conduct the review?

What can you measure?

Performance reviews are constantly changing with the evolution of the company. An organization’s goals, targets, scale of operations, competition, market conditions and the nature of challenges change with times, and what you measure in the performance review also changes accordingly.

For instance, the performance indicators during its first year of the company’s operation could be tuned towards how the employees worked to establish the brand in the market by launching the initial range of products. After 10 years, the company would have a wider range of products; it would have established its name and would have got a considerable number of customers. At that time, what you measure would have changed drastically. The ambitions would be much higher, and how you define performance would also vary accordingly.

So, you must ensure that the performance indicators you’re tracking are the right ones not only for the position the reviewed employee holds, but also for the state your company is in.

What to measure during the pandemic?

The pandemic has forced most of the employees to work from home. So the working conditions and environment have changed. The market conditions have also changed; some sectors have seen increased demand, while others have suffered a steep fall.

The goals and targets of the organization and individuals should also be toned down or scaled up depending on how the pandemic has impacted on your sector. Depending on those changes, you will need to set the goals and objectives. You may have to focus on entirely different core competencies and performance indicators in the performance review.

Since the pandemic has completely changed everything, some of the most important core competencies you can measure can be:

  1. Adapting to the change
  2. Innovation required to tackle the fresh challenges and
  3. Flexibility required for effective change management.

You can define performance indicators for those competencies and build a growth trajectory based on those in the future.

1. Adapting to new working conditions and market conditions


As the thin line between home and work disappears in the work-from-home scenario, employees may have to juggle between household duties and work. Due to the wildly varying workload, he/she may also have to switch between multiple tasks. The multi-tasking abilities are an important parameter to assess during a remote performance appraisal during the pandemic.

Managing challenges and limitations

Fluctuating workloads, unforeseen challenges and changing market conditions pose a great deal of challenges for the employee. On the other hand, the employee is also forced to find workarounds for the limitations of working from home. How well an employee manages all that is a key point of assessment in a remote performance review.

Being a team player

Tackling the challenges is one thing, but helping the other team members to adapt to those challenges is entirely a matter of team spirit. Assessing the team spirit in terms of sharing knowledge is indispensable.

Analytical and leadership skills

Analyzing the changes in one’s work due to various factors, adapting to those conditions and taking command of the situation to come up with initiatives for the team to perform better can be a point of assessment in the performance appraisal.

Communication with team

The importance of staying connected with the team can never be understated, especially when everyone is working from home. The ability to constantly stay connected and coordinating with other members to bring out the best from the team can also be measured.

2. Innovation

Innovation that creates new opportunities

The pandemic has created enormous challenges for both the employees as well as the organizations. It has become more important than ever to identify workarounds and innovate to create new opportunities amidst crisis. Every new opportunity can be critical for the survival and success of the organization.

Implementing innovations

Innovations can be conceptualized, but implementing them is an entirely different challenge, especially when most of your workforce is working from home. Coordinating with the team to assess the feasibility and scope, and bringing those innovations to practice and adoption requires persistence and leadership.


The greatest achievements are usually the outcomes of thorough planning. Planning the work, co-ordinating with the team to perfection, sticking to the plan, meeting deadlines and following schedules at a time of crisis goes a long way in achieving the objectives.

Sharing innovation culture

Inculcating a culture in an organization is a challenge even on normal days. Taking the innovation mindset and spreading it across the organization during the time of a pandemic is a highly valuable quality that can be assessed in a remote performance appraisal.

3. Change Management

Adapting to change in plans

Uncertain times come with their own challenges. They bring unforeseen changes that need employees to adapt at an extremely short notice. For instance, if you are shipping a critical component of industrial machinery to a customer, you need manpower to oversee the operations. Coordinating with available members of the team and tackling unforeseen shipping challenges such as lockdown restrictions for road transport requires a great deal of adaptability at a very short notice.

Handling crisis

When the conditions are changing drastically, so many things can quickly go wrong. It requires calm demeanor and resourcefulness to handle the crisis and save the situation.

Communicating changing priorities

While handling a crisis, it requires a great deal of team work. It is crucial to be able to communicate those changing priorities effectively and convey the right action plan to every team member involved.

Finding efficiencies

When the productivity is at a low due to circumstances, it is important to find the right tools and technologies that help to address those shortcomings and get the work done quickly and efficiently.

Inculcating change in team

Bringing the team to an uniiform level of adaptation to change is a challenge. Taking initiative to communicating the change of plans, lessons learnt and ideas that worked to everyone in the team and putting those to practice is a vital quality for an employee to have during a pandemic.

How to conduct a Performance Review during Pandemic?

Unlike the pre-pandemic era, employees are mostly working remotely from their homes due to the lockdown. Employee performance reviews cannot be conducted in the same way you would conduct them at workplace. They have to be conducted remotely, and the review has to be designed to suit the demands created by the post-pandemic conditions.

  • Redefine success
  • The expectations from an employee working from home has to be revised. The criteria that define success would be vastly different during a pandemic. It is important to redefine what you consider as success from every employee. Revise the goals and targets to suit the change in market and working conditions.

  • Plan well in advance
  • Conducting the performance review remotely on a virtual space can make it look more informal than in an office environment. But the objectives remain the same. The performance appraisal has to evaluate the employee on the pre-determined core competencies. So, it should be planned and scheduled well in advance.

  • Give employees time to prepare
  • The employee would be able to prepare better for the performance appraisal in an office setup. He/she would have the instant access to all the mails, notes, calendars and documents that would support his/her claim of achievements and performance. Finding everything and preparing for a review would be different in the work-from-home scenario. So, it is important to give enough time for the employee to prepare for the review.

  • Make performance reviews qualitative
  • Prolonged work from home situation can make an employee disconnected from the organization, and it is crucial to let the employee to participate in the review and establish that sync with the organization. Moreover, ranking employees at a time when the working conditions and quality of life of every employee varies wildly can have a negative impact on the employees’ performance and morale. Create a template with qualitative questions so that it will allow the employee to participate more.

  • Be empathetic
  • There is no other way to define performance review – it is conducted to measure performance, address weaknesses and plan for the future. But the lockdown and pandemic can complicate many aspects of employee life.

    The employee may often encounter interruptions from children at home. He/she may have also suffered from psychological issues due to the prolonged lockdown. His/her family members could have faced health issues. With numerous factors that affect performance, even the best-performing employees may see a dip in productivity or perform inconsistently. Take all these factors into consideration and show leniency, while providing objective feedback on what could be done better.

  • Motivate
  • Look into the positives of the employee’s performance in the period and make sure his/her achievements are noted and even the smallest efforts towards improving the performance are well appreciated. Be supportive of your employees with the aim to build resilience during difficult times.

  • Communicate clearly
  • Unlike a conventional review, a remote performance review does not present you with the opportunity for face-to-face interaction, where you can observe body language and communicate without thinking about any gaps in communication. In a remote review, there is room for technical glitches and messages to get lost in translation. So, communicate clearly, and make sure to clarify if necessary.

  • Create a logical structure for the review
  • A remote review can be seemingly informal without the usual office environment. But the review cannot be an informal interaction. It needs to have a clear structure, which should be followed for capturing the outcomes effectively. The performance review can be structured into three key phases.

    1. Listening

    Listen to everything the reviewee has to say. Allow him/her to express freely and completely and document the key takeaways.

    2. Evaluation

    Evaluate the performance of the employee and provide fair and objective feedback with regard to the criteria you had chosen.

    3. Plan for future

    Set an agenda for the next review period. Mutually agree upon the goals and targets.

  • Follow-up with frequent Self-evaluation review
  • Self evaluation reviews take pressure away from the employees. It helps them avoid the stress caused by constant external scrutiny at a time of crisis. It lets them take ownership of their performance and raise the bar by being self-critical.

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