For many organisations, when the workplace had to quickly adapt to cope with COVID-19, they didn’t expect to still be managing those challenges come performance review time.

Yet, as November looms, that’s exactly what businesses are facing – performance management alongside COVID-19. While some aspects of performance management might remain the same, others will need to be rethought whether staff are homeworking, or working onsite socially distanced, or both.

To ensure performance reviews run smoothly in a COVID-19 world, businesses will need to step up their reliance on HR technology to organise, facilitate and document performance management processes and outcomes.

performance review covid-19

Start with the paperwork

If your performance management reviews used to be a face-to-face conversation between a line manager and their employee, handwritten on a sheet of paper, chances are this isn’t going to be appropriate this year. Being ‘face-to-face’ is unlikely for many organisations, and social distancing changes this interaction for those who are physically onsite anyway. And why share paperwork (with multiple people having to physically handle that item) when you could use digital documents instead?

So, before you refine your performance management processes to ensure they’re delivering what the business needs, make sure your staff have the tools they need to conduct a basic annual review.

Using a performance module, like Cezanne HR’s, allows line managers to document their formal appraisals (and their informal check ins and goals, too). Cezanne HR customers configure their own appraisal forms in the system, with 6 areas that can make up the form (all sections are optional and configurable except for the employee summary):

  • Overall score
  • Employee summary
  • Instructions
  • Sections
  • Additional comments
  • Signatures

Providing your employees with standard appraisal forms (you can create multiple forms for different departments, seniority etc.) makes it much easier for line managers to be aligned in how performance is assessed across the organisation. Having them stored and shared via Cezanne HR’s performance module means they are easy to find, amend and use as needed – and all without a single piece of paper being passed from person to person.

How will the meeting take place?

Once you’ve created your appraisal form/s, you need to think about how your review conversations are going to take place. Even if you have people working onsite, it might be more comfortable, and safer, for all performance review conversations to be conducted via a video call.

If your staff have been using video calling technology regularly, there may be a temptation to assume that everyone will be confident in using this platform for performance reviews; but this might not be the case. Many people are still nervous about turning their videos on when doing work calls, and they might need some pointers about the best way to use this channel of communication.

In a recent Cuppa Series Live webinar: Body Language, by Liz Sewell for the-centre, Liz tackled body language on video calls. She included practical advice, for example, how much of yourself to present in the screen view, and how to show you’re engaged and listening.

Why not create your own video calling tutorial for your staff? You can help them get the best out of the tool so that when they are having important conversations, like performance reviews, the conversation is enhanced rather than hindered by technology. Once people are confident with using video calling technology, they may even find that it’s a more comfortable way to have what can sometimes be difficult work conversations, as they don’t have the added stress of being physically sat across from the other person.

Your overall process

Once you’ve covered the practicalities of your COVID-19 performance reviews by way of the appraisal form and how the meeting will take place, spend some time looking at your existing processes to ensure they still work with the current restrictions/changes. And if you don’t already have a documented HR-led performance review process, now is a good time to create it.

Cezanne HR’s performance management module allows you to organise a comprehensive performance appraisal process within the system. Your process can have up to seven configurable stages with multiple users attached to it. Like with the appraisal forms, you can have many processes, and you can start them at different times and run them for different frequencies (annual, quarterly, monthly, etc).

If your HR team is quiet at the moment, this might be a good opportunity to build out your performance review processes, tailoring them to different areas of the business as needed. If you’re experiencing a very busy period, you can keep your performance review processes as simple as you need to in Cezanne HR, reassured that the system will help with implementing that workflow.

Why performance reviews are still important

Measuring performance and progress might be the furthest thing from many business leaders’ minds, as they contend with pressing concerns about the future of their organisation due to COVID-19. But, there are a number of reasons why performance reviews should go ahead, including:

  • Productivity and profit: during these very uncertain times, no business should take their eye off productivity and profit. Staying on top of performance is critical in ensuring a business keeps performing and addresses any output concerns. Performance reviews also gives employees an opportunity to put forward any ideas they may have to increase results. And by documenting the whole process, businesses will have critical insights into performance if they need to make tough decisions about changes to the organisation.
  • Employee engagement: Everyone has been affected by COVID-19 in one way or another, so employee engagement has really become a duty of care. Performance reviews are a very important check-in point for employees and an opportunity for managers to ensure their employees are doing okay. This is even more critical when people are homeworking as they might not have had the same amount of one-on-one time, manager to employee, during this very upended year. Employees and managers may also find reassurance in engaging in a structured routine process, especially if it’s one that they are very familiar with; in times of change, familiarity can be calming and grounding.
  • Retaining and growing talent: Some businesses might feel like they’re doing everything they can to stay afloat right now, but it’s wise to also keep one eye on tomorrow. With mass redundancies taking place, there could be a sad temptation to assume the talent you want for tomorrow will be easy to find when you need it – but a flooded market means you’re going to be sifting through mountains of CVs to find that talent, or paying recruiters to find it for you. Doing what you can to encourage and develop the talent you can keep now might be a very competitive advantage as the economy recovers.

Let Cezanne HR help you with your performance management. Request a no-obligation, free remote demonstration of Cezanne HR’s performance management module to find out more.

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Shandel McAuliffe author image

Shandel McAuliffe

Now based in sunny Australia, Shandel is prolific writer and editor - particularly in the world of HR. She's worked for some big names, including the CIPD and the Adecco Group. And more recently, she's been the Editor for new HR publication HR Leader.