- Many companies rely on “time in the office” to evaluate employee performance, which deemphasizes the employee's actual level of contribution.
- Major companies that transitioned to hybrid work have changed their performance evaluations to be weekly or biweekly, as opposed to annually.
- More frequent performance evaluations allow each employee to remain aware of their performance and mitigate problems earlier.
The pandemic forced leaders to reconcile with the need for effective hybrid and remote team management strategies, including in performance evaluations. Research has shown the benefits of moving away from large-scale quarterly or annual performance reviews. Instead, systematic, frequent, and brief reviews focused on task performance, effective feedback and coaching, and guidance in wise decision-making will replace it in organizations that want to survive and thrive in the post-COVID world. Leaders need to benchmark to best practices on performance evaluation for hybrid and remote team management in our new normal.
Hybrid Is Our Future
During the pandemic, surveys show that two-thirds of all US workers have worked remotely some of the time, and over half full-time.
Surveys from a number of big companies show two-thirds to three-quarters of employers intend to permanently switch to a mainly hybrid schedule of one to three days in the office combined with a minority of fully remote employees. These decisions match with worker desires as numerous surveys show that two-thirds to a quarter of all employees want a hybrid or fully remote schedule permanently even after the pandemic.
We can anticipate that a large majority of these employees will work most of their hours at home, but how will their performance be measured?
Performance Evaluation in the New Normal
Too many managers and companies still rely on “time in the office” as a primary measure of evaluating performance. This has led to employees focusing more on “time logged on” rather than their actual contribution to the company.
As survey responses show, many employees and top leaders feel concerned about the possibility of hybrid and remote work undermining their career growth. To allay these concerns, employee performance evaluation systems need to stop relying on time worked.
Major companies that transitioned to the hybrid future of work shifted to regular, usually weekly or at least every two weeks, performance evaluations of team members by team leaders. Some also added an occasional 360-degree evaluation component by one’s teammates and other stakeholders once every month or couple of months.
The weekly performance evaluation takes place during brief check-in and review meetings of 15-30 minutes of each team member with their team leader. Twenty-four hours before each meeting, the employee submits a concise report, containing:
- Top three-to-five individual or collaborative task accomplishments for the past week, compared to what they planned to accomplish
- Challenges experienced in achieving their goals for the week
- Measures to address these challenges and future plans in similar scenarios
- Measures to improve professional development against goals that the employee agreed to with the team leader on the quarterly review
- A numerical self-evaluation of their performance for the week on all of these areas, typically on a range of 0 to 4 (0 = greatly below expectation, 1 = somewhat below expectations, 2 = meeting expectations, 3 = somewhat exceeding expectations, 4 = greatly exceeding expectations)
- Their plans for next week’s top three accomplishments, addressing challenges, professional growth, and any other relevant plans for next week
The supervisor then responds to the report in writing at least two hours before the meeting. That involves:
- Comparing and assessing the accomplishments for this week against the plan from the prior week
- Evaluating how the team member addressed any challenges remaining from the past week, as well as new ones arising this week
- Assessing their professional growth against previously-set goals for the quarter
- Approving or suggesting revisions to the employee’s plans for next week
- Either approves the employee’s self-evaluation or suggests they discuss it at the weekly meeting
During the check-in meeting, the team leader and member discuss anything that needs to be clarified from the report. The leader coaches the employee as needed on improving their ability to accomplish weekly goals, address challenges, make the best decisions, cultivate relationships effectively, and grow professionally. The supervisor also addresses any issues surrounding the self-evaluation, revising it up or down. They explain their reasoning, give the employee a chance to respond, and then the supervisor makes the final call.
This rating gets fed into the team member’s quarterly performance report. The report is largely determined by the weekly evaluations, which make up anywhere from 60-80% of the employee’s final score for the quarter. Team evaluations account for 20% while the supervisor also gives an overall score for the quarter, which makes up the remaining 20%.
With this system, each employee remains aware of their performance, and areas of improvement, both in their tasks and in their professional growth. Problems can be mitigated earlier, rather than blindsiding team members in their quarterly review. This system not only maximizes productivity but also minimizes turnover, as well as concerns about career growth via proximity to supervisors by team members who come to the office a couple of days per week vs. those working remotely.
Performance evaluations are a key indicator of any office’s productivity levels. Yet the old style of performance evaluation simply doesn’t work in hybrid and remote team management. To address this issue, leaders need to adopt research-based best practices for performance reviews to ensure employee productivity remains high for all hybrid or full-time remote working employees.