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Dec 18, 2020
This article is part of a series called COVID-19 Coverage.

At the heart of performance management is the performance review. This year, however, disruptions and workplace changes caused by the Covid-19 pandemic make conducting effective and meaningful appraisals much harder. Unusual circumstances right now (higher percentage of employees working remotely and balancing work and family requirements during lockdowns) make it more challenging for HR to help managers prepare evaluations that are fair and accurate. 

Yet providing effective and honest feedback is still critical, especially when you consider that a poor performance-review process can do more harm than good. For instance, research shows that 85% of employees say they would consider quitting after an unfair performance review. What’s more, 51% of people planning to quit would share negative information about the employer.

Here are some ideas that can help you provide meaningful and constructive appraisals during a pandemic:

Don’t Skip Them 

For starters, effective performance reviews require actually having performance reviews. As tempting as it may be to delay or skip appraisals during today’s health crisis, doing so would send a message to managers and employees that reviews are not really important. Consequently, when you’d eventually resume reviews, managers might view them as an unnecessary exercise in paperwork.

Be Flexible

It’s important to look at performance criteria in light of the crisis’ impact on business operations and individual employee circumstances. For instance, it’s highly unlikely that the performance objectives and business goals that were set at the beginning of the cycle have remained unchanged. 

Therefore, review and adapt performance expectations and employee objectives. Consider temporarily relaxing or redefining usual standards. Also think about increasing the value of certain employee attitudes and attributes, such as adaptability, cooperation, and teamwork in the face of constantly changing requirements and demands.

Consider Compliance

Regardless of how you adapt your process, it must remain legally compliant. You should not score an employee lower for requesting an accommodation to be able to do their work or for taking leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). The same is true for requirements, guidance, or recommendations issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other national and local agencies. 

Be Transparent

The credibility of HR leaders and managers is dependent on their honesty. Regardless of changes to your process, it is essential to let employees know what those changes are and why you made them. Employees likely will be concerned about how the changes affect their job security and, if reviews are tied to merit pay increases, how such changes will impact potential raises.\

You should also communicate changes clearly and with full support of your senior leadership team. Be direct, respectful, and honest. Above all, the key message is to let employees know that they are valued, and that they can trust that your leaders have made the changes with their best interests in mind.

Ultimately, by being adaptable and considering new ways of doing things, you can ensure that your performance appraisals are accurate and effective — even in a pandemic.

This article is part of a series called COVID-19 Coverage.
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