How to evaluate your people in a pandemic and beyond

Feedback is a crucial component of any healthy HR strategy

How to evaluate your people in a pandemic and beyond

Employee feedback is a crucial component of any healthy HR strategy. All too often, HR leaders let evaluations lapse, leaving their teams feeling uncertain and uncomfortable in their roles. The issue of providing continuous feedback has been compounded by COVID-19, as people work remotely and away from the prying eyes of management.

The question on many employer’s minds this year is how exactly can they assess and evaluate employees in a remote working set-up? What questions should you be asking? How often should you meet? How should you collect and analyse the data?

HRD spoke to leading experts in the HR space to uncover the best and most practical ways of evaluating your teams during the pandemic and beyond.

Set clear expectations

Before you go into the meeting, ensure you have done some due diligence. Look at your employees on an individual basis – check their goals, their deadlines, their self-assessments – and take note of any recent changes.

“Set clear performance expectations,” added Dr Melanie Peacock, associate professor of HR, told HRD. “Having employees involved in these discussions enhances understanding and buy-in. Set smart and realistic goals. Even in First Time Fix work there’s been a move toward more frequent, short-term objectives. This allows for more pragmatic and meaningful targets – and motivates employees to work toward realistic outcomes.”

Be persistent

Persistency is key in employee evaluations. A recent report from Officevibe found that 42% of ‘highly engaged’ employees receive feedback from their manger at least once a week. What’s more, employers can expect their turnover rates to fall by 14.9% after implementing a regular feedback system.

The impact of constant evaluations on not only morale but retention is palpable – with 65% of employees calling for more feedback from their team leaders. So why does HR continue to ignore calls for more communication?

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The simple answer is that it’s easy to forget. In this new hybrid and remote working environment, for many employers it’s a case of out of sight out of mind. Try not to let distance stop you from checking in – set up regular meetings, at least two per month. They don’t have to entail huge, sweeping evaluations – a quick catch up with suffice.

Ask the right questions

In your preparatory steps, make a list of questions you want to raise. These should be written on an individual basis – however there’s some generic ones which can be used in all situations.

HRD recommends asking:

  • What accomplishments are you most proud of this month?
  • Did you meet all goals you set?
  • How can I make your job easier?
  • What can I do now to help you succeed this month?
  • Are there any areas of concern to you that you wish to raise?
  • What working conditions do you feel work best for you?
  • How are you doing outside of work?

Practice emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence is something HR leaders will have to master this year. Even as we emerge from the pandemic, it’s not going to be plain sailing. Employees are tired, broken, anxiety-ridden – they’ll need more support now than they did even in the height of the COVID-19 chaos.

“One mistake employers make is forgetting psychological safety – and lowering the fight or flight response,” explained Kim Monney, COO and co-founder of Howamigoing – a platform which facilitates 360-degree employee feedback.

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“You need to ensure that employees feel comfortable and safe throughout the process.  Secondly, it’s essential that you embed a culture of feedback and not just rely on a one-off evaluation. This means when it does come to the meeting, your people are somewhat more prepared.  We also need to stop referring to the process as an ‘evaluation’ – no one wants to be ‘evaluated’ – instead try calling it a ‘reflection’. That’s much less threatening. It's better just to separate them and ensure that the meeting part can be as helpful as possible.”

Verify the data

Data collected from employee feedback deserves to be analysed. Not only does this information help you become a more effective leader, it can also help the company grow and develop. Look for trends which seem to be prevalent across the board – be it a dip in productivity, an interest in benefits, a desire for more training – and use this to start a conversation with the C-Suite.

Finally, remember that these evaluations mean more than just ‘reviewing’ an employee. They serve as a soundboard for rooting out any mental health concerns.

“It’s important to check in – especially during these times,” added Dr Peacock. “I hope that these lessons will continue when we return to hybrid or office work - as showing care and compassion should always be part of managing performance, not just during a pandemic.”

Key Takeaways for HR

  • 42% of ‘highly engaged’ employees receive feedback at least once per week
  • 65% of employees want more regular feedback from their managers
  • Ask employees questions like; what accomplishments are you most proud of this month? Did you meet all goals you set? How can I make your job easier?
  • Use evaluations as a sounding board for psychological wellness – ensure that your people feel safe and not judged during the meeting

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