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Revisiting Performance Reviews in 2020

As we approach the end of 2020 and reflect on the opportunities and challenges presented by seven months of remote work, managers and employees should begin to prepare for a different type of year-end performance discussion. Some recent reports suggest employees feel they’ve been more productive this year. That’s good news; however, the same report indicates that managers feel less aware of their employees’ day-to-day accomplishments working remotely. This combination suggests the potential for a “disconnect” between managers and employees regarding 2020 performance.

At a recent ABA Business Law Section webinar on the impact of the pandemic on employees and employers and best practices for navigating through change, I offered the following advice to ensure productive employee performance discussions this year:

1. Start planning now to ensure thoughtful and productive discussions: Managers and employees should discuss and agree on what type of information would help assess individual performance in this unusual year. How have goals changed during the year? What new or unique circumstances led to meeting goals? How did the employee meet changing demands?

2. Focus on outcomes, rather than on “how” the work was completed. There have been many unique challenges, complexity, and stress added to the workday for many employees — particularly those with childcare/family-care/ healthcare obligations. Consider whether the employee got the job done even if it was outside regular business hours.

3. Be empathetic. 2020 has been a challenging and stressful year for everyone. Managers and employees should demonstrate compassion and empathy, and emphasize appreciation for the efforts and resiliency this year. Maintaining top talent is always a key objective, but never more important than right now.