Creative approaches to performance evaluation are necessary at hybrid workplaces to make sure that all employees are evaluated and developed according to their merit, regardless of where they do most of their work. Workplaces that have successfully managed the evaluations of hybrid employees do three things. First, they define performance in terms of customer satisfaction, company values, core activities, and project completion. Second, they incorporate regular goal-setting and feedback sessions. Finally, they encourage collaboration and team building by sharing performance assessment responsibilities across the workforce. With these requirements in mind, any company can develop their own system for performance evaluations, helping their employees grow and improve regardless of where they are located.
One of the biggest challenges managing in a hybrid work environment is finding ways to accurately assess performance. With some employees working most of the time at the office and others working most of their time remotely, it’s essential that evaluations are not unduly influenced by the amount of time a manager sees his or her employee face-to-face.
When I was writing The Whole-Person Workplace, I interviewed representatives from over 40 companies while they grappled with the challenges of pandemic-related remote and hybrid work, focusing, in part, on employee evaluations. While there were many examples of how traditional good management still mattered, I also found that there were new hybrid-specific approaches that were evening the playing field and allowing employees and managers alike to do their best work. Here’s what I learned.
Emphasize Culture and Values
It is crucial for hybrid workplaces to have all employees understand and act according to the values of your organization — regardless of where they work.
One way to reinforce a common set of values is through your approach to performance appraisal. For example, online retailer Zappos evaluates employees both on performance and whether they are promoting Zappos culture in their day-to-day work. According to founder and former CEO Tony Hsieh, “We’ll fire people if they’re not good for the culture, even if they are doing their work perfectly fine.”
Similarly, the performance evaluation program at Johnstone Supply, a New Jersey based HVAC supply company, places its values front and center. According to CHRO Chris Geschickter, “When we do performance reviews, our values are our leading criteria. The majority of how we do performance evaluation is by reflecting on our core values, and then assessing whether an employee’s behavior is aligned with them, in terms of customer service, teamwork, and such. To us, performance evaluation is a conversation throughout the year, with a lot of self-evaluations.”
Values-based approaches to evaluations create a common platform for assessing performance of differently situated employees while promoting a unified workplace culture. While incorporating values into performance evaluation isn’t necessarily new, redoubling efforts towards this seemed to resonate particularly strongly in hybrid environments.
Continually Track the Most Important Metrics
Dallas-based tax services firm, Ryan, LLC, shifted to a Results-Only Work Environment in 2008, allowing employees to work from anywhere and at any time. Their transition has been a huge success — turnover has plummeted; morale, engagement, customer satisfaction, and financial performance have soared.
Key to making it work is a performance appraisal approach that uses a set of agreed-upon performance metrics that are consistently tracked, and can be accessed at any time on a convenient intranet dashboard. Former CHRO, Delta Emerson, explained, “Managers and employees can log on and see their dashboard. It displays their revenue targets and other performance goals, as well as where they stand and how their performance feeds into incentive pay. Finally, we hold managers accountable by tracking turnover and engagement scores in their groups.”
It’s important to note that Ryan’s approach — which provides clarity on goals and continuous measurement of performance — translates perfectly to hybrid work environments. Their system is fair and transparent for both those employees who mostly work at the office and those who mostly work remotely, and, importantly, creates accountability for managers in engaging and retaining employees.
With agreement on which metrics of employee performance to track, companies can then leverage technology to further level the playing field. General Electric, for example, uses an app-based system that allows employees to share performance milestones with their teams and managers.
While the company once prided itself on its process of formal, competitive annual performance reviews, this new approach encourages collaborative performance conversations. Managers use it to provide frequent feedback through performance “touchpoints” to employees. And peers use it to provide real-time developmental feedback and recognition.
This approach focuses employees and managers on continuous improvement and development, bolstering decisions on raises, promotions, and developmental opportunities which now occur year-round. As a result, the app-based system helps level the playing field by ensuring employees, managers, and coworkers can better “see” each other’s work and provide feedback no matter where work gets done.
If your workplace has changed, your evaluation process has to, too
The move to remote or hybrid environments for many companies has been a bumpy one. What I saw in my research though is that traditional good management including frequent goal-setting, peer feedback, and progress reporting, still mattered. The difference was in how companies now need to apply these principles. And while I saw companies applying them in the variety of ways I outlined above, they all were successful for three reasons.
First, they defined performance in terms of customer satisfaction, company values, core activities, and project completion. Second, they incorporated regular goal-setting and feedback sessions. Finally, they encouraged collaboration and team building by sharing performance assessment responsibilities across the workforce.
The lesson, then, is that creative approaches to performance evaluation are not only possible, but required at hybrid workplaces. It is the only way to ensure that all employees are evaluated and developed according to their merit, regardless of where they do most of their work.