We Shouldn’t Be Doing Performance Appraisals During COVID. Or Should We?
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We Shouldn’t Be Doing Performance Appraisals During COVID. Or Should We?

For many organizations, employee evaluations have fallen by the wayside during the pandemic. But they may be just the morale boost staff need

By Annette Taylor, Human Resources Director

During the COVID pandemic, there has been a reported rise in renovations, remodelling, and the general fixing of areas in the home that may have previously been overlooked or neglected. People around the world are seeing this as an opportunity to renovate and fix areas that, prior to COVID, were put off because there was no time, there had been no motivation to do so, or there were concerns about what lies beneath the surface. In addition, some have found that COVID has presented new challenges and needs when it comes to home maintenance and upkeep.

But we all know what happens when we persistently delay fixing something that needs attention. That’s right: it gets worse, and it ends up being a bigger problem than it would have been had it received timely attention.

One strategy that may help is to perform periodic checks to assess whether a situation is worsening. Doing this will provide an opportunity to determine whether something needs attention or whether it can wait until another time.

Performance appraisals can sometimes fall into the same category. Most people appreciate the value of performance appraisals when they are done well and understand that, when given the right attention, appraisals strengthen an organization’s culture.

On the other hand, appraisals take time and effort. Sometimes, they can feel daunting and overwhelming, causing managers to put them off.

In these unprecedented times, many organizations have naturally focussed attention on what they have identified as key priorities and put into action their business continuity plans, while others have literally gone into survival mode. It’s understandable that performance evaluations would not be on the list of priorities at the beginning of the COVID pandemic.

But we’re now five months in. Although the dust has not fully settled and organizations are still adjusting, many companies are finding their new normal.

This has meant turning attention back to employees like yourself who have diligently soldiered through. You have spent months adjusting to different ways of working while living with uncertainty and are now looking to leadership for feedback and direction. This is where performance appraisals, supported by regular check-ins, get a chance to shine.

I get it–some managers may still feel that it isn’t the right time to be doing evaluations, or they don’t feel comfortable performing them via a virtual medium like Zoom. Still, most employees want to get feedback on their performance. As a worker, you want reinforcement about what you are doing well and to learn about areas in which you can improve.

Managers will, of course, need to acknowledge the different environments in which you and your coworkers have been operating. Productivity may not be what it was, or what it should be, if you have been juggling work and family (including children and aging parents, if working from home), all while dealing with feeling isolated. Managers should be mindful of the psychological impacts of COVID and how they affect people in different ways.

Leadership can do an impressive job of communicating to employees just how valuable they are and creating a culture of solidarity in times of crisis. But these efforts can be undermined very quickly if managers and supervisors are not reinforcing the organization’s culture.

Performance evaluations are one key mechanism that, if done well, will strengthen this important facet of an organization. You and your coworkers will remember what leaders do and say in these times.

A solid foundation of trust is created when employees are shown appreciation and support from management through regularly scheduled evaluations. And a solid foundation is always necessary, whether speaking of an organization’s culture or a person’s latest DIY project. 

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