How to give performance reviews in remote and hybrid settings

By Katie Stearns

8 min read

How to give performance reviews in remote and hybrid settings

Knowing how to run a great performance review should be a tool in every manager’s back pocket. And if it’s not in yours yet, this is a great place to start. Today we’ll dive into why performance reviews matter, especially in a remote or hybrid environment. 


What is a performance review?

A performance review is a manager-led assessment of an employee’s work performance where the discussion centers on strengths, weaknesses, overall feedback, and upcoming goals. Managers can do performance reviews at various intervals, and while most commit to an annual cadence, many teams are moving to more fluid, ongoing evaluations through frequent 1:1s.

The importance of performance reviews

When implemented correctly, performance reviews are an effective tool for employee engagement, motivation, and productivity. They offer a chance to objectively look at the work done and pay attention to any room for improvement. For employers, conducting performance reviews sets the tone for future goals and initiatives. 

Here are a few reasons why employee performance reviews can impact the success of your employees: 

Feedback is crucial

Constructive feedback has the power to motivate, encourage, and inspire employees. Feedback is necessary to the employee experience, a gauge of where employees stand and where they can strive. Employees need to hear how they’re doing and how their work has affected the company's good. Performance appraisals are essential for employees to know if they’re doing their job well, in areas where they’re excelling, and where they can improve.

Accountability to understanding the data

Employees often use tools to capture a lot of data (an attendance tool, project management system, CRM etc.). A performance review is an excellent opportunity to look deeper at the data collected and see what might be happening. Let’s take an attendance tool, for example, which employees use to clock in and out and track their absences and holiday time. What trends can be found within that data, and are they worth discussing? Is an employee calling in sick often or taking more PTO than normal? Or perhaps they’re burning the midnight oil, clocking in more hours than usual, which we know will likely lead to workplace burnout. As you can see, highlighting trends and observations via performance reviews provide a window to connect and understand what’s going on with your team.

Glean valuable insights

The performance review process can provide valuable information you might not otherwise have had the chance to get as an employer or manager. It could also be an opportunity to discuss whether an employee is in the proper role or not, if they feel challenged, or if they’re looking to grow in a different direction. As you can see, there are a lot of potential doors to open in a performance evaluation.

A formal opportunity to check in

Hopefully, you’ve created a work environment where your employees have somewhere to go or someone to talk to if they need it. But apart from that, some employees might prefer a formal review to bring up any issues that are front of mind. This is especially true for remote employees, as it's often more challenging to have in-depth conversations without planning in advance.

A space for meaningful conversations

Performance reviews aren’t all about providing feedback on employees’ past performances. It’s also a chance for management to set the tone for the future and build trust. They can express how they feel about past work and highlight areas for improvement, but they can also use it as an opportunity to lay out a vision for the future or raise concerns about team morale. It can be a conversation about employee career growth and big-picture business goals, too.

A chance to show appreciation

Employees love to feel appreciated, but it can be challenging in a virtual setting. A remote or hybrid performance review may be a rare moment to pause and reflect on the work done, highlighting employees’ top accomplishments since the last one.

How to give performance reviews in a remote or hybrid setting

Performance reviews can help align and set goals, whether employees work in an office or from home. Arguably, formal performance reviews are even more relevant in remote or hybrid work environments.

Although fully distributed and hybrid companies have been around for decades, it’d be amiss not to mention the fact that face-to-face connection is relevant. Thanks to the pandemic, companies and employees that had never even considered remote as an option went from working in an office to working from home in the span of days. This worldwide shift was quick for many people, and many employees have been left reeling in its wake.

Here are some tips for conducting a remote performance review:

Align the best time to meet and share details

Especially across time zones, it may be hard to nail down a good time to meet. Having a call in the calendar early means employees can prepare mentally and ensure their technology is running correctly. State the purpose of the review before the meeting so both parties come prepared. Share in advance an agenda, so employees can set their expectations and be reassured that there'll be no surprises ahead. This can be useful as performance reviews are often nerve-wracking and intimidating.

Hindsight on the past and reflect on lessons

Hopefully, your employees are accommodated to ongoing evaluations of projects and productivity. To address poor performance, regular conversations are crucial to acknowledge continued progress. If they’ve admitted to challenges from the previous quarter, work together on lessons learned and strategies to mitigate repeated consequences. Did specific processes help alleviate pain points? Look to employee enablement ideas to support your people and provide growth opportunities.

Turn your cameras on

Much of our communication is non-verbal, so make sure you don't lose out on maintaining eye contact during a growth conversation. Being present in video calls will allow you to read body language, identifying what people may not be explicitly verbalizing.

From defining the metrics you’ll use to measure employee success, to championing better video call etiquette—performance reviews in a remote or hybrid setting often require a different set of considerations altogether.

Where do I go from here?

As promised, we’ll finish by providing some actionable strategies for giving performance reviews that you can implement today. 

Decide where the best place for a performance review is

If your team is fully distributed and this conversation can’t take place in person, what’s the best digital platform to use? Zoom fatigue is real, but as mentioned, being able to see employees during these types of conversation is key. Would that be the best choice if your team is hybrid, and there is a physical place to meet? Managers should discuss with their employees to find the solution that works best for everyone.

Put your thoughtful, balanced notes together beforehand

Managers must come into these sorts of meetings prepared. Performance reviews are about providing appreciation, feedback, and critiques while also looking toward the future. It’s important to make sure this is a balanced conversation, ensuring that you don’t rush over the good bits.

In one recent article, Kelly Harris Perin, founder of Little Bites Coaching, said, “It’s easy to rush through the positive feedback and dwell on problem-solving the negative. Authentically and enthusiastically celebrating wins and strengths is just as important to make your employee feel valued and to ensure that they keep up their great work!”

Remember to check in with your employees

More than ever, employees are invested in their personal growth; how can managers help them get to where they want to go?

Performance reviews are a great chance to check your employees’ temperatures, so to speak. When you’re checking in to see how they’re doing, remember to ask them what’s working (or not) for them in their remote or hybrid setting. What can you provide them with to help them succeed? Where do they see themselves within the company in the future, and how can you help them get there? 

Include actionable takeaways at the end of your conversation

At the end of the performance review, come together with the employee with actionable takeaways, both for you as a manager and them as an employee. What issues were pinpointed, and how will they be addressed? What are some things that seem to be working, that you’d both like to see continue? Put this document together and send it to the employee so you can use it as a guide at the start of the following performance review.


How to give performance reviews remains an essential piece to the remote work puzzle that we're still navigating and improving. But it’s up to management and the organization's leaders to ensure that remote performance review conversations are equipped with constructive feedback, compassion, and goals. That way, everyone is geared towards a brighter future ahead to developing high performers and employee success.


Employee experience impacts everything from your company culture to your bottom line

Find out how

Katie Stearns

  • Share this:

Add your comments