Should You Change Your Performance Evaluations in the Wake of Coronavirus?

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How do you effectively measure an employee’s performance when the world turned upside down in the middle of Q1? Things may be normalizing, but they are not back to normal.

Of course, you probably realize that during the pandemic, employees might not have been as productive or taken as much initiative as they might have normally. In addition, employees were likely also struggling in some way, whether it be adjusting to fully-remote work, illness, caregiving responsibilities or isolation. These are all reasons enough to adjust your view on evaluations.

But something else to consider is that not only do you need to evaluate your employees, but your employees are likely also evaluating you. They have been watching to see how you react to crisis, and see if you are treating them, and the team, with care, concern, respect and flexibility in difficult circumstances. They are also likely taking that information and making decisions about if they want to stay on board or seek out other opportunities.

That said, here are some tips for giving fair, and effective evaluations – especially remotely.

Have a game plan

You’ll need to figure out how much to put emphasis on performance during COVID and performance during regular times. You might consider suspending ratings for a time, and instead focus on a narrative assessment that specifically points out the achievements they’ve made, and where they could make improvements. Regardless, be sure to use video conferencing to execute the evaluation rather than the phone, as it is more personal and allows you to pick up on body language.

Performance evaluationsMake acknowledgements

Approach evaluations with more flexibility and compassion. In the broadest sense, everyone has been dealing with the most difficult of circumstances in recent months. But others are also dealing with personal struggles, and it is important to acknowledge the vastly different circumstances your team members are facing, and subsequently operating under. Before the actual evaluation starts, check-in with your employees to see how they are doing and what supports they might need.

Define your purpose

Previously, you might have used evaluations to decide who deserved an increase, who deserved a promotion, who needed to be let go as a poor performer, and as information to make decisions about restructuring. But now, priorities have likely changed. You might consider your purpose instead to be having a one-on-one check-in, and then to reinforce short and long term goals to get employees refocused. This is also a great opportunity to strengthen your team and fortify a positive environment and culture. Employees who feel heard and cared for in this time will ultimately work harder and be more productive.

Taking an alternative approach

In the past, you may have been evaluating data, or production metrics. Not only might that seem impossible now, as the recent environment, whether better or worse for your company, is not a true reflection of the employee’s ability to hit those data and production points, but it’s unfair to then have these points as a marker for the next evaluation. Instead, think about evaluating “soft skills.” Has your employee been resilient or adaptive? Pursued growth and learning opportunities? Pitched in to help others? Been engaged and committed? Acknowledge and reward the behavior points that have made them successful.

Consider making a systemic changePerformance evaluation

Since some of the changes that have resulted from COVID might be permanent, such as the possibility of becoming a remote workforce or a complete transformation in the way business is conducted, you might consider changing the way you do performance reviews. Eventually, things like data and performance will creep their way back in, but you might make adjustments to how those things are measured, or how much weight they have. It might behoove you to check in with your employees more often if you aren’t seeing them in the office every day.


Now more than ever, it’s important to inspire, motivate and engage your team. Use these evaluations to have discussions about developing your talent and your business. Celebrate achievements, as employees these days are likely fearful they may lose their jobs. Handle deficiencies with empathy and compassion, and work on a plan to get the employee back on track.

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About the Author

Jennifer L. Grybowski has been a journalist and writer for 20 years. She has written about business, government, politics, education, and culture. She holds a MFA from Southern New Hampshire University, and also writes fiction. Connect with her at