Coronavirus (COVID-19), HR Management & Compliance, Learning & Development

To What Extent Should Performance Appraisals Take COVID Into Consideration?

Performance reviews are a critical part of employee management. Unfortunately, they’re often given little attention by companies around the country. Even the best companies routinely limit formal performance reviews to once per year, with busy managers often scrambling to complete them at the last minute. This typical scenario fails to provide meaningful feedback to substantially guide future performance or engage employees. performance appraisals

Meanwhile, COVID-19 has upended work life for over a year and a half. For many companies, this means multiple rounds of performance appraisals have come and gone. Even companies that only do an annual review will have completed at least one cycle during the COVID era by now.

Performance Feedback During the Pandemic

Obviously, work life in the midst of a pandemic has been different in many ways from pre-COVID work life:

  • Many employees are working remotely long term for the first time in their careers.
  • Supply chain and other disruptions have forced companies and employees to address new pain points.
  • Government restrictions forced many service-focused businesses to limit or overhaul the way they provide services or to stop providing them altogether.

In short, for many companies, performance reviews during the pandemic are based on atypical work conditions.

But to what extent should an employee’s ability to adapt to COVID-19 impact his or her performance?

COVID-19 Drives Benefit of the Doubt

On the one hand, factoring in adaptability reflects the reality employees have had to adjust to. It’s difficult if not impossible to ignore the impact of the pandemic on an employee’s performance.

On the other hand, the COVID-19 pandemic is (hopefully) a once-in-a-lifetime event that doesn’t necessarily have any bearing on employee performance post-COVID.

Of course, this is an admittedly simplistic view that overlooks how employees’ adaptability to the pandemic reflects their general ability to adapt to changed circumstances. Furthermore, to the extent employees may have struggled at work over the past year and a half, the impact of COVID-19 on their professional and personal lives, possibly even including their health, could be a reason to cut them some slack.

With these considerations in mind, employers’ best approach when conducting performance reviews may be to think of COVID-19 as a mitigating factor for poor performance. However, organizations should be careful not to place too much emphasis on the ability to adapt to COVID, except to the extent that it can be generalized to agility and adaptability more broadly.

How have you and your managers considered COVID-19 and its implications on performance management and evaluation?