How to Conduct Remote Performance Reviews: A Complete Guide

The longer we stay in lockdown the more important it is to find ways to reinstate regular business routines so that employees don’t feel like they are left in this state of limbo forever. But as we settle into our new rhythms and strategies one might wonder whether remote performance reviews still have a place. We need to resist the urge to completely write this year off and assume that we should only go back to performance reviews once things return to normal.

Performance reviews are essential to ensure the efficient management of individuals and teams, in order to achieve their goals and organizational success. And in a time where the survival of businesses depends on how effectively they can manage their remote staff, effective performance management is the key to create alignment and a shared understanding. It clarifies what has to be achieved and what individuals or teams have to do, learn, and develop to be successful in these challenging times.

How to Adjust to COVID

Even before the pandemic, performance reviews brought with it a level of stress amongst employees. People are hesitant about being criticized and prefer to avoid difficult conversations. Working from home has created a sense of isolation and loneliness which could be exacerbated by remote performance reviews.

We must acknowledge that this is no ordinary review and won’t be treated like one. Communicate to employees the need for remote performance reviews and clearly lay out how the process is going to take place.
It’s important to make changes that account for physical distance, technology hiccups, communication difficulties, and other factors that make remote performance reviews less than intuitive for many managers. And most importantly, organizations cannot rely on strategies that only work well for in-office conversations.

Setting Expectations

Acknowledge that both the organization and its employees have had to undergo significant challenges this year. During COVID-19 restrictions, compassionate leadership should be a priority. As a manager, you need to adapt and tie employee performance with well-being.

The format:  Explain in writing how the remote performance review will be conducted. Clearly lay out the steps, how the employee needs to prepare, whether it will be done through a video call and on what platform etc.

Invitees – Outline who will be present during the review. How many rounds it will involve and the purpose of the presence of each member present. 

Duration – Send a calendar invite well in advance. Usually, it’s best to give employees between one and two weeks notice so they can prepare all the material required for the remote performance review. Include how long the meeting is expected to last in the invite.

Structure – In your calendar invite and/or the corresponding email, break down what you will discuss. The topics you will be going through and how you will be measuring their performance. 

Conducting the Remote Performance Review

Connect via video

Body language communicates a lot of detail and the best way to have meaningful conversations is with face-to-face interaction. Video calls are the next best thing to being in the same room with an employee. You can use Creately’s in-built video conferencing feature to have conversations with employees while you go through their performance criteria, review the work from the previous year, and set a goal for the future all in real-time on its infinite canvas.

Have a conversation guide

Performance reviews are not a general-purpose catch-up meeting. Focused, concise, and thought through meetings are the most effective. Prepare a conversation guide with the topics you need to touch upon, the different parameters of evaluation you need to go through, and specific sections you need feedback from the employee. Be structured and focused; while you should have some flexibility, it’s important that you get through all the assessment areas in the stipulated time. 

Provide the opportunity to ask questions before the session – Set aside a designated period for your team members to discuss any questions or concerns they have. This empowers them to prepare and share.

Setting clear expectations can help you and your team stay on task throughout the review, even in a virtual setting.

Use templates and analysis tools

It’s important to understand what you are evaluating and how you will measure performance. Structured templates ensure clarity of thought and streamline the remote performance review process so everyone in the organization can be on the same page. Employees can get a better sense of what to expect so they can prepare themselves and have more meaningful discussions when it comes to the face to face conversations.

Personal SWOT

Personal SWOT analysis remote performance reviews.
Personal SWOT Template (Click on the template to edit it online)

This tool is great for individual self-reflection. It provides employees with a structure where they can honestly assess both their positive and negative traits and discover areas of improvement and hidden potential. You can send the self-assessment exercise to employees a few days before the remote performance review. With Creately, managers can review the completed SWOT analysis and add their inputs and comments to each section.

SMART goals

Performance reviews are as much about charting individual career paths with employees as they are about evaluating past performance. During a remote performance review, it is important to reassure employees that their contribution is critical to the company and path a forward-looking trajectory for both the individual and the organization. 

Setting goals can refocus intention and provide context to the efforts.

SMART goals are concrete targets that you strive to achieve over time. Managers and employees should draft these goals together. “SMART” is an acronym that describes the most important characteristics of each goal.

Smart goals template for remote performance reviews.
SMART Goals Template (Click on the template to edit it online)

Action plans

This document lays out the tasks you need to complete in order to accomplish your goal. It breaks up the process into actionable assignments based on a timeline. An action plan will outline all the necessary steps to achieve your goal and help you reach your target efficiently. You can assign a timeframe to every step in the process. Depending on your needs and preferences, you can use this document to set single or multiple goals.

Action plan template remote performance reviews.
Action Plan Template (Click on the template to edit it online)

Things to keep in mind


  • Approach your evaluations with more flexibility, leniency, empathy, and compassion.
  • Recognize and show appreciation for the people who are working hard and are engaged. It’s critical for their morale and for your organization’s ability to retain them.


  • Be too critical of poor performers.  Give them a grace period to get used to working remotely and to turn things around.
  • Let biases creep in. Make decisions based on data. Ask colleagues and get more information on how well other employees are communicating, collaborating, and helping.
  • Think of it as just something that needs to be completed. Use remote performance reviews as a tool to identify blind spots and hidden opportunities in the way your business operates.

All things considered, despite the challenges of remote performance reviews the benefits can be overwhelmingly positive. It gives you a chance to connect with employees and have meaningful conversations with them about their performance. But more importantly, hearing directly from employees during these peculiar times will give you a better understanding of the challenges they face. You can then create policies that take these factors into account and make decisions that create a more efficient remote working environment.

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Chiraag George

Chiraag George is a communication specialist here at Creately. He is a marketing junkie that is fascinated by how brands occupy consumer mind space. A lover of all things tech, he writes a lot about the intersection of technology, branding and culture at large.

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