Performance Evaluation Guidance in Difficult Times

Performance evaluations are important even during unusual and difficult times. You may find these things helpful as you're conducting your employees’ performance reviews. You may also find these questions and topics helpful to review during the performance review meeting.

Purpose Beyond Merit 

While performance reviews impact merit increases when available, there are many reasons for the year-end review.

  • The mission continues. We are still carrying out the University of Minnesota’s mission of teaching, research, and outreach. The year-end review is an important tool to recognize and improve performance.
  • Talent management. Performance reviews play a role when promotions or succession planning are considered.
  • Employees want coaching and development. In engagement surveys over the years, the University of Minnesota staff have consistently identified coaching and development as one of the top areas of improvement. Take full advantage of this opportunity to invest in your employees and build engagement.
  • Recognition. Another area of improvement identified by staff in the employee engagement survey is the desire for more recognition. Take this chance to appreciate your employees’ efforts and accomplishments. Here are some ways to recognize and reward good work.

Evaluation Tips

  • Recognize the “new normal.” Many employees have faced challenges during this last year, which is important to recognize. We’ve also had to find new ways to carry out the mission of the University. During such unusual times it can be tempting to say everyone exceeds expectations because they adapted and found new ways to do their work; however, because adaptability is just one of many important competencies to consider, be careful not to overemphasize it in your evaluation.
  • Adjust goals. With the changing priorities and ways of working, the goals set in last year’s review have likely shifted. Discuss goals in light of the current circumstances.
  • Focus on reasonable expectations. COVID-19 and racial injustice may have impacted the work employees could perform or how they performed it. Focus on what your employees accomplished given the current environment, as well as the support and resources available to them.
  • Consider competencies. Competencies outline behaviors key to any employee’s success. Evaluate which competencies your employees have demonstrated, grown in, or have opportunities to develop.
  • Emphasize values and culture. Use this opportunity to reinforce your team’s values and culture, such as communication, initiative, and teamwork.

Keys to Success

  • Be intentional. Beyond reviewing the past year’s performance, prepare additional questions around topics such as career development goals, job satisfaction, feedback for you as their supervisor, and matters of diversity, equity, and inclusion.
  • Be human. Given that many employees are working remotely, human connection is that much more important. Ask questions that allow your employee to share the experiences and challenges they’ve faced in this difficult year.
  • Be transparent. Share your own struggles and challenges. If questions arise about continued or additional pay cuts or perhaps future layoffs, remind them you’ll be as transparent as possible.