Performance Appraisals Amid an ‘Unprecedented’ Year
Amid the ultimate “unprecedented” of years, many leaders and employers are finding themselves at yet another crossroads – year-end performance appraisals. We recommend approaching year-end in three phases: assess performance, recognize and reward, and plan for the future.
How to Assess Performance Amid an ‘Unprecedented’ Year
Performance appraisals and evaluations typically measure outputs, metrics, and activity. Behaviors and subsequent results are evaluated for success against a predetermined set of benchmarks. At a time where any plans have been transformed or frozen altogether, it can feel impossible to measure performance using the old standards. You should consider maintaining some level of normalcy in the process but also use this time to realign with core values, and reconsider traditional definitions of ‘success.’
- Take every opportunity to insert some predictability and constancy. Seek out aspects of your existing appraisal process that can be reformatted and used for this upcoming cycle. Follow standard practices and normative language to maintain some level of uniformity year-over-year. As an example, if you appraise your work based off of key performance indicators (KPIs) or objectives and key results (OKRs) then attempt to follow that same model, albeit modifying the metrics where needed for reasonable accommodations.
Align Feedback/Assessment with Core Values
- This year has forced many individuals and organizations alike to reconcile what truly matters. At the forefront of these conversations are values – those moral and ethical principles that define the work environment, culture, standards of care, and people. Incorporate an assessment of these values and your teams’ alignment to them. It is worth noting that the practice of aligning core values to our work doesn’t need to be limited – the best performance evaluation systems incorporate this as a standard practice.
Refocus Measure of Success
- If this year’s unique circumstances make analyzing the hard-data of revenue dollars, meetings, outreach, etc. difficult, consider refocusing your measures of success on ‘soft-skills’ and professional competencies. Reflect on what attributes allowed employees to thrive amid the difficult and challenging times. Things like an ability to work under pressure, flexibility, and adaptability to change, creativity, and resourcefulness were important under normal circumstances and have proven to be mission-critical now.
Rethinking Recognition and Reward
The sudden and destructive onset of the pandemic devastated many organizations, making it difficult for leaders to retain and reward their people. Many organizations aren’t in the position to give their employees large salary increases or cost-of-living adjustments. For those seeking alternatives to cash incentives, we recommend rethinking the traditional approaches around recognition and reward.
CARES Act + Loan Repayment
- As student loans become one of the highest consumer debt categories, employers are becoming more creative in their approach to attracting recent grads. Employer-funded student loan repayment has been gaining popularity over the years, and the CARES Act has made the process even easier for organizations to support their teams. At the early onset of the coronavirus pandemic, the government issued the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (also known as the CARES Act) – an economic stimulus package that encompassed a number of benefits, including provisions related to unemployment insurance, housing assistance, and other measures to support Americans in need. One aspect of the CARES Act was aimed at varying tax breaks, including one impacting student loan repayment. In addition to suspending interest charges on existing loans, the bill allows employers to contribute up to $5,250 tax-free to their employees’ student loans until December 31, 2020. This tax benefit within the CARES Act is changing the way both employers and employees are viewing student loan repayment assistance as a potential company benefit. Follow this link more information regarding the CARES Act and student loan repayment benefits.
Flexibility + Remote Work Plan(s)
- If quarantining amid this pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that most fundraising and development jobs can be satisfied remotely. While there’s no replacing the value of inter-personal relationship building, meeting in-person with donors has quickly and mostly satisfactorily been replaced by Zoom rooms and virtual events. While many organizations are eager to get back to the office, employees may be looking to their leaders for greater flexibility in remote work capabilities. Being able to offer permanent telework options to employees in lieu of (or in addition to) end-of-year cash incentives, cost-of-living adjustments or salary increases may prove to be a valuable alternative.
Extension or Carryover of PTO
- From weddings to travel plans, cancellations of Vacation and Personal time has left many employees with a surplus of paid time off (PTO) and not enough time to spend it down. For organizations with “use-it-or-lose-it” policies, consider building in greater flexibility this year with an extension or carryover option. Extending PTO benefits into the coming year will allow employees to utilize their accrued time and take some much-needed respite. Leaders may also consider allowing employees to ‘bank’ or ‘pool’ their hours such that others in need are able to borrow from that time as it becomes available.
How to Plan and Prepare for an Uncertain Future
For many leaders, the end-of-year appraisal cycle includes a look ahead with goal creation and activity planning. At a time when there is still so much left uncertain, how can we set targets and hold our teams accountable?
Prioritize Professional Development
- Among the many lessons learned this past year is the acknowledgement and acceptance of the many things beyond our control. At times like this, it’s important to prioritize what is within your reach, such as a commitment to professional development. Professional development can take many forms – be it through formal classes, watching webinars, reading books and relevant articles, attending seminars, or seeking mentorship. There are myriad ways in which to progress as a professional, and leaders should take this opportunity to reflect on which aspects of their team and themselves they’d like to grow in the coming year.
More Frequent Touch Points/Check-Ins
- Following along with the theme of focusing on those things within your control, commit to more frequent touch points or check-ins with your team. There has been great advancement in the recent months of virtual team-building activities and opportunities for people to build genuine connections. Be mindful that these sessions do not need to cost money or be highly structured in order to be effective – coffee breaks, lunches, even a walk around the block (all of which can be done virtually!) are easy and effective ways to bond.
- Spend time in this review cycle finding out what motivates your team. What makes them excited about their work? If it’s a connection to the mission or passion about a specific programmatic element, find ways to encourage their involvement or impact in that space. If relationship building or team camaraderie are critical factors, support their external networking or internal team-building participation. If they are motivated by incentives or special perks, find ways to be creative with your offerings, allowing them to be a part of the process and help generate new ideas. Taking time now to uncover what truly motivates your team will allow you to invest valuable resources more effectively later.
Securing, developing, and retaining talent is a core function for every organization and critical to your ability to achieve your mission. Assessing and rewarding your talent appropriately, particularly now, is key to your potential success.