Opinion: One upside of the pandemic? Performance reviews are getting simpler

With Prop 24, California is trying to rewrite the rules of online privacy. Again. (Simona Pilolla/Dreamstime/TNS)
With Prop 24, California is trying to rewrite the rules of online privacy. Again. (Simona Pilolla/Dreamstime/TNS)

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

As the pandemic wore on, Christine Carrillo, the chief executive of Butlr Health, a small online start-up that matches people with therapists, decided to postpone the remaining performance reviews scheduled for her employees this year — and probably next year, too.

The pandemic has forced more companies to reevaluate their performance reviews, accelerating a trend toward more frequent feedback and greater focus on career development.

Some are postponing — at least for now — the time-consuming and cumbersome ritual of corporate America. Others are attempting to simplify the process as they weigh how to evaluate employees facing unprecedented upheaval and working from home until next summer — or longer.

Carrillo says she’s not sure she will ever bring back the formal review process.

But some experts worry employers aren’t doing enough to change the way they evaluate employees at a time when many, particularly working parents are facing mounting burdens.

“The pandemic has unleashed an enormous shock, but that’s not getting reflected in the way so many companies are thinking about performance reviews,” Marianne Cooper, a senior research scholar at the Stanford VMWare Women’s Leadership Innovation Lab, said in an email.

Several big tech companies have already made changes this year to their performance evaluations.

For the first half of 2020, Facebook did not give out individual performance ratings and used a formula to calculate bonuses that were above the standard target — but is returning to its typical process for the second half of the year.

Google combined its usual two review periods into one this fall and will rate employees against revised expectations.

And Box, the file-sharing service, says it is encouraging more regular feedback between employees and their managers and is also having just one formal review cycle this year, rather than two.

Companies such as Goldman Sachs, one of Wall Street’s oldest and largest banks, say they are trying to make the review process clearer.

In a year of Zoom meetings and work-from-home life adjustments, companies' traditional methods of observing employees' performance has been upended, and their evaluation process is laden with pandemic-era challenges.

But human resources experts also say there’s a potential upside: Remote work naturally forces more scheduled check-ins between bosses and workers, which could have a lasting impact.

“If more people are working remotely, they will be checking in weekly with their managers and I think it could diminish the need for the annual performance review,” said Brooke Green, who leads the employee rewards practice at Aon, a consulting and insurance firm.

Jena McGregor writes for The Washington Post.

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