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Worlds Apart, But On The Same Page


by Steven Starks, Senior Career Counselor at University of Phoenix

We have adapted to a new normal, moving our watercooler conversations to text chats and trading conference rooms for virtual meetings. As supervisors and employees alike adjusted to the changes, our organizations may have foregone traditional employee reviews.

However, a change in where we do our work does not mean we should stop the evaluation of our work. As our businesses prepare for the looming threat of a second wave of coronavirus and the prospect of extending work from home as a result, it’s important to evaluate successes and failures of the past few months.

We’ve learned that remote employees need to feel socially connected to their teams and understand how their contributions make an impact on the company’s optimal performance. Discussions about performance, goals and challenges should be part of routine conversation so there are no surprises by the time the formal evaluation takes place. An effective leader must establish trust, rapport and open communication to lay the groundwork necessary for future conversations about performance.

With that in mind, here are a few tips for providing feedback to remote employees.

Highlight Specific Accomplishments.

A review is a chance for an employee to reflect on how far they’ve come in their professional journey. I like to provide a snapshot of accomplishments over the past six months to a year, even if the meeting is only for the past quarter. This requires diligence in documenting accomplishments throughout the year, but it is effective because it empowers individuals to see what kind of trend they are establishing.

Providing this high-level view gives employees the perspective they need to reflect on the impact of their work as well as the overall trajectory of their performance. Helping employees view their most recent performance relative to their past performance is much more equitable than comparing them to other employees. Plus, employees appreciate that it helps them update their resumes and LinkedIn profiles with their latest accomplishments. Be sure to focus on specific achievements and competencies and be detailed to reinforce the message. 

Reinforce Strengths and Desired Behaviors.

Appreciation and encouragement for a job well done can lead to increased satisfaction and commitment to the team. When I speak with employees, I highlight their strengths and behaviors that contribute to positive performance as my starting point. If a staff member needs to improve in certain areas, you can frame the conversation in such a way that demonstrates appreciation of effort while you co-create a plan to engage in deliberate practice of the desired behavior.

Here’s an example:

[Employee], as I look at this brief snapshot of your accomplishments, I am grateful for your contributions to the team and to the organization. You continue to hit your goals for coaching appointments, client satisfaction, and collaborations across the organization. I notice that you invest a lot of time into reviewing and rehearsing material for webinars. Clients love working with you because you listen to their stories, pinpoint challenges, and create a collaborative working relationship to help them move closer to their career goals.

I realize that the individualized care and attention you give to clients can make time management difficult, which is understandable. I appreciate that you have started color-coding your calendar to stay on top of everything. Let’s set some time to practice creating and using customized email templates for routine client interactions, which can help you save even more time in the future.

Encourage Self-Reflection.

Self-reflection is important for helping employees develop their own solutions for overcoming challenges and sustaining high levels of performance. It can also be a great way to determine if the leader and staff member are on the same page or worlds apart, in which case further discussion would need to take place.

Here are some examples of questions to prompt self-reflection:

As we move into the next quarter, here are some questions to consider:

  • What accomplishments energize you and give you a sense of meaning?
  • What strengths will help you perform at a high level?
  • What potential challenges do you foresee that we can address now?

The global pandemic created shifts in all aspects of our lives, including how and where we work. Even if your company is phasing employees back into their physical office spaces, you may also be considering keeping some employees remote. As you consider the options, remember the importance of guiding employees at the team and the individual levels. Evaluations are an important way to highlight accomplishments, reinforce strengths and create plans for moving forward successfully. Now more than ever, it is crucial that supervisors and employees are on the same page — even if you are far apart.


Steven Starks is a Senior Career Counselor at University of Phoenix. He has been with the University for 11 years, also serving as a career coach for five years and a senior academic counselor. Starks is a National Certified Counselor and a featured career coach with TheMuse.com. Previously, he worked in the mental health industry providing individual and group therapy for clients struggling with severe mental illness, abuse, and trauma.