Changing Your Performance Assessment Model for the COVID-19 Pandemic


When my co-author, Winston Tan, and I sat down to write the book
The Performance Appraisal Toolkit: Rethinking Your Performance Appraisal Model to Drive Individual and Organizational Change (Amacom / HarperCollins Leadership, 2013), our goal was to raise awareness that a model is a living and breathing document. Not a static form passed down from generation to generation with generic skills, but a statement about your organization’s values, goals and priorities that have changed over time.

Whether you are in a startup, a growing company, a mature organization, or even a declining entity, your performance appraisal model represents your core competencies and key values. In short, if you don’t change your performance appraisal model every few years to reflect this, you’re missing the opportunity to inject strategic imperatives into your performance management program.

As you reflect on the new realities of the coronavirus, there’s no better time to change your performance appraisal model than right now. New skills, competencies and attitudes are needed to navigate the changing priorities of today’s workplace. It is essential that you capture and integrate the drivers of organizational success into your performance appraisal model, the ‘annual report’ which reflects the performance drivers and the skills, knowledge and abilities that reflect the ‘normal’ coronavirus.

This can be done by modifying the entire model or simply adding a new module to the existing one. Whichever way you choose to reflect the challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic on the performance of your employees, take the opportunity to communicate what success in change management and adaptability should look like.

Target skills

“Agility, flexibility, speed and adaptability are a great place to start,” said Tan, managing director of Intandem, LLC, a compensation consulting group in Spokane, Wash. “Most of my clients appreciate the concept of change management more than ever. , yet almost all are challenged by individuals or teams who resist adapting to the new realities of the workplace. ”

Where to start and what should it look like? It depends on how your organization captures the core competencies it values ​​in its annual performance review model. First, identify the top drivers you want to highlight, then focus on creating descriptors that raise the bar and help workers focus on meeting new, heightened expectations.

For example, your pandemic-related skills and descriptions might look like this in a predominantly professional, exempt workplace:


Score / Comments

• Identifies unique ways to create value and encourages others to use their curiosity and imagination.

• Demonstrates the ability to multitask and manage pressure or crisis situations. Adjust priorities to meet the needs of the team or organization.

• Remains determined and calm in the face of challenges or seemingly inadequate resources.

• Encourages team members to take appropriate risks and embrace change.

• Consistently combines natural curiosity and intuition with sound analysis and reasoning to strengthen our “organizational forecasting ability”.

• Easily develop strategies to reflect our changing business priorities.

• Effectively translates strategies into objectives and action plans.

It might also look like this with a team of engineers or other innovation and creativity leaders:


Score / Comments

• Turns ideas into action, puts creativity to work and develops innovation strategies.

• Rethink routine processes and find unique solutions to add customer value.

• Turns creative recommendations into practical applications.

• Uses right brain imagination, creativity and intuition with left brain logic and planning.

• Constantly researching new methods, techniques and innovation tools.

• Regularly encourages greater collaboration and open discussion with peers and team members to foster a culture of innovation.

• Participate in and / or lead various product teams to cultivate a wider range of perspectives, knowledge, thinking and creativity.

The model can take a more moderate tone in a non-exempt hourly environment:


Score / Comments

• Accepts last minute changes of direction and unexpected changes in plan.

• Creates a friendly and inclusive work environment in the face of changes in direction or deadlines.

• Demonstrates the ability to multitask and manage pressure or crisis situations. Adjust priorities to meet the needs of the team and the organization.

• Communicates with management appropriately when faced with changing priorities or the need to deviate from a pre-planned course of action.

• Remains determined and calm in the face of challenges or seemingly inadequate resources.

• Help team members embrace change and adjust to a “new normal” when faced with unforeseen challenges.

• Constantly looks for ways to use new technologies to increase efficiency.

Raising the skill bar

“Identifying the right set of skills is clearly the critical first step, but the next critical step is to describe them in a way that raises the bar for performance,” said Steve Rumery, director of the Leadership Research Institute (LRI), an organization global consulting firm specializing in leadership and organizational development. “People actually want to perform at higher and higher levels, but the next level of performance is often not well defined. In fact, many organizations associate annual performance reviews with employee job descriptions, and this is wrong because job descriptions often define performance with the lowest acceptable standards. ”

A job description lists the basic skills required to perform a job. “In comparison, the annual performance review should gradually raise the bar over time,” said Rumery. “It must reflect excellence so that employees can assess their performance and conduct against the highest standards and expectations, not the lowest. Compare the example from Module 1 to Module 2 below for a professional, technical and exempt role:

Module 1 (Traditional basic descriptors)

Demonstrates mastery in major areas of responsibility. Uses tools and systems effectively and efficiently to advance business operations. Develop skills to meet the changing needs of our business. Remains aware of industry trends and stays abreast of changes and trends in policies and practices that affect the workplace. Effectively differentiates key priorities from less critical activities and designs work processes that maximize efficiency and effectiveness.

Module 2 (Improved descriptors)

Consistently demonstrates master level performance and serves as an in-house subject matter expert and best practice guru. Deals with changing priorities and adapts expectations to revised goals and timelines. Demonstrates the appropriate curiosity, curiosity and commitment to reinvent the workflow in light of the changing needs of our organization. Voluntarily transfers knowledge to others to raise performance standards across the department. Keeps abreast of industry trends and models and positively influences others to embrace change and adopt revised priorities that reflect the renewed focus of the team.

“The lesson here is that raising expectations in your core skill categories leads to higher levels of performance. It also makes it easier to avoid grade inflation, a deadly sin in most organizations, where Supervisors get higher employees than they actually deserve, ”Rumery said. On a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest, the same person who scored a 5 (“Exceeds expectations”) in module 1 would only get a 3 (“meets expectations”) in module 2 above. “In other words, when you raise the bar in terms of core competency descriptors, it better aligns actual performance with the reality of the individual’s contribution and potential,” he said.

Change is the new normal. The COVID-19 pandemic is accelerating change at an incredible rate. Let your performance review determine the goals and key results you seek to drive across your organization. Your performance reviews will take on a whole new meaning and a whole new level of importance in light of the challenges you face and the progress you are making in today’s challenging business environment related to COVID-19.

Paul Falcone ( is CHRO at the Motion Picture & Television Fund in Los Angeles and author of 96 good interview questions to ask before hiring; 101 difficult conversations to have with employees; 101 sample essays to document employee performance issues; and 2,600 sentences for effective performance reviews. This article is adapted from The Performance Appraisal Toolkit: Rethinking Your Performance Appraisal Model to Drive Individual and Organizational Change
(AMACOM / HarperCollins Leadership, 2013).

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