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Toni Moss

With appraisal season upon many companies, this year more than ever will be a challenge both when it comes to feeling able to accurately review an employee’s work when you may not have been in the same room as them for most of the past 12 months, and choosing a platform on which to conduct the conversation.

Indeed, while most companies have adapted well to remote working and have developed workflows that enable day-to-day activities to continue largely as normal, it is those less frequent events such as training, appraisals and performance management reviews that may prove more of a challenge.

With 2020 bringing great upheaval to employees, having a robust plan to communicate with them and help them to continue to develop their career is essential. For remote workers in particular, it has never been so easy for them to become disillusioned, demotivated and stressed. Having processes in place to identify this, but also to help to ensure it doesn’t occur in the first place, is essential and there are a range of technology options available. A key way of achieving this is to hold more regular reviews to not only ensure progress is being made, but also to check in with the employee and offer some motivation.

Videoconferencing tools are of huge benefit here, enabling conversations but with the added benefit of being able to see the person you’re speaking with. And, while these tools are fine for general catchups, it may be worth upping your investment in technology to ensure more important conversations can be seen and heard clearly and comfortably.

Depending on restrictions at the time, it could even be a useful idea for the appraiser to utilise company huddle rooms to conduct reviews or sensitive meetings. Huddle rooms are proving a valuable space for independent work and, as they offer a more professional setup than most home working arrangements, they can help appraisals run much more smoothly.

For example, rooms that feature a professional-grade VC setup with a high-quality camera, microphones, soundbars and displays will make for a much more comfortable viewing and listening experience for both parties. Appraisals can take time and it’s important that both parties leave feeling listened too and leave with clear action points for the future. If fatigue sets in or if audio and/or video keeps cutting out, this will just add to the frustration rather than offer the benefits a thorough appraisal should.

Of course, in the current situation, an appraisal will only be effective if both parties have been able to maintain regular contact throughout the year, so home setups are important too. Something as simple as a home office microphone will significantly enhance the audio quality of your voice during calls and enable more comfortable presenting as you won’t need to speak more loudly or repeat yourself in order to be understood. Sound isolating headphones are another key tool in ensuring you can be heard without being distracted by other activity going on around you. On the video side, consider a high-quality external webcam. Features such as HD quality, auto light correction and a wide field of view not only create a more professional impression but also offer a more comfortable viewing experience. In addition to this, look for tools that offer easy content sharing. When conducting an appraisal having a visual resource will help keep the meeting on track and ensure important information isn’t missed, as well as offering a record of previous evaluations in order to track progress.

Remote appraisal checklist

  1. Be prepared – make sure you have all the information you need, and you’ve shared all relevant information, ahead of the meeting. A visual resource is particularly useful here

  2. Check your tech – ensure everything is working and your employee is comfortable using the systems you’ve chosen

  3. Try to find a quiet spot – this is an important meeting so be present and try to avoid interruptions

  4. Create the opportunity for feedback – both parties need to be active in an appraisal so empower the appraisee to offer their opinions too

  5. End with action points – change won’t happen and employees won’t develop unless they receive actionable advice. And don’t forget to include regular follow-ups in that.

Effective remote training solutions

In addition to appraisals and regular meetings, having a structure in place to enable employee development is more crucial now than ever. Simply signing up an employee for training and leaving them to it may no longer be sufficient as homeschooling commitments or lack of technical setup may mean it simply isn’t feasible. However, with more options for online learning popping up throughout the lockdowns, professional development is more flexible than ever.

Remote professional development can take a number of forms, with webinars, small-group activities, video tutorials or demonstrations and hands-on practical training proving effective in this environment.

Whatever the format, it’s essential that the attendee has the technical setup to get the most from the course. For internal sessions, sending round a pre-session checklist stating the kit they’ll need to participate is essential. Also remember that many people have had to learn by doing when it comes to using new technology over the past 12 months, so it’s worth confirming that users are comfortable with the tools they’ll be using. And, of course, look for intuitive, reliable tools that have very little learning curve. Integrating software you already use into your remote training is always a good idea as it means employees won’t have to learn how to use a new tool in addition to the material they’re learning in the training.

While this may lead to a reliance on platforms such as Zoom, there is more out there and in some situations, video conferencing software simply won’t be sufficient. In this case, investing in other online learning tools such as a Learning Management System (LMS) can lead to better learning outcomes for employees. These systems handle the admin, documentation, tracking, reporting and delivery of development programmes making it much easier to handle larger rollouts as well as offering structured lessons, the ability to customise and a wide variety of learning formats.

When it comes to more personal instructor-led training, participants will likely get more from a session if the educator is presenting from a professional setup. Again, if rules allow, consider presenting from a fully equipped space, that way you’ll ensure everyone can clearly see, hear and participate in the session while ensuring the session leader remains socially distanced.

If going down this route, look for a space with a high-quality central display, microphones and speakers so everyone can be clearly heard and a video conferencing or video distribution system so your content can be accessed.

If you want to really immerse your audience, consider introducing gamification, 360-degree videos, artificial intelligence (AI) or augmented reality (AR) to create more realistic scenarios. This could be particularly valuable in application training in industries such as healthcare. And, of course, just like in real life, always ask for feedback as this will help to ensure your offering is meeting employees’ needs.

And don’t forget you can reach a wider audience, cater for employees across different time zones and save material to reuse at a later date if you opt to live stream and/or record your event. This could be particularly helpful as employees start to return from furlough and need to be bought up to speed quickly on new processes, projects or technologies. Speak to the team at CDEC Live to find out how this can be achieved safely and cost-effectively.

Keeping employees engaged and feeling like a valued member of the team has been one of the biggest challenges of the past 12 months, and it looks set to continue to be an issue in the coming months. While empowering teams to work individually is important, maintaining lines of communication and some degree of normality is also essential. Training, reviews and appraisals all help to achieve this, but this must be done with regularity and professionally if they are to help motivate employees rather than frustrate them further.

The technology and the support to achieve this is out there. To find out more, contact CDEC today.

 

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