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Guide to Performance self reflections during COVID-19


There is great value of a strong employee listening strategy, especially during an unprecedented global pandemic. Continuous listening not only allows our employees to engage in meaningful conversations but is also a strong indicator of a supportive workplace. 

A crisis or emergency may tempt us to think about forgoing our performance management processes in order to tackle more pressing issues at hand; however, as SHRM suggests, it’s critical for your organization to manage operations with minimal loss and disruption. This is especially true for organizations that are more directly impacted by a crisis (e.g., layoffs), and now is the perfect time to shift your organization from panic to pause and reflection. 

Therefore, in uncertain times, coaching your employees to discover their own personal purpose can help employees gain clarity on their meaning at work and help them connect with the work they do. 

The value of reflecting during a time of uncertainty

Aspects of your performance process (e.g., self-reflections and goal setting) provide additional benefits to your teams, such as greater motivation, satisfaction, and productivity. One study found that when people used their commute time to think about and plan their day, they were happier, more productive, and less burned out than people who didn’t. Therefore, with many of our workforces now based remotely, continuing and encouraging this process is paramount.

While we have outlined steps to determine whether you should keep running your performance evaluations during the COVID-19 pandemic, continuing or even introducing the process of self-reflections during this time can also be beneficial. In light of COVID-19, employees are likely experiencing a world where everything seems to be a priority at all times, with personal and home life blending more than ever before. 

In a letter to his employees, Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella said “It is in times of great disruption and uncertainty that our ability to stay grounded in our sense of purpose and remain true to our identity is of the utmost importance.” 

Self-reflections can serve employees by helping them take a step back, reflect on the current situation, integrate learnings, plan for the future and celebrate accomplishments (both personal and professional) during a time of uncertainty. 

Developmental- vs. Measurement-focused Self Reflections

Identifying whether the purpose for a self-reflection is to contribute to the measurement or development cycle will help mold your strategy on how to best tackle it. Consider the following: 

  • a measurement cycle (i.e., when promotion and compensation decisions are made), where self-reflections are used as an input for the evaluation process, or 
  • a development cycle (i.e., when we focus on learning and growth) where self-reflections are used to identify areas where one hopes to develop and prepares them for a goal setting conversation with their manager

The purpose of self reflections 

In a time of crisis, employees may feel like the days blur together and find themselves unsure of what they have achieved. A self reflection allows an individual to see that, even if circumstances have changed, they have made meaningful contributions. Now is a great time to start with a developmental-focused self-reflection. This will give employees the opportunity to: 

  • Experience a sense of normalcy and security (i.e., I can continue to grow, develop, and work towards goals at my organization)
  • Get clarity on any updates to their goals, and the impact of the crisis on the organization 
  • Have a space for meaningful 1:1 conversations with their manager where they can escalate any worries, frustrations, or needs they have

Regardless of if your managers have conducted a developmental self-reflection cycle or not, consider any additional resources to upskill them on how to have meaningful conversations with employees during a crisis (especially since these conversations are now virtual).

If you are in (or considering) a developmental cycle 

Remember that developmental goals are more future-focused, so we will still want to create space for managers and employees to think about goals and opportunities, moving forward. We recommend that you maintain the developmental self-reflection cycle; however, note that some of your reflection items may need to be changed given the context of your organization. For example, you may want to consider adjusting the timeline of prior accomplishments and future developmental goals to shorter time frames (e.g., rather than 6 months, perhaps just 3). Also consider what was reasonably achievable given the context of your organization. For example, if formal L&D programming has been put on pause, perhaps ideate on how employees can continue to progress toward personal development goals, outside of formal programming initiatives.  

If you are considering implementing or amending your current self-reflection cycle, consider the following items: 

  • What new skills have you had to acquire given the crisis?
  • Has the crisis allowed for you to work on additional projects you previously did not have the opportunity to?
  • What are you most proud of achieving or contributing to the organization during this time?
  • What challenge are you most proud of overcoming?

If you are in a measurement cycle 

If you are currently amid a measurement cycle (and are continuing as planned) and making decisions regarding promotions and compensation adjustments, remember that self reflections provide the opportunity to incorporate employee voice into the process. Research on organizational justice has shown that an opportunity to voice one’s input in a process has major impacts on employee attitudes toward your performance process. At a time where employees and managers aren’t physically working together, self reflections can provide a space to mitigate biases and improve employee sentiment toward the performance process.



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