Here’s how to power up your remote tech team with constructive performance reviews6 min read

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Having just made it past the mid-year mark, it’s probably time for a little reflection. That’s right – we’re talking about those nerve-wracking performance reviews that make everyone’s palms sweaty all of a sudden. And with remote tech teams, geographical distance is already a huge obstacle. How do you connect frequently with your remote team and make it productive? As it turns out, it’s not as nightmarish as you think. Here’s how you can create constructive performance reviews for your remote tech teams!

What constructive feedback is… and isn’t

We get it. Unhappy employees are harder to deal with than the happy ones. We all want to make our employees feel good – and not just for those Best Boss of the Year mugs, either (though if you do want this, you might try your luck with an office durian party since prices are at an all time low). But feedback is unavoidable!

The best type of feedback is precise and accurate, meant to push someone forward without them making the same mistakes again, and again, and again. But be careful – you don’t want to end up giving harsh, overwhelming criticism that destroys your remote employees’ self-esteem.

It’s time to strike a balance when you hand out feedback to your remote employees and keep them motivated.

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4 strategies every manager needs to give awesome feedback

constructive performance reviews glints

So just how do you frame your feedback to inspire your remote employees? Here are four key strategies you can keep in mind before your next performance review session:

  1. Don’t make general sweeping statements and call it praise. Phrases like, “You’re very hardworking!” or “You’re a smart person!” might light up a Christmas tree smile on your employees face. But this type of feedback is just fluff – and ultimately forgettable. People are smart and hardworking all the time.
  2. Make your praise and affirmation actionable and specific. Instead of fluff, be precise. Bring up that big project your remote employee took on last month where he built a solid landing page for a new website. Talk about the decisions he made, why they worked, and why you’re happy about it. It’s important that he understands what he did to meet your expectations – so he can do it again and improve upon it next time.

  3. Frame corrections as suggestions instead. When it comes to the downside of a person’s performance, it helps to be uplifting. Instead of telling your remote employees what they did wrong (chances are, they already know), pose it as a suggestion and make the discussion a collaborative one. Phrases like, “What do you think of holding more frequent code reviews with the team?” will help to strengthen work quality without trampling on someone’s feelings.

  4. Be specific about what they need to do better. Your suggestions must be actionable and clear – so that your remote employees can act on them immediately when the next quarter begins. Saying, “You should work to manage the next big project better!” is not as helpful as you think it is. Use action words or verbs and be really precise about it: “Next week, spend an hour in the morning everyday reading on X subject – it’ll help you with the next project.” The more detailed your instructions or suggestions are, the better your remote employees will perform.

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Frequency of your constructive performance reviews

Some companies only conduct performance reviews at the end of every year. Others may go for a quarterly review so everyone can sync up more frequently over the course of a year. If your company or startup is scaling rapidly – or trying to – then frequent interactions with your remote tech team will help things along. Quarterly performance reviews might help to keep motivation and productivity levels at a high, especially for startups where everyone’s constantly buzzing about the next big change.

A performance review structure for champions

So what’s the best way to carry out constructive performance reviews? It’s all about how you structure it.

Depending on your personal take on the matter, it might be helpful to actually release your appraisal an hour before the actual performance review takes place. Let your remote team process the feedback provided before actually discussing it – that way, employees can work through emotional reactions (if any) before facing you.

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During the review itself, applying this framework will keep things in order for both you and your remote employees:

  1. General performance review. Talk about the typical things like attendance, punctuality, and how well your employees are performing as a team. Soft skills like communication and collaboration can be brought up here freely – without derailing the topic, of course! Now, once general workplace matters are out of the way, it’s time to zoomin.
  2. Role-specific review. Go over the good and bad things that are directly related to technical jobs and functions. Does your remote tech team need to ensure better code integrity? Discuss it – and give your suggestions! Open the floor up to your employees to give their ideas as well, and make sure you really talk about the gritty details of their work.
  3. Quarterly/yearly evaluation and comparison. It’s always good to zoom out for a bit to take a look at the bigger picture. This way, you and your remote team will be able to clearly see whether you’ve been having a great year so far, or an uphill battle. Put things into perspective with quarterly or yearly evaluations, and congratulate your team if they’ve been doing well.
  4. Setting goals and looking ahead. After reflecting and celebrating, it’s time to synergise and prepare for the next quarter or year. End off your performance reviews with some serious goal-setting and make sure your remote team is hyped up for what’s to come. Setting these goals will offer you a guideline to the next evaluation, so keep this in mind!

That’s it! You’re all set and prepared to provide more constructive performance reviews for your remote tech teams to reach those big goals this year. Keep your feedback helpful and uplifting to ensure your employees come out of it energised – not discouraged. Best of luck!

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Sophia Lee

Content geek and novice copywriter at Glints. I've been writing professionally for the last few years but know there's a lot more out there to learn. When I'm not working, I'm playing Overwatch, writing experimental poetry, and digging up new indie music somewhere.