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Dear Anna,

Annual reviews are just around the corner. What can I do to ensure it’s effective over Zoom rather than face-to-face in the office? 

For individuals:

It’s more important than ever to plan the topics you want to discuss this year. If you have important items such as promotion prospects or challenges meeting budget, consider a call or note to your reviewer in the days leading up to the review to put these items on the agenda. It’s harder, but not impossible, to bring up a sensitive topic over Zoom. Getting a sense of the right time is hard when you can’t read body language. It’s also easy for misunderstandings to occur. If your process includes the dreaded self-assessment, think of it as a draft for discussion, not a witness statement. You want enough detail to remind your reviewer of key areas without perfecting every sentence.

For leaders:

An effective review in any format encourages the person to have ownership and control in their work. A sense of direction and looking forward to enjoying work in the future is key. If your organisation is experiencing what is known as TUNA business conditions from the good folks in the future scenario planning team at Oxford – Turbulent, Uncertain, Novel and Ambiguous – use these different types of changes to drive career planning and skill development for your in-house team. Zoom is just one of the many novel solutions we are now using. Think about what’s just around the corner for your team and have a constructive conversation about future careers.  

The government sector is responding to uncertainty in a way that requires increased focus on perception, contribution and what it means to provide for the community. Maintaining a balance on the priorities pre-COVID19 will give a long-term focus to career plans and set your team up for success when the “new normal” arrives.  

For private practice performance discussions, my recommendation is to focus on what you do know – the decisions, choices and actions that can be taken rather than what you don’t know about an uncertain future. Using the TUNA framework, look for the novelty in developments such as electronic signatures, digital mediation or electronic courts, and set objectives with a focus to preparing for the future. 

The village:

Everyone involved in reviews is recommended to keep in mind the anxiety and stress that many are experiencing can be increased at review time. Small acts of kindness make a difference. It might be the small conversation at the beginning of a review that shows you are genuinely interested in how the person has been doing, a reminder of the support resources available, or a mental note to check back in with the person in the near future away from the formality of the review and talk about something not related to work for 15 minutes. Keep in mind the annual review should be just one of the many conversations people leaders have with their teams throughout the year. Finally, don’t Zoom-bomb someone with surprises.