Evaluating Employees During the Pandemic, and Other Actions for Allies

Each week, Karen Catlin shares five simple actions to create a more inclusive workplace and be a better ally.

1. Revisit how you evaluate performance

To better understand inclusion and equity concerns during the coronavirus crisis, researchers at Stanford University ran a focus group of corporate and nonprofit leaders. As Dr. Shelley Correll explained,

“We were interested in understanding how the new work-family arrangements occasioned by the pandemic are affecting employees and what organizations are doing to support their employees during these challenging times.”

One theme they found is that organizations need to adjust expectations of what productivity looks like. Not surprisingly, caregiving responsibilities, feelings of extreme isolation, concerns about family or community members on the front lines, and economic anxiety are all impacting employees’ performance.

Some of the focus group participants shared that they’re canceling or deferring performance reviews. It’s simply not possible to evaluate employees against goals set before the pandemic.

Regardless of if or when you’ll do performance reviews this year, here’s an important note from Correll and her team: well-known biases in performance evaluations could be exacerbated in this crisis. Specifically, if you don’t have clear criteria for evaluating performance in this “new normal,” women, people of color, and other members of underrepresented groups will be impacted.

To combat this bias, revisit how you evaluate performance and make sure you’re using clear, objective, and reasonable criteria.

2. Ask people to raise their hand before speaking in a virtual meeting

The article about Stanford’s focus group concluded with an uplifting section on opportunities for improving inclusion and equity given the crisis. Here’s my favorite:

“Several of our participants reported that Zoom meetings made it easier to equalize participation. By requiring people to raise their hand on Zoom before speaking, it is easier to avoid interruptions and ensure that all voices are heard than during an in-person meeting.”

What a simple best practice for any virtual meeting.

3. Check in with each employee

In a global study of employees during March and April 2020, nearly 40% of respondents said their company has not asked them how they’re doing since the pandemic began. Also, people in this group were 38% more likely to say their mental health has declined since the outbreak of the pandemic.

As the study’s author pointed out, “How can we expect to help our people if we don’t even ask how they are doing?”

If you haven’t checked in with your employees recently, a simple “Are you okay?” or “How are you holding up?” or “Is there anything you need?” could make a difference to their well-being.

Doing so could also help your organization financially. In “COVID-19: What Mothers in Your Office Aren’t Telling You,” research group Catalyst explained,

“As many companies learn the hard way — when they increasingly establish returnship programs to hire back those who left the workforce because it did not accommodate their caregiving responsibilities — losing talent because of a temporary situation is expensive and short-sighted. It is far better to discuss with each person what they need to get by in the short term until the crisis passes.”

4. Consider a 4-day work week

During May, Buffer is operating under a 4-day work week (at full pay). The CEO of this small tech company explains why:

“This 4-day workweek period is about well-being, mental health, and placing us as humans and our families first. It’s about being able to pick a good time to go and do the groceries, now that it’s a significantly larger task. It’s about parents having more time with kids now that they’re having to take on their education. This isn’t about us trying to get the same productivity in fewer days.”

This is an experiment, and they may decide to extend it past May, depending on how things work out.

Would you try this with your team? Would your company be supportive? It could be worth discussing.

5. Don’t ask job candidates to upload a photo

On Twitter, my friend Zach Bouzan-Kaloustian posted a screenshot of a job application that asked him to upload a photo. As he wrote,

“It is a deeply terrible idea to ask for a photo on a job application. It will ensure you DO NOT get diverse candidates and totally adds to and increases bias in the process.”

Thank you, Zach, for pointing out what should be obvious yet isn’t.

I wish you strength and safety as we all move forward,

— Karen Catlin, Founder and Author of Better Allies

Being an ally is a journey. Want to join us?

😍 Follow @betterallies on Twitter, Medium, Instagram, or Pinterest

✉️ This content originally appeared in our newsletter, 5 Ally Actions; Subscribe to get it delivered to your inbox every Friday

📖 Read the Better Allies books

📣 Tell someone about these resources

Together, we can — and will — make a difference with the Better Allies™ approach.

Everyday actions to create inclusive, engaging workplaces. Together, we can — and will — make a difference with the Better Allies® approach.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store