Performance Appraisals for International Employees | Teami

Running Performance Appraisals for International Employees: What You Need to Know

Best practices for running effective performance reviews for international teams and remote employees.

Effectively running performance appraisals for a globally dispersed team presents unique challenges. With diversity in culture and geography comes complexity in aligning goals, providing meaningful feedback, and fostering development.

Gain insights on adapting processes to local norms while ensuring consistency and legal compliance across borders. Discover approaches for bridging the geographical and cultural gaps inherent in managing global teams. 

Read on to learn actionable strategies to turn performance reviews into a driver of alignment, engagement, and advancement for your worldwide talent.

Types of Performance Reviews

Performance reviews are a pivotal aspect of talent management, enabling organizations to evaluate employees, provide feedback, and foster professional growth. Companies use reviews on various cadences depending on their priorities and culture.

Weekly to Annual Reviews

The frequency of performance reviews ranges from weekly check-ins to annual appraisals. Weekly or monthly reviews offer the benefit of real-time feedback, allowing managers to reinforce positive progress and course-correct on concerns in the moment. 

This tight cadence provides coaching in small digestible pieces. Quarterly reviews assess milestones on key metrics and longer-horizon objectives. They balance the urgency of weekly reviews with a broader lens. 

Annual reviews take a comprehensive approach, covering the full year's achievements, developmental areas, and goals across all responsibilities. Less frequent annual or biannual reviews work for stable roles. 

More regular touchpoints help drive continuous skills development. The optimal timeframe depends on the employee's role complexity, seniority, and the organization's needs.

Agile and Short-Term Reviews

In today's dynamic work environment, the traditional annual review cycle is too static for many teams. Forward-thinking companies complement regular reviews with agile, flexible reviews tied to projects or short-term goals. For instance, a manager might conduct a review after a product launch, assessing how the employee performed during the sprint. 

Project-based reviews like this help managers provide targeted feedback tied to concrete assignments. Similarly, short-term reviews allow managers to reset expectations around temporary objectives like a quarterly sales quota. 

By tailoring reviews to specific initiatives, managers can maintain a pulse on performance despite shifting priorities.

Who Conducts Performance Reviews

Well-rounded performance reviews collect perspectives from various stakeholders while keeping line managers at the center. HR plays a key enabling role, providing infrastructure, training, and governance. Leadership groups take a high-level view of the outcomes.

Line Managers' Role

Line managers have the primary responsibility for spearheading performance reviews given their day-to-day interactions with direct reports. 

They can speak to work quality, analytical skills, collaboration, initiative, and other competencies required for the role. During reviews, managers summarize milestones, highlight achievements to reinforce, identify potential areas for growth, and discuss goals. 

With their unique on-the-ground view, line managers provide the most meaningful performance insights. They should be fully trained in setting expectations, providing feedback, coaching, and documenting reviews.

HR and Leadership Groups

HR professionals play an integral role in stewarding the review process across the organization. They ensure managers are equipped with frameworks, training, and tools to complete reviews successfully and consistently. 

Many HR teams compile performance data enterprise-wide to uncover company-level trends and inform compensation decisions. In some organizations, senior leaders or management committees also review summaries of performance data from reviews. 

This helps them connect employee performance to business outcomes and allocate rewards and advancement opportunities. While not doing individual reviews, leadership groups take a high-level view of the process.

Benefits of Performance Reviews

Regular performance reviews offer immense value to organizations and employees when implemented thoughtfully. They promote alignment, development, and a culture of continuous growth.

Aligning Roles and Goals

Well-executed performance reviews serve to connect employees' daily responsibilities with the company's overarching vision and objectives. 

In the review process, managers can contextualize priorities, feedback, and development areas within the framework of corporate goals. This enables employees to see how their role ladders up to business success, breeding engagement. 

Reviews also allow managers to reset expectations and coach against updated organizational needs as strategies evolve. Rather than siloed tasks, employees understand how their work contributes to the collective mission. 

With this perspective, they can adapt and prioritize accordingly. Frequent check-ins to re-align are crucial given shifting priorities.

Career Development and Rewards

The rich performance insights gleaned from reviews become the foundation for employee development and rewards programs. 

By identifying strengths, motivators, and growth areas for each person, reviews inform training and stretch assignment decisions that drive professional growth. Accountability is reinforced when reviewers follow through on documented development needs. 

Reviews also supply the performance data that underpins fair promotion deliberations and succession planning. 

When merit increases and bonuses directly correlate with achievements measured in reviews, employees feel recognized. Well-executed reviews are a strategic pillar of talent management.

Approaches to Performance Appraisals

Organizations take varying approaches to appraise and develop performance, ranging from once-annual reviews to technology-enabled continuous feedback systems. Some rely on manual scoring while others focus on goal attainment.

Traditional vs. Modern Approaches

The once-predominant annual review cycle involved extensive documentation and a single annual meeting. Some organizations now take a more continuous approach enabled by digital tools. 

Mobile apps allow managers to capture notes on exemplary achievements or coaching needs in the flow of work. These real-time insights are then aggregated into performance trends. Employees also can self-document accomplishments between reviews. 

The always-on format provides better support for development than one high-stakes annual discussion. Still, some roles suit less frequent reviews given the stability of responsibilities. The ideal approach balances business needs, role complexity, and digital capabilities.

Grading Systems

Some legacy review systems grade employees numerically on a scale like 1-5 on performance dimensions like "collaboration” or “execution.” This shorthand can drive overly simplified ratings without context. 

Other companies take a qualitative approach with summative categories like “outstanding performer.” Numeric scores or generic ratings often receive criticism for their subjectivity and lack of transparency. 

Leading organizations now emphasize goals-based reviews that assess employee performance against agreed objectives and competencies for their role. This promotes fairness and development.

Setting Goals in Performance Reviews

Collaboratively setting SMART goals during reviews provides focus for employees and managers alike. Ongoing tracking between reviews ensures alignment and accountability.


The SMART framework helps managers and employees define focused performance and development goals together during reviews. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. 

A Specific goal clearly articulates the desired outcome, leaving no room for ambiguity. 

Measurable metrics track progress quantitatively or qualitatively. 

Achievable goals stretch skills while remaining realistic for the individual and resources available. 

Relevant goals align to priorities for the role and company. 

Finally, attaching Timeframes creates urgency and milestones to work toward. 

An example SMART goal might be: “Launch 2 new client training courses and achieve 80% satisfaction ratings by Q4” based on a development need.

Collaboration and Tracking

Collaborating on SMART goals breeds transparency and buy-in from both managers and employees. 

It ensures agreement on priorities before the review cycle starts. Equally important is consistently tracking progress between annual or quarterly reviews. A 15-minute monthly check-in lets managers recognize achievements, provide mentoring, and course-correct if needed. 

Without regular tracking, goals drift. Software can facilitate capturing status updates between reviews. Keeping goals alive through continuous collaboration and tracking optimizes success.

Performance Review Templates and Examples

While reviews should spotlight unique accomplishments, templates, and sample language provide helpful guidance for managers on delivering balanced, constructive feedback.

Customizable Templates

Many HR teams design performance review templates to maintain consistency across the organization while allowing customization. Standard sections might cover goals, achievements, developmental areas, and an overall summary. 

Managers can then modify or expand sections to accommodate responsibilities for specific roles. For example, reviewing an engineer might require more technical competencies. 

While templates promote structure, making them flexible enables personalization based on collaboratively set goals.

Positive Language and Feedback Areas

Managers should balance constructive feedback with positive reinforcement in reviews. Examples help guide managers to frame criticisms constructively, focusing on 1-2 priority areas to improve clarity. 

Rather than a laundry list of negatives, examples demonstrate how to highlight strengths, coach opportunities sensitively, and set forward-looking goals. 

Reviews should motivate, not demoralize. Sample language models how to craft supportive messages that empower improvement.

Pitfalls to Avoid in Performance Reviews

When executed poorly, performance reviews fail to achieve the overarching goals of developing talent and aligning employees to strategic priorities. Avoiding common missteps like detachment from objectives and inadequate training is key.

The review process methodology should directly map to the core purpose of fueling employee growth and organizational goal attainment. Reviews become a compliance checkbox exercise when they lose linkage to business strategy and talent priorities. 

This breeds disengagement. Maintaining a clear line of sight between the review process and overarching talent development objectives is critical. 

All policies, templates, training programs and manager communications should reinforce this connection. Reviews executed in a siloed vacuum without context provide little value.

Communication and Training

HR leaders must clearly and continuously communicate the review strategy, detailed process, timelines and supporting technology. Training programs should thoroughly equip managers to have effective review discussions. 

Topics should span goal setting, providing balanced developmental feedback, writing summaries, and coaching for growth. Lack of manager capability breeds discomfort giving critical feedback. Insufficient clarity on review logistics also reduces consistency.

Significant upfront and ongoing investment in manager capability building and process transparency is foundational.

Alternative Ways to Collect Feedback

While periodic reviews remain essential, leading companies complement them by collecting feedback through techniques like 360 reviews and pulse surveys to power continuous development.

360 Feedback and Continual Feedback

360-degree feedback expands perspectives beyond the manager's view by gathering input from direct reports, peers, internal partners, and sometimes external sources. 

This provides a more balanced assessment of strengths and growth areas. Online performance management systems also enable continual feedback. Employees can document achievements in real-time between reviews, while managers can provide ongoing coaching. 

Blending formal reviews with regular 360 surveys and continual feedback enables development in the flow of work.

Employee Pulse Reviews

Pulse review surveys collect employee sentiment on focused topics like job satisfaction, manager effectiveness, work-life balance, and inclusion between comprehensive reviews. Some companies use monthly or quarterly pulse surveys to take the pulse on pressing issues and potential disengagement Drivers. 

The compressed format surfaces focused qualitative insights that reviews may not capture. Pulse surveys provide an important supplemental source of employee perspective and leading indicators to predict concerns.

Preparing for Performance Reviews

Thorough preparation is imperative for managers to conduct effective performance reviews. This includes scheduling ample time, compiling relevant performance data, and planning responses to potential challenges.

Calendar and Data Preparation

Managers should clear sufficient time on their calendar for each review meeting, sending calendar invitations well in advance to enable employee preparation. Gathering performance metrics, past review documentation, peer feedback summaries, and the employee's self-assessment provides a comprehensive fact base.

This data-driven approach lends credibility versus generalities. Prep packages should include achievements, development areas with concrete examples, and proposed goals. Alignment across sources builds an accurate performance narrative. Checklists help managers approach reviews consistently.

Preparing for Unexpected Issues

Despite best intentions, reviews can sometimes spur surprising emotions like defensiveness or disengagement. Proactively planning responses for potential conflict scenarios reduces stress for managers. Role-playing tough conversations with HR equips managers to navigate challenging interactions. 

Drafting balanced written feedback upfront also provides helpful guidance during tense meetings. Considering emotional responses that may arise makes managers less likely to react instinctively. While aiming for smooth reviews, managers should prepare to coach employees past difficult moments skillfully.

Performance Reviews for International Employees

Managing international team members requires adapting review approaches to address cultural nuances, legal landscapes, and remote logistics across borders.

Cultural Differences

Cultural norms around power distance, individualism, confrontation, and feedback vary widely across regions. In some cultures, direct critical feedback may be discouraged or seen as disrespectful. 

Providing opportunities for employees to self-assess first can ease defensiveness about external critiques. Framing feedback positively as coaching for growth rather than criticism also helps overcome cultural barriers. Investing time to research cultural context equips managers to have more meaningful conversations.

Managers should adhere to data privacy, anti-discrimination, labor, and contract laws specific to each country. Consult HR on documentation procedures, job protections, and requirements before conducting international reviews. 

Exercise additional care around sensitive issues like gender, age, family status, and disability, avoiding illegal lines of questioning. The legal landscape may constrain topics or access to employee information, requiring adjustments to standardized review processes.

Remote Evaluations

With remote teams, managers should accommodate time zones when scheduling review meetings. Conducting reviews over video when possible allows managers to pick up nonverbal cues despite physical distance. 

Recording meetings enables employees to re-watch and digest feedback. Following up in writing summarizes key points and next steps. Regular check-ins verify understanding across language or culture barriers. Thoughtful preparation bridges geographic divides.

In Summary

Performance reviews remain a strategic pillar for managing and developing talent when executed thoughtfully. As highlighted throughout this article, their overarching purpose centers on fueling employee growth by setting clear goals and providing actionable feedback tied to organizational priorities.

Companies take varying approaches to reviews, from traditional annual cycles to continuous feedback systems enabled by technology. Each methodology has its benefits based on business needs, role complexity, and culture. There is no one-size-fits-all “best” approach.

Regardless of cadence, reviews generate immense value when grounded in clarity of process, thoughtful preparation, and manager capability building. Managers should be thoroughly trained to have meaningful discussions, provide balanced feedback that motivates, and coach for improvement.

Reviews lose impact without a clear line of sight connecting individual development to corporate strategy. All components should reinforce this linkage, from goal setting and feedback to tied incentives.

While formal reviews remain essential, leading organizations blend them with continual feedback mechanisms like 360 reviews and pulse surveys. This expansive input fuels ongoing growth outside the traditional cycle.

With careful implementation, reviews serve as a catalyst for aligning skilled, engaged teams to meet organizational challenges. They provide focus for the present and illuminate growth paths for the future. When grounded in transparency and trust, reviews become a collaborative partnership on the path to performance excellence.

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