Guide to using effectiveness surveys for performance reviews

Our Individual Effectiveness 360 template has been designed for the purposes of gathering employee feedback for Learning and Development, not performance reviews. Performance reviews and Development are two important objectives, but they do not belong together. Using 360 degree feedback for performance review is a practice that’s been around for decades. As such - its use is ingrained in many companies worldwide. The issue with this is that it’s very difficult for an employee to think constructively and objectively about their future growth - while defending their past. Especially where their livelihood may depend on it.

Given it’s long standing use in practice, many companies look to us for guidance on how they might use Individual Effectiveness 360s for performance reviews.

To which we say - where possible, don’t.

In this article “Making Performance Reviews Work”, we outline some of the common pitfalls in traditional performance reviews including the tendency for companies to mix these reviews with development conversations and use peer feedback incorrectly.

The results of dissatisfaction associated with performance reviews processes can have an adverse impact on your business. Your employees’ engagement (is feedback and recognition a top driver of engagement for your business?), working relationships, health and wellbeing, ability to meet business objectives as well as the accuracy and cost of your reward and recognition schemes are all at risk.

Nevertheless, if you are going to use peer feedback as part of your performance appraisal process, it is important to be aware of the risks. Understanding these, you can structure your use of peer feedback to minimize the potential downfalls as much as possible.

Here are some considerations if you are using our 360 module in your performance review process:

  • Use multiple data sources for reviews, not just 360 peer feedback. Consider the weighting that peer feedback has in the reviews process. You might look to combine both objective (e.g. sales metrics) and subjective (e.g. coworker observations) measures.

    It might be easier for roles and tasks that have hard metrics associated with them (i.e. sales, customer service) but you should have other data for all roles to build a comprehensive picture of the employee’s performance. KPIs, role targets, outcome-based competency frameworks, behavioral goals, customer / client satisfaction are some examples.

    When using multiple data sources, consider the weighting that employee feedback has in the review process. For example, one company we work with uses 360 peer feedback, sales metrics and client satisfaction in performance reviews. Peer feedback counts for 20% of the employee’s review, sales metrics count for 60%, and client satisfaction scores count for 20%.
  • Consider the timing of your performance reviews in the context of your broader employee feedback strategy. Deploy 360s that will be considered for performance reviews separately to 360s used for development. Do this by separating them clearly - in time (e.g., you may run your performance appraisal process in September, so then developmental 360s might be best deployed in say, February). This is something you will need to consider should you be evaluating performance or requesting developmental feedback more than once per year. It is also worth considering how this fits into your broader employee feedback strategy.

    You can further separate the feedback used for performance reviews and feedback designed for development by:
    • Emphasizing through your broader communications strategy the purpose of the feedback and how it will be used, ensuring this is clear to all participating
    • Ensuring the content (questions) used for development versus performance 360s are different and unique (purpose driven)
    • Considering who requests the feedback. In the case of performance, perhaps the manager requests feedback on the employee’s behalf. In the case of development, the employee can request feedback themselves.
  • Pay careful attention to who and how people are nominated to provide feedback for performance. Many of us can think of an instance where our peers providing feedback about our own personal performance got things wrong or came at them with limited information (whether intentionally or unintentionally, positively or negatively). In a development conversation we can take this into light. In a performance conversation, however, often leads to employee dissatisfaction with the review process.

    TIP: Allowing the employee to nominate reviewers increases their perception that the process is fair - and that the reviewers will have had adequate opportunity to observe their work. It also increases the likelihood that employees could game the process by only selecting colleagues who are likely to provide a positive review. Balance nominations so that the employee can participate in the nomination process.

  • Talking Performance: While the appraisal process for the purposes of pay review, bonus and promotion might happen at a set cadence, it’s worth considering how often your managers and their direct reports are talking directly and deeply about how things are going. This doesn’t need to be complicated and many of the elements that contribute to dissatisfaction with performance reviews can be minimized via this interaction.

  • Considerations for Platform Users:
    The template and reporting are designed to be employee-centric, allowing employees to gather valuable data that they can act on. Be aware that the reporting experience may differ when you edit the template to include rating scales or other question types into the survey for the purpose of performance review.
    • There are some practicalities about where ‘control’ sits in the platform for nominating reviewers, at this time employees can do this, or platform admins can do this. If you you would like managers to nominate reviewers - they will need to do this in collaboration with the employee or the platform admin.
    • Our terminology and language is very much based on development and positive psychology. Terms like ‘coach’ feel spot on for an employee looking to their professional development but off the mark for their manager in a performance review. This is also evident in our communications templates, something you’ll want to be sure to edit if you are using the platform for performance reviews.

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