As our clients gear up for the year-end performance appraisal process, we are frequently asked whether other stakeholders should participate in the feedback process. As more and more managers are taking on a larger span of control they often have less of a direct opportunity to observe the performance of each and every employee throughout the year. As you can imagine, this situation can result in a less-than-meaningful performance appraisal discussion. Add to this the fact that more employees are working in a team environment and therefore have the perfect opportunity to observe the performance of their peers and provide valuable feedback on strengths and development areas.
For these reasons, among others, we strongly encourage companies to include as many relevant parties as possible when it comes to providing feedback on the performance of employees. Of course how these people are chosen and how their feedback is incorporated may vary depending on the culture of the organization, manager span of control, experience with peer and upward feedback, hierarchical structure (e.g., are matrix managers common within the company?) and other factors.
When it comes to incorporating feedback from multiple sources as part of your performance appraisal process you have many options. Most importantly, you should define a process and select a performance appraisal system that works well within your organization. When you really think through the unique aspects mentioned above, it makes sense that one organization would need to address this differently from another. Too often we see companies tempted by a technology solution that limits the process/workflow they have defined (see our white paper entitled “Seven Keys for Choosing the Right Performance Management System” and article “Human Resources Software - When the CHRO and CIO Disagree”). When this occurs, you risk high frustration levels from your leadership population as they only want (and need) to avoid more administrative burdens.
Consider the following:
- What is the culture of the organization in terms of feedback? Is 360 degree appraisal currently used in the organization? Do managers informally solicit feedback from other stakeholders when preparing for performance reviews?
- What is the typical manager’s span of control? Do most managers have over 10-15 direct reports? Has there been a recent reorganization that has increased manager span of control?
- What is the organization’s experience with peer appraisal or upward feedback? Do employees routinely work in teams? Do team members provide team member feedback as part of a project review or debrief?
- What is the current hierarchical structure? Are matrix managers a common part of the organizational structure? Do these matrix managers provide feedback to the primary manager as part of the performance appraisal process?
If you currently use 360 degree performance appraisal (or have a culture that supports ongoing feedback), if the managers span of control is large and/or growing and matrix managers are a part of the performance appraisal process, you would likely add great value to your performance appraisal process by including multi-rater feedback.
Once the decision is made to include multi-rater feedback, some companies like to have managers select this group of feedback providers. Others have the employee select these people (with manager oversight) and still others allow any employee to rate any other employee (yes, that’s right), something our CEO Jim Perry likes to call “The Wild Wild West”. For many organizations, this process makes sense and for those who have been using 360 for some time it can be a surprisingly easy transition.
Regardless of which process you define and which technology solution you choose, adding a multi-rater feedback component to your annual performance appraisal process not only adds great value in terms of providing employees with the feedback they so desperately need (and too often don’t receive) but this also gives managers insight into the things they may miss given their increasingly large span of control. At viaPeople, we believe feedback is a cornerstone to many developmental activities including performance management, succession planning and leadership coaching efforts, but we have also seen continuous and frequent feedback actually change the culture of an organization. When the feedback process is expanded in the right way, the resulting changes extend far beyond performance evaluation.
- How have you incorporated performance feedback from multiple sources (peers, direct reports, customers) into the performance appraisal process at your company?
- What tips would you like to share with others?
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