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Peer feedback for performance evaluation

Peer feedback for performance evaluation

In a new article from HBR*, the writers focus on peer feedback for performance evaluation.

Alessandro Di Fiore and Marcio Souza say that peer reviews are a solution to the fall in popularity of the annual performance review. Here’s a summary:

-Peer reviews reflect the less hierarchical ways many companies now work. Instead of the boss being the all-powerful judge of performance, feedback from peers mirrors more agile, team-based ways of working. So peer feedback for performance evaluation is a better fit for the 21st century workplace.

-In truly agile workplaces, there may not even be a boss, or the same boss all through the year. So the idea of having one ‘boss’ feeding back on one employee is outdated.

– Because of the Covid-19 crisis, many people are working remotely and therefore have less opportunity for observations and feedback from their manager.

– The peer review idea is that each person receives feedback from a large number of people in total. The feedback is timely, based on recent work. It can come from colleagues, peers, other managers, and the boss.

– The outcome is feedback that is not just based on one person’s view (the boss), but benefits from ‘the wisdom of the crowd’.

-There are examples of companies such as Google and Netflix who use peer or 360 feedback to support performance evaluation.

This bears out our experiences with companies who use 360 feedback to support performance evaluation

One example is a large, multinational telecoms company in the middle east. This company uses peer feedback (together with feedback from line managers and senior leaders), to evaluate performance in areas that are not obviously measurable. Peers observe and rate skills such as leadership, team and group working, and demonstrated organisational values.

Another example is a professional services firm which obtains peer feedback for partners to support both performance review and leadership development.

Here’s our take on 360 and peer feedback, and some key points to remember:

Who is giving the feedback?

We recommend that for robust and valuable data, it’s best to invite the following to give feedback:

-The individual’s line manager

-All their direct reports – this is important to forestall any potential issues about favouritism

-Peers – who have worked with her/him during the period of the review

-Others – these could be support teams

-Customer or clients – this is relevant for projects with close co-operation with clients, for example, development of products or services for those clients

Even if not all those invited respond, it’s a good idea to gather as much feedback as possible.  Against this needs to be balanced the immediacy and relevance of the feedback.

Should feedback be anonymous?

As the HBR writers say, this will depend on whether the organisation’s culture is ready for open and identifiable feedback.  Until they have experienced the feedback process, and are comfortable that they can provide honest feedback without negative consequences, most employees would prefer their feedback to be anonymous.  This may take a few iterations of the feedback.

Should the feedback be prompted?

Most organisations use some form of prompted feedback, which helps to keep the process organised and consistent. However, in one organisation we have worked with provide their teams with ‘fast feedback’ – the ability to get feedback whenever they want. They are a tech company who develop software platforms. Because their employees are young and want lots of immediate feedback, there is no prompting and the employees themselves drive the feedback.

What areas for feedback?

Again, this will depend on the organisation. The more frequent the peer feedback, the shorter and more specific the areas/questions should be. The 360 feedback platform should provide enough flexibility to get feedback on different categories, specific to the company. It should allow a mix of rating and text questions, editable as needed.

Simplicity is key

As the HBR article says, the simpler the feedback questions, rating scale and process, the better it will work for regular peer feedback for performance evaluation.

We would add that transparency of the feedback process, what it’s for and how the feedback will be used, are critical.

About Track Surveys

We work with organisations to deliver the benefits of 360 and peer feedback to their people. Click here for more information.

Jo Ayoubi is an expert consultant in 360 feedback and assessment.

*Are peer reviews the future of performance evaluations? HBR, January 2021