Employee Engagement

Run Effective Employee Reviews

Katie Ash

Jan 27, 2021

Feedback in the workplace is an important tool to motivate, mold, and monitor employee performance. It provides the business with an opportunity to improve the performance of all staff, and discover any barriers that need attention.

Assessing employee performance and providing encouraging feedback can also improve retention rates amongst staff. When employees feel recognised, and that they are learning and developing professionally, they are more engaged in the workplace.

The employee review process is often daunting for managers and employees alike. Formal one-to-one sessions can put employees on the back foot, without time to prepare or respond to feedback or questions on the spot. Implementing a written growth review system with peer assessment not only takes a lot of the pressure off managers, but can provide more holistic and fair feedback to employees that can help them improve their work processes as well as results.

[Studies] have touted the benefits of positive reinforcement. According to the 2015 SHRM/Globoforce Employee Recognition Survey, such reinforcement can boost retention, productivity, creativity, and business outcomes.

Harvard Business Review

What are growth reviews?

Growth reviews are a type of employee review process focusing on areas of success and improvement. These showcase the employee what they should continue to do, or reduce doing in order to improve themselves. The objective of using both praise and constructive criticism is to encourage personal growth within their role and ongoing professional development. The focus is not about whether they hit number targets or their performance against KPIs/OKRs, but about how they may move forward in their role in meaningful ways. In growth reviews, the feedback should be fact-based and solution-oriented. 

Why should you involve peers in the review process?

Peers often have insights of daily task performance by colleagues that may not be seen by higher levels. As individuals work together, they may notice behaviours or characteristics specific to task performance and process, rather than simply the results. Given a platform to both praise and feedback to their colleagues on perceived strengths and weaknesses can tighten bonds between teams. 

69% of employees say they would work harder if they felt their efforts were better recognised

It’s important to make sure the right peers are included. Don’t cast the net too wide in order to get effective feedback. Peer reviews should be limited to the colleagues individuals interact with on a daily basis, or at least collaboratively on projects.

Each time peer reviews happen, the peers may change. Ensure your process is flexible enough to remove peers from a review cycle if they have not had a lot of interaction or cooperation with the individual being reviewed since the last cycle. This will avoid ambiguous feedback and ensure the time spent on reviews is worthwhile.

Swingvy conducts 360 degree growth reviews, where alongside peer reviews, employees also have the opportunity to review and feedback to their managers. This 360 degree review system helps to build greater trust and amongst team members, and builds a more cohesive working environment. Upwards feedback also helps managers learn a lot about themselves and their management style, as well as identify areas of focus for greater productivity.

Tips for Running Effective Employee Growth Reviews

✔️ Be Constructive, Not Destructive

Reviews should always be structured and given with positive intent. It’s important to clearly explain how a specific behaviour change will help the individual or the company, not how it will affect the reviewer.

Feedback should be constructive, not destructive. Destructive criticism is any comments intended as a personal attack, on the person rather than the behaviour or performance. It will harm someone's self-esteem, is not actionable, and may be needlessly petty. Criticism given in public is also often destructive. 

92% of employees agree that negative feedback, if delivered appropriately, improves performance. 

✔️ Focus On The Work, Not The Person

It’s important to focus on work behaviours or processes, rather than personal attributes when giving feedback. When discussing areas of improvement, rather than focusing on the mistake or undesirable action taken, focus on the recovery, and how it can be repaired or learnt from. 

Reaching out with constructive attempts to mutually solve undesirable actions, rather than placing blame on a person will produce much better results.

This also applies to positive feedback. Make sure the behaviour you encourage relates to the work and role of the person so that there will be a tangible business benefit. 

✔️ Provide Detailed & Actionable Feedback

Adding specific events or facts will solidify your point of view – without it, it could be a meaningless comment. Even praise will be more meaningful when details or descriptions are added. 

When reviewing, focus on what the person could do. Without actionable items the recipient will have difficulty translating feedback into their daily lives. If providing constructive criticism, the reviewer should be prepared to brainstorm solutions, or offer suggestions on how improvements could be made. The goal is to ensure the employee has actionable ways to improve themselves that will roll over into a better working environment for everyone. They will feel empowered to use the feedback from their review.

✔️ Consider Review Timing

Business processes also often require formal performance review processes at prescribed intervals (quarterly, annually etc.). However 80% of Gen Y said they prefer on-the-spot recognition over formal reviews.

When recognition of great work is done in a timely manner, it encourages the employee to repeat those behaviours, and can lead to better performance. Delaying this recognition could minimise ongoing desired behaviours that impact the business in a positive way. This time between when the behaviour was noted, and the time when recognition is given has been wasted. 

For this reason, it is worth considering an additional format for immediate employee recognition, to call out great performance or behaviours. This could also take the form of regular check ins and feedback sessions with managers or teams, so that praise and feedback on day-to-day tasks can be delivered in a timely manner.

✔️ Follow Up

After peer-to-peer growth reviews have been conducted, it’s important for managers to sit down with employees and discuss the feedback. There may be areas highlighted where the recipient of feedback needs support such as additional training or guidance. Positive praise delivered privately may also be worthwhile sharing wider, to encourage and show appreciation to the recipient, and also to motivate others in the team to follow similar behaviours or paths. 

It’s also a time to set future goals and expectations. Taking the time to discuss how these can be achieved, and how the team member can grow within their role and the company will help to foster employee engagement.

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