Performance reviews are essential for helping employees reach their potential and feel more engaged and satisfied at work. While this process has traditionally happened between a manager and an employee, including peer feedback is becoming more popular as an element of performance reviews because peers know each other’s work the best.
This guide covers the benefits of having a peer-to-peer recognition component, as well as a few tips on how to implement the process and a peer review template.
Like traditional employee performance reviews, an employee peer review aims to give managers and employees an understanding of where workers are succeeding in the workplace and where they might need additional support. Employee peer reviews, however, add an additional layer of nuance to the overall review process by incorporating valuable feedback provided by an employee’s peers.
By taking in feedback provided by your employees’ teammates, departmental partners, and other leadership positions that they work with about their overall performance, you can gain a comprehensive understanding of how they’re fitting in within the culture of your organization. As we frequently discuss in our articles, developing culture, especially in a seemingly remote-first culture, will help ensure employees remain engaged and satisfied.
Peer reviews might only happen during an annual or twice-yearly review period, but they can have an important, year-round impact on multiple aspects of team cohesion and performance.
Peer feedback increases transparency by adding another layer of feedback to one’s manager. When employees are on the ground working with each other every day, they often have a better sense of each other’s strengths and areas for improvement.
Engaged employees are emotionally committed to the company’s mission and goals, which in turn helps them be more efficient and innovative. When peers give thoughtful feedback on their performance, this reinforces a sense of community that contributes to greater engagement.
Recommended Reading: How To Increase Employee Engagement in 7 Easy Steps
Getting along well with coworkers is one factor that influences job satisfaction. Peer feedback encourages people to be thoughtful about their coworkers and recognize when they’re doing well. This may spill over into peers giving each other peer recognition publicly (and private feedback on what they can do better) throughout the year, not just during performance reviews. This is especially true if you also launch a peer-to-peer recognition program.
Managers can’t be everywhere and see everything, nor should they be! Coworkers can offer insights into an employee’s performance, from noting each other’s strengths to identifying areas of opportunity. With peer feedback, managers have a better idea of how to support each person and what talents they can better leverage on an upcoming project, for example.
It’s natural for employees to rely on their manager to drive collaboration and hold the team together, but it’s not necessarily the best method for achieving either goal. Peer reviews shift some of the responsibility to employees and give them opportunities to grow closer to coworkers without a manager nudging them. In the long run, employees will have a greater sense of ownership over the work and their work relationships.
Employees who have strong relationships with their coworkers are more likely to communicate with them often and contribute their best work on a project. Honest feedback can decrease redundant efforts, make workflows more efficient, and create an environment where ideas thrive.
Increased engagement and camaraderie can improve retention rates, as employees are more motivated to stay and continue working with a team that values them both personally and professionally.
Before gathering peer reviews, managers should coach employees on how to give effective feedback using these tips:
Peer reviews require honesty and trust. Make sure that peers who wish to evaluate their teammates will be able to do so with anonymity from both managers and their peers.
Make sure that an employee’s peers have access to information that accurately and succinctly lays out the reviewed employee’s duties and skills. Peers often might think they understand what their teammate’s core job function is, but are frequently left surprised to discover that they had no idea how much work they’re responsible for. This creates an appropriate understanding as well as additional empathy.
Before giving feedback, think carefully about how the person being reviewed communicates. Do they prefer face-to-face communication or can they get defensive? Do they need time to mull things over? Would they like written feedback best? Keep their preferences in mind before giving feedback.
One of the best ways to understand employee communication styles, including how they’re likely to deliver information and best receive it, we recommend personality testing.
To learn more about how important personality testing can be to the well-being of your organization read our article: The Power of Understanding Every Personality on Your Team.
Spend time thinking on specific examples so the listener has a frame of reference. For instance, you might frame feedback like this:
“Sometimes when I share ideas, I feel like you discount them before giving me a chance to finish. For example, yesterday when I brought up a new marketing strategy, you cut me off before I could finish.”
People interpret things differently, so giving the listener a clear example helps you be on the same page so you can move forward.
The final piece of the puzzle is to encourage growth. The most effective way to do this is by making connections between what an employee needs to improve on and the skills they already possess.
One great tactic is the sandwich method. Start by sharing something you think that person is doing exceptionally well. Then, share the tough feedback. But end on a positive note.
For example, for someone who is having trouble meeting their sales quota, start the conversation by making note of their natural gift for remembering details about coworkers’ lives, like their spouse’s name or their favorite restaurant. Then give the feedback about their quota. You can end by encouraging them that their memory for detail could help them develop relationships with prospects.
It’s not uncommon for employees to form friendships and other informal alliances with each other at work. However, this can also create “cliques” inside your organization. The feedback that is impacted by these types of cultural variables might inflate overall peer-based performance metrics either positively or negatively depending on an employee’s social standing within the organization.
To best account for this type of influence, there are a few ways to ensure that peer reviews give managers a clear picture of an employee’s performance.
First, appropriately weigh peer-to-peer review feedback so that an employee’s performance review is not ultimately dictated by their peers.
Second, design recognition mechanisms with questions that get at the heart of your employees’ performance. You’ll need to think about how questions are structured (closed vs. open), information requirements, and thoroughness if employees wish to give feedback (project being referenced, specific behavioral examples, etc.).
Third, collect peer review information in the aggregate amongst many different employees that will give an accurate account of the employee’s performance. Reach across departments, leadership positions, as well as the closest team members to the employee to get a well-rounded view of how the employee is perceived.
Peer evaluation is a no-cost, low effort way to increase workplace transparency, employee engagement, collaboration, and retention. All these factors combined contribute to increased profitability. In fact, a survey from SHRM and Globoforce shows that praise from peers is more likely to have a positive financial impact than praise from managers alone.
Once you’ve gone over best practices and tips with employees, hand out this peer review form before your next round of performance reviews. The form includes general questions about hard and soft skills—just alter them to reflect your employees’ job descriptions.
Research shows that peer recognition at work builds trust, productivity, employee engagement, and morale! If you’re ready to work with a leading software solution for creating a connected, collaborative workforce within your organization, get started with Pingboard’s 14-day Free Trial.