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How to Conduct an Effective Peer to Peer Review
By their very association, peers can be excellent motivators. They are on the frontlines with you, working side by side, and relying on you for support, just as you rely on them. And, unlike managers, they have access to the finer details required of their coworkers to complete their duties. Because of their heightened insight into how their coworkers work, they have some of the most useful knowledge for contributing to performance review feedback.
What is Peer to Peer Review?
When people discuss “peer reviews”, they are referring to the process of employees being assessed by their colleagues in terms of their performance, strengths and weaknesses, and other work-related aspects. It is also a term often used by scholars and authors, when they have their articles, research papers, and other publication material subjected to review by other writers. Their work will be critiqued, suggestions will be made, and those suggestions may be incorporated into the work before it is released for publication.
The same general principle applies to peer review in the workplace. A peer to peer review system formalizes the conduct of these types of reviews within the company, with definite rules and policies in place on the what, who, where, when, and how of the conduct of the peer review process. Oftentimes, the peer review process calls for the solicitation of inputs from peers – teammates and colleagues – about the performance of a specific employee, while keeping the reviewer anonymous.
The process of peer to peer reviews can be accomplished through several different approaches. Some organizations may design their peer review system in a way that incorporates all approaches, or they can choose only those they deem applicable to their circumstances. Some of the most common peer to peer review approaches are:
- Simple Review: comments are solicited from peers about the performance of a specific employee. This method is straightforward and rather informal in its execution. Usually, the peers are interviewed either one-on-one or with a group, and the information is obtained from those interviews. The general rules that the feedback provider will remain anonymous. There are cases when their identity can be disclosed, however, usually when the review is being provided directly to the employee being reviewed, and not just their supervisor.
- Inspection: a more rigorous version of a simple review, that requires the most time and resources, inspections involve specific stages that everyone must go through. This approach is usually selected when the purpose of the peer reviews is to specifically identify the weaknesses or shortcomings of the employee being evaluated.
- Team Reviews: this approach involves a panel or a group providing an evaluation or assessment of an employee one at a time. They usually sit together and offer up their individual assessments, reaching a conclusion together.
The Benefits of a Peer to Peer Review Process
One of the most noted reasons for utilizing peer review programs is the role it plays in lightening the workload of managers and supervisors’ administration roles. The bulk and breadth of the employee review process, which can be time-consuming for managers especially of larger corporations, are “passed on” to the organization’s peer to peer review program. However, peer reviews present several other benefits that go far beyond taking some weight off of managers’ shoulders.
1. Peer to peer review provides a closer look at the employee being evaluated.
No matter how effective a manager may be at assessing their people, or how tight they are with their team; they are still likely to omit performance insights about any given employee. This is especially true if there are other employees that are being subjected to review and assessment along with them.
Even in the most ideal of work environments, employees tend to conduct themselves in a certain way in front of their supervisors, and typically another way in front of their peers. Thus, managers cannot fully trust what the employee demonstrates as the most valid. Through the peer to peer review process, employee assessments are completed in a more objective light, giving a more thorough insight into the employee and their strengths, weaknesses, and overall potential.
2. Peer reviews help monitor and improve employee performance.
Basing your assessment of employee performance solely on the output and financial results of the company is not the way to manage people. Human resources remain one of the most important aspects of every organization. Peer reviews help to identify gaps in performance that may have been overlooked, providing you the opportunity to address the employee’s performance issues. An employee with constructive feedback will then be able to focus more on those gaps and ideally have the support to improve on them.
3. Peer reviews help monitor business processes.
Peer review can also function as a roundabout way to assess whether your business processes are still working efficiently and effectively, or if any adjustments need to be made. They can also provide indicators of whether your organizational structure needs to be modified. Through peer review, you can have a clearer sense of the relationship between work quality and output, compared to the systems and structures in place in your company, from an insider’s perspective. Data points of performance by role and / or team can provide insightful information regarding business performance gaps.
4. Peer review is effective for team building.
When it comes to motivating employees, team building is one of the most successful methods a company can use. Integrating the peer review process into your team-building setup is a great way to leverage those benefits. When peers provide their input, employee bonding can be strengthened, and this positive impact will have a ripple effect on employee performance once they have returned to their usual working environment.
Linking a peer to peer review process to performance appraisal, and by default, employee rewards and recognition, is one of the most effective ways to provide support for collaboration and teamwork within your company. It is highly recommended that peers are provided tips / training guidelines on how to deliver feedback (even if presented anonymously).
How to Conduct a Peer to Peer Review
Creating, maintaining, and supporting a successful real-time peer review program can be challenging, While there is no specific formula to creating the perfect peer to peer review process, there are certain best practices and general steps you can follow to ensure your peer review process delivers quality data.
Reflect on Core Values
Ensure that the metrics in part, upon which employees are measured are aligned with your company’s core values. In any review system, input is being solicited based on the opinion of how an individual demonstrates the metric in question. If you don’t have clearly defined values (specific, desired behaviors) the evaluator will not be able to accurately assess their colleague’s performance.
Choose the “Peers” Wisely
While it is the supervisors and managers that will use the data collected by the review process for decision-making, the process itself is conducted by employees. They are the individuals who will play a key role in the review process, so it is critical to define the peer groups in a rational manner. One of the most important parts of this is identifying the groups that you will ask or get information from regarding the employee being assessed. In order to ensure the best quality feedback from them, you should put in place certain guidelines, such as qualifications that the evaluating employees must have in order to be interviewed. A great example is to determine if the evaluator has any direct experience in working with the individual on any past projects thereby giving them a vantage point to providing quality feedback.
Embrace New Technology
Gathering input from employees about their peers does not have to be done solely through traditional methods. Today’s workforce is global and multi-generational, and more adept in social media and technology than ever. Choosing a program or software to streamline peer to peer reviews can be an effective way to keep employees engaged in the review process, while still drawing out useful information and evaluations from them. SpriggHR provides a Multi-Rather Feedback Option in its 360 Degree Feedback feature, where performance feedback can be obtained from supervisors, peers, and even customers alike, with a few simple clicks.
Explain and Celebrate the Launch
If a peer to peer review system is new and unfamiliar to the workplace, positioning it as a change designed to help recognize and celebrate your employees is a great strategy. Rather than framing the process as a new way to monitor performance, the process can be framed to ensure that your key objective is to recognize the qualities and achievements of employees that may be overlooked with a one-to-one review process.
Get Buy-In from All
The peer review process involves more than just the employee and their peers. Employee performance processes affect the entire organization. Managers and leaders especially should be early adopters and promoters of the new system. Active support from senior executives communicates to lower staff that the program is a priority. You should also ensure that any employee, at all levels, feels empowered to participate.
In action, peer to peer review systems involve everyone, although to varying degrees. On the part of managers and supervisors, the system should be reinforced and promoted through their own self-reviews and assessments.
Empower Managers to Track Results
Sprigg’s Continuous Feedback feature enables employees and managers alike to give or receive feedback instantly and provides managers with the much-needed insights to monitor employee growth against the parameters they were evaluated against. Staying on top of monitoring the appraisal process and the data points provided, is essential to identifying trends in employee performance.
Make Room for Flexibility Within the System
While the purpose of establishing a new evaluation process is to create rigor, structure, and ultimately fairness, it does not mean that flexibility loses importance. Designing something, especially a system that involves your employees so intently, in such a way that it cannot be modified to suit specific situations will only decrease the effectiveness of the system itself. It is recommended that regular feedback on the overall effectiveness of the system be regularly solicited. Aggregate reporting or data summary output will also determine the value of the system’s capabilities.
For example, when dealing with a certain employee, you may have to take a different approach or change up the questions being asked instead of “sticking to the script”. This adaptive approach should be allowed, and even encouraged where appropriate. Flexibility and relevance are key when measuring the performance results of an individual.
Encourage Frequent and Timely Recognition
Real-time feedback has been proven time and time again as the single most effective approach to shaping desired behavior. When solid work is noted immediately, the employee feels compelled to repeat it immediately, and their peers are more likely to emulate it quickly. If deserved recognition is delayed, the link between the behavior and the reward may be lost, minimizing the likelihood of that behavior being reinforced.
Providing a quick follow-up to the conduct of the peer review is critical. If employees see that there is prompt and frequent recognition following the peer to peer review process, they are going to be more motivated and more involved in the process the next time around.
Effective, real-time peer to peer reviews motivate employees to perform well every day of the year, not just when the quarterly or annual performance appraisal is approaching. By instilling a sense of accountability amongst and between your employees, and not just from the top-down. It’s also important to emphasize that peer to peer review systems cannot be casually instituted into your organization. If they are to be at all successful, they need to be linked to the specific performance indicators required or expected of the individual and ideally, the core company values. The process needs to be compatible with the latest technologies, be launched and communicated well, be used by everyone in a timely and effective fashion and be deliver quality, useful data that identifies performance trends.