Leaders: Making Performance Appraisals Matter

Performance Assessments

The end of the year is just around the corner.  Are you preparing to write performance appraisals for the people on your team?   

According to the 2012 SHRM/Globoforce Employee Recognition Report, only 55 percent of the HR leaders who responded to the survey think annual performance reviews are an accurate appraisal for employees’ work at their organization.

What would that number be if we asked the people receiving the appraisals?

Year-End Results

The 55% level is a dismal statistic.  But as a manager of people, you can’t opt out of your organization’s year-end review process.  And even more importantly, as a leader, you know that people need feedback to develop.

Every learner needs feedback. It is the only way to know whether or not you are getting close to your goal and whether or not you are executing properly. – Kouzes and Posner, The Truth About Leadership

Getting Feedback

Sometimes you may not have the full picture to provide helpful or balanced  feedback.  In many cases, it is helpful to seek feedback from peers that see your team members in action on a daily basis.

In fact, some companies find peer feedback so useful that they are making it a part of their ongoing performance management process.

For example, Hearsay Social Inc., a San Francisco-based social-media software company with some 90 employees, began doing peer reviews for all of its employees in 2012.

In this approach, employee chooses reviewers and department leaders also request input from others who might be able to provide relevant feedback.

Peer feedback, incorporated into the performance review, can be an important tool in the development of the people you lead.  But like any other tool, you should understand how to use it to get the best results.

Benefits of Feedback

There are many benefits that can come from peer feedback.

Here are a few examples:

  • Input from peers can round out your perceptions of a direct report’s performance.
  • Feedback from multiple sources allows you to give each person on your team more complete feedback.
  • Specific examples can add detail and clarity to the appraisal.
  • You may gain insights about previously unknown conflicts.
  • Misses brought up in peer feedback can give the opportunity to reinforce the idea that sometimes we learn best when we  try new things and make mistakes.
  • Comments that focus on strengths can help to identify successes – great examples of people living your organization’s values or meeting critical goals.

Seeing the Whole Picture

It is important to note that peer feedback may not paint a total picture.

Here are some reasons:  

  • Peers may have concerns about being revealed as the source of negative feedback.
  • Some may have concerns that a manager will share raw data or quotes.
  • You many encounter fear  that open feedback will lead to friction on the team.
  • Sometimes people are asked to provide feedback on a peer they do not know well or on behaviors they do not have a chance to observe.
  • Finally, sometimes reviewers provide very cursory feedback as they are pressed for time and don’t want to decline to participate.

Making the Most of Feedback

So what can you do to make the most of peer feedback for your team?

Here is what you can do:

  • Ask your direct reports for 3 names of peers to provide feedback and then add others you think would add value.
  • Request feedback from those that employees work with consistently and who have a chance to observe their day-to-day behaviors.
  • Be aware of friendships in the organization and request feedback from those most likely to be unbiased.
  • As you use the data from the feedback in the performance review, focus comments on behaviors rather than individual personality traits.
  • Adapt the feedback to the situation.  Feedback is most effective when it is provided in the content of the person and their situation.

Giving Feedback Over Time

Personal insight and development is not the result of a single instance of shared feedback.  Developing your team will happen over time and will be the result of ongoing, meaningful conversations.

You don’t want to save up feedback until somebody fails. –  Blanchard and Ridge, Helping People Win at Work

In fact, you may want to continue the process of asking for peer feedback throughout the year. This type of ongoing feedback can help you know how to coach the people on your team to success.

Your Opinion Counts!

Q: Do you think annual performance reviews are an accurate appraisal for employees’ work at your organization? 

Participate in this quick poll and share your thoughts!

Do you think annual performance reviews are an accurate appraisal for employees’ work at your organization?  Are you using peer feedback as part of your appraisal process? Do you have other tips to make performance appraisals more accurate and relevant?


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Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

Melissa Lanier

Melissa Lanier leads Global Talent Management for an S&P SmallCap 600 Firm
She is driven to build High Performing Cultures Aligned to Strategy
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Image Sources: tylerandmimiford.com


3 responses to “Leaders: Making Performance Appraisals Matter

  1. Reblogged this on Leadership Advantage and commented:
    and so dear staff, “here we come again to the annual appraisal of your performance, and as your boss, I have to say that this was an adequate year for you” (because being a less than truly concerned individual, I have failed to observe any lowlights or highlights and made an actual note of them during the year, let alone bother to sit down and have a conversation with you…)
    “I will of course, be scoring your performance using a bell curve (something I never understood in school and thought I’d never use again because HR insist that is the way it is done. And because I have my personal favourites in the staff whom I plan on giving extra bonuses…) and your performance leads me to place you in the middle score band.
    … “I understand that you are disappointed but my hands are tied…”

    Are annual performance appraisals are the primary method for poor leaders to demotivate their staff?


  2. It does everyone a disservice to invest any credibility whatsoever in annual appraisals, even by their very mention. You do know of Deming, yes?

    – Bob


  3. For me, effective performance evaluation is an on-going process, not a quarterly or annual activity. I’ve found regular short meetings to discuss individual goals and objectives and coaching meetings to improve performance or prepare for next steps are more effective than the dreaded review. Unfortunately, too many companies threw out the performance review without replacing it with another feedback / review tool.


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