Making Performance Management “Significantly Exceed Expectations”

August 2, 2012 Darcy Jacobsen

There’s an article in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal that’s worth taking a few minutes to read. It begins with this piece of advice and prediction: Treat your peers well. They may soon be responsible for your performance reviews.

The article goes on to note that more and more companies are employing peer-to-peer reviews, as they flatten hierarchies and do away with traditional, manager-led performance evaluations. This brings valuable new insight into the talent management process. But the danger of 360° feedback tends to come in the execution, which can be unwieldy or lead to lower quality responses.

However, says the article, a new breed of feedback is available, “aided by a growing number of employee-recognition software programs and social networks that enable workers to post quick real-time comments, sometimes anonymously; solicit ‘how am I doing?’ feedback; or post praise or recognition for a colleague.”

I’m going to take the liberty of expanding on this WSJ piece a bit, and explain our approach to gleaning great insight through recognition. When we implement an employee recognition program for a company, the #1 purpose is give employees a way to effectively show appreciation for one another—and thereby engage and motivate employees. But one of the eye-opening side effects of allowing peers to recognize one another is the amazing data it yields. We get to see, through the eyes of the crowd, who our top performers really are, who they interact with well, and exactly what values they are displaying on a regular basis.

Then, when review time comes around, this peer-to-peer recognition is invaluable information. You want to know how well Bob is doing? You’re not pigeon-holed into sending a lengthy 360° survey around to his peers to see what they remember about Bob’s performance over the past 12 months. Those peers have already spoken volumes, by recognizing Bob whenever he’s contributed in an outstanding way.

Recognition does not stand alone in creating a performance evaluation—it is one piece of the puzzle—but it certainly has the power to take your review process to that next level, and make it “significantly exceed” your expectations.

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