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Performance Management by the Crowd – A New Future for the Dreaded Reviews?

Posted on Jun 25, 2013 by Hayley Anderson  | 0 Comments

As employment lawyers, whenever we advise on effective management of employees or capability dismissals, we always try to hammer home the importance of performance reviews and appraisals. But are they actually any good? Do they really help incentivise better performance and grow your business as a result or are they just a bit of a waste of time and in some cases a means of lowering staff morale further?

The People Matter

Whatever the answer, there is no doubt that the most important asset of a business is its people and therefore ensuring that they are performing well with the right support is key. However, there is a widespread view that the current performance review model was designed for the rigidly defined jobs commonplace in the 1970’s. Nowadays, jobs are much more flexible and it is difficult to keep tabs on what an employee’s role actually entails, never mind how they do it.

The main problems identified with the current model are that managers will often be unprepared at the review and refer only to the employee’s most recent work, particular projects that stand out or specific occasions when they have reported directly to that reviewing manager and so are never very accurate. There is also the ‘bad marker’ risk in performance reviews – it is very easy for one manager to take a dislike to an individual and effectively shape their career as a result by preventing promotion or initiating a review which ultimately results in dismissal.

 The Wisdom of The Crowd?

 Whilst more regular reviews can help, it has been suggested that introducing the concept of crowdsourcing into the process can provide more accurate results. This means that many people, not just one manager will assess an employee’s performance on a regular basis. Crowdsourced assessment systems have taken off in many areas, for example Trip Advisor, Amazon and E-bay, where the consumer relies on the experience of others in the choices they make – but can they be introduced logically in the workplace?

 According to one recent publication – they can be, through the implementation of social recognition software. The software gathers review information from employees and plots it against benchmarked performance appraisal ratings, objectives and goals to provide an actionable insight into talent and ongoing feedback from employees. Through the internal social networking software, employers can share a continuous stream of activity and all employees can add ‘congratulations’ and recognition to achievements or targets met.

The software developers maintain that the analytic feedback provided will reveal hidden social dynamics in the business and quiet individuals will emerge who can be groomed for more formal leadership and by still including the benchmarks specific to each employee’s role, this will prevent the process turning into a popularity contest between employees.

More Than Just 360 Reviews By Another Name?

In some ways, the process sounds similar to 360 reviews which have been utilised by employers for some time now, however, these have been criticised for producing ‘bad data’ as the review is more prescribed and require a formal forced review of an individual and will reveal more about what that person thinks they do better or worse than the person they are marking. On the other hand, crowdsourcing is unprompted ongoing review which is based on the individual’s own targets.

Local startup NooQ, experts in the area of social collaboration in the workplace, have identified this as a problem that needs fixed in the modern workplace. Any time that an employer commissions a survey, agrees on the questions and gathers the results, it's invariably out of date. 

NooQ's solution is to let employers move from a static list of questions into a real-time conversation that involves everyone. Critically, by gathering and monitoring sentiment on a daily basis, the result should be that an employer can deal with issues as soon as they arise - rather than six to twelve months after resentment has taken a stranglehold and key staff have left. It's well worth reading NooQ's blog if you're interested in learning more. 

The concept poses some big questions for employers and employees. As an employee, would you prefer to be assessed in this way? Would it make it more difficult for managers in bigger organisations to single people out as a result of a ‘personality clash’ when really they could be key to the business?

As an employer, could it make it easier to manage performance or would it arguably take part of the management function away from you? Or, could it help create stronger evidence to present to underperformers to ensure you have the right people in your business?

Idealistic or achievable? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

 Hayley

 @hayleylanderson

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