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Tuesday, March 3, 2015

How Should I Prepare My Team for a 360 Degree Feedback Session?

Effective performance reviews include everyone, especially the evaluated employee. A 360 degree feedback looks at an employee from all angles (as the name would suggest), from managers, coworkers, and even the employee. The up-and-coming trend isn’t familiar to many people, considering 69% of companies still assess their team’s performance with outdated tools. That means they will need a little bit of preparation to gear up for their 360 degree feedback. So, take these 5 steps to get your team ready for their performance appraisal.

Photo Credit: Death to Stock Photo

1. Define the goals of the 360 degree feedback

All too often organizations view their performance reviews as routine documentation of their team’s performance at work. 360 degree feedback sessions can have honest results, but only if you take the time to think about what you actually want as an outcome. Defining objectives is crucial to measuring and tracking performance thereafter. Decide:

  • What is important to organizational success and how does my team work towards those accomplishments?
  • How will I measure my employees’ performance?
  • Who will be involved in the 360 degree feedback?
Share this information with your team. The more they know about the performance appraisal ahead of time, the less apprehensive they will be during the review. Because it is a 360 degree feedback, you want employees to be involved in the assessment of their performance. We said in a previous post:

"Performance reviews are not one-sided, or at least they shouldn’t be. The dialogue between a supervisor and their employee is invaluable to the successful outcome of a performance appraisal.” 

That is the very essence of a 360 degree feedback. The point is to include the employee so the process becomes more qualitative than quantitative.  

2. Communicate what the feedback will cover

Whether you conduct performance appraisals annually or bi-monthly, it is important to tell your employee exactly what it will cover. The success of the last project? Overall performance? All of the above? Employees don’t want ambiguity in their review, they want real constructive feedback. Over 90% of people would rather have properly delivered negative feedback during their review. Employees need to know if their performance matches company standards, and they want to live up to those expectations. While it can be stressful to give employees this news, it will also turnout better results after the 360 degree feedback. 

3. State expectations for those who’ve never participated in a 360 degree feedback

If you’ve never conducted a 360 degree feedback, it will be a learning curve for everyone. Establish how the process works and what it will look like when the time comes. In the United States and Canada alone, 47% of companies use this form of review to garner and deliver information about employee performance. What’s left is a surprisingly large number of organizations that don’t participate in 360 degree feedback sessions for performance evaluation purposes. It stands to reason then that a majority of your team won’t know what the process entails from the outset.

4. Disclose Anonymity

Some companies disclose which co-workers participate in the 360 degree feedback, others allow for anonymity. Reviewsnap gives users the ability to use as many anonymous participants as they please. The use of nameless input allows employees to feel they can participate without being chastised for their opinion and it eliminates unneeded bias.

5. Leave room for open discussion and questions

Before, during, and after the review, employees may still have questions regarding their 360 degree feedback. It is important to be open and responsive to the queries as to eliminate any anxiety towards the review. During the performance appraisal, your team may bring up questions or points you might have overlooked. When you establish an open environment for discussion, you give participants a voice, which in turn makes them more receptive to the feedback they receive. 

These 5 steps will help you to prepare your team for their next performance appraisal. 360 degree feedback sessions give managers a well-rounded and full-perspective evaluation of their employees’ performance. Performance reviews can be nerve wracking for some employees, but when you create an open environment for discussion, your team will be more receptive to feedback. 

Prepare your team for 360 degree feedback sessions by getting employees involved and engaged in the performance appraisal process. Take a demo of Reviewsnap to get started.


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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Change Your Thinking Re: Performance Management

Employers have a large foothold in the employee development process. Performance reviews are a must for the health of your workforce, but what you do with the results of the performance appraisal makes a bigger impact on employee development. To see positive outcomes from employee performance appraisals, employers have to adjust the way they view the process in the first place. Organizations have to create relationships between the performance reviews and employee development.


Our whitepaper, “Bridge the Gap Between Your Performance Reviews and Employee Development - or Both Are Primed To Fail,” discusses the importance of building that bridge:

“The question becomes even more perplexing when you consider how important performance reviews are to effective employee development. Done correctly, performance reviews inspire greater and greater levels of success. They motivate our people to contribute toward critical business goals to develop their skill sets, and to reach their full potential.”

Let’s delve into this further...

Change Your Performance Appraisal Process

Performance reviews are just a fraction of your performance management system’s capabilities. Many employees expect a performance appraisal, but it doesn’t excite them for the growth that will happen as a result: but for the standard 3% base salary raise [1].

Rather than allowing performance reviews to generate a formulaic stigma, change the way your team thinks about performance appraisals. An astonishing 58% of companies say their current performance management isn’t an effective use of time. That needs to change.

Organizations need to update the way they perpetuate sentiments regarding performance appraisals. Simply stated, employees want to grow. Nearly three-quarters of employees would rather receive corrective feedback [2] than positive affirmation. The problem is that managers are reluctant to give the feedback employees need in order to develop professionally. How can you change this? By making the performance appraisal mean something again. Use the information you have to your employees’ best advantage. Lead them! 

Change Your Performance Management

Employers understand the need to change their performance management systems. Currently, 70% of organizations [3] are evaluating or have recently reviewed and updated their systems. That’s a good start, but the evolution has to be more than systematic. More than 90% of managers aren’t satisfied with their current review systems [4]. Leadership has the ability to turn the thought process around, however.  Supervisors need to be trained on how to give feedback, both negative and positive. Managers want education in how to give feedback; in fact 46% of them want guidance in these sometimes stressful conversations.

A key driver to employee growth after the results of a performance appraisal is how the manager delivers the feedback. Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman, CEO and President of Zenger/Folkman respectively, said: 

“...We find it telling that the people who find it difficult and stressful to deliver negative feedback also were significantly less willing to receive it themselves. On the other hand, those who rated their managers as highly effective at providing them with honest, straightforward feedback tended to score significantly higher on their preference for receiving corrective feedback.” 

See Results in Your Team

Both manager and employee need to have a hand in career development. Although employee development is largely in their own hands, they can only do so if they have the right tools… feedback is one of these tools. Effective performance management starts with thorough performance appraisals and delivers the direction and support employees need to grow. To see performance results in your employees, BLR recommends managers be trained to [5]:

      Develop a close working relationship with employees
      Create continuous opportunities for constructive feedback
      Be proactive about addressing marginal performance
      Ensure employees understand company performance standards

While 90% don’t feel performance appraisals actually boost performance [6], they can if they are conducted differently. Start by training managers to give meaningful and regular feedback. Companies that take performance reviews as more than a formality and conduct them more frequently see a 15% lower turnover rate.

Performance appraisals are key to healing your workforce. In order to see a change in the way your employees work, you have to change the stigma attached to performance management in your organization. A large percentage of companies are currently dissatisfied with their performance management systems; to restructure this takes some managerial training and employee performance appraisals that include constructive (not just positive) points. 

Employee feedback should be more than a corporate formality, it should be a route to develop workers. Take a demo of Reviewsnap to see how you can restructure your performance management with the right solution.


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Tuesday, February 17, 2015

How Starting a 360 Degree Feedback Process Improves Performance

Nearly 90% of organizations conduct formal performance reviews [1] as an attempt to improve their performance management. That is the vast majority of organizations, but the real question isn’t if they conduct performance reviews, it is how they evaluate their team members. What they don’t know could hurt them. The way you conduct a performance appraisal has a direct impact on employee performance. Typically, managers only see a 3-5% performance improvement [2] after a traditional performance appraisal. How then, can organizations assess the performance of their employees whilst improving the team’s work? 

360 degree feedback, if conducted correctly, can have better results than the traditional performance appraisal. Because there are multiple individuals involved in the appraisal, each person has a specific role. Let’s take a look...

Roles of the Participants
Unlike the traditional performance appraisal, the 360 degree feedback process is a very involved process. A standard performance appraisal only necessitates the presence of the manager and the employee. 360 degree feedback sessions involve the input of about 7 people (depending on the size of the company): the employee, manager, administrator, and several reviewers. This provides a well-rounded performance appraisal with room for the employee to evaluate their own work and see how it affects the team around them. Jacob Shriar, Director of Customer Happiness at Officevibe, said:

“Most of the time, the annual performance review is one-sided in the sense that it’s the manager who is telling the employee how they did and what they should do better, when it would be great if the employee could tell the manager what they’ve been doing wrong, or what the company could improve on.”

The good news is it doesn’t have to be this way; 360 degree feedback gives employees and those around them a voice in performance reviews. The evaluation of the entire team illuminates the employee’s performance from all angles, including their own. 

      Employee - 360-feedback is the perfect opportunity for employees to become involved in their development process. The administrator works with the employees to design a plan to improve their performance, rather than the managers simply providing lists of successes and areas for improvement.

      Manager - While a manager’s role in the 360 degree feedback is similar to that of the reviewer, the information gathered from the manager is significantly different. The administrator assesses this input differently because it is qualitatively divergent due to the contact with the employee.

      Administrator - This is the person who will be conducting the interviews. They prepare the review and speak with the reviewers and the manager as a third party participant.

      Reviewers - Similar to the manager’s role in this process, reviewers are interviewed about their coworker’s performance. Typically, there are 4-10 reviewers in a 360 degree feedback. 

Why they Work
The goal of a 360 degree feedback isn’t to punish. It is an opportunity to thoroughly examine and improve the performance of your team on an individual level to help the group succeed. These appraisals give employees ownership of their work and review. By working with employees on development plans, organizations hold their workers accountable for their performance. William Taylor, Contributor to PeopleInsight and HR Daily Advisor said:

“A 360 degree performance review has the power to transform a one-way review into a review process, thus guaranteeing end-to-end feedback and accountability. Depending on the setup and hierarchy of your company, making 360 degree reviews may be an excellent way to analyze your employees and keep an eye on the whole department.” 

Each individual involved in a 360 degree feedback plays a specific part. As an organization, it’s important to ensure your teams understand their roles before the review process begins. Unlike traditional performance reviews, the 360 degree feedback process creates a multi-sided conversation about performance from an unbiased third-party administrator. This administrator takes information provided by the employee, manager, and other reviewers to create a holistic image of the employee’s performance. Give your employees the chance to take ownership of their performance and their professional development.

Consider starting a 360 degree feedback program to get employees involved and engaged. Take a demo of Reviewsnap to get fast and easy employee feedback to improve performance.  

[1] NPR - Behold the Entrenched and Reviled Annual Review

[2] Washington Post - The Corporate Kabuki of Performance Reviews

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

6 Ways Great Leaders Conduct an Effective Performance Appraisal

As a supervisor, there are some tasks that are less than enjoyable. More often than not, the employee performance appraisal is one of those responsibilities.  Like all things, practice makes perfect, and the same could be said for conducting an effective and engaging performance appraisal. With a little finesse and some organization, you can conduct better performance reviews for the benefit of you and your employees.

1. Prepare Ahead of Time
In order to provide clear and concise performance feedback, organizing thoughts is key to staying on track. This means you have to understand the employee's job, the requirements associated with it, as well as how their actual performance rates against the predetermined expectations. Prepare an itinerary ahead of time complete with open-ended questions to prompt conversation with your employee.

2. It's a Conversation
You're not the only one in the room so you shouldn't be the only one talking. While it is a discussion about the employee’s performance, they should have an input as well. Harold M. Messmer, Jr. (@RobertHalfFA), Chairman and CEO of Robert Half said:

“Keep in mind you’re having a two-way discussion. This is not a criticism session, so avoid detailing every mistake an employee has made and don’t dominate the conversation. Make it instead a chance to discuss a team member’s strengths and weaknesses in the context of his or her achievements over the review period.”

3. Don't be Afraid to Confront
Positive reinforcement is a good practice to uphold, however, not every employee is going to have a performance appraisal that is all shooting stars. Only 35% of high performing employees feel their supervisors speak with them honestly about their performance. Some managers would rather avoid confrontation than explain how exactly an employee can improve performance. Keep in mind these are critiques, so they are meant to aid the employee.

Tweet This: Only 35% of high performing employees feel their supervisors speak with them honestly about their performance.

4. Provide a Takeaway
Unfortunately, 98% of employees see their performance reviews as a waste of time. Give your employees something to learn from the meeting. No one is perfect, so there is always something new to try or practice to change. If you or your employees haven’t gleaned anything from the performance appraisal, was it really worth it? Professionals spend enough time in meetings they don’t need to be in. You can save yourself and your team a lot of time by building the performance review around key takeaways.

5. Change the Orientation
You've already noticed a reason for change in your current performance appraisal process. Maybe it's simply the way you position the meeting in the first place. Depending on the disposition and learning style of your employees, adjust the review accordingly. Try taking these approaches to adjust the performance appraisal for different employees:
  • Learning goal-oriented: These are the employees that enjoy learning for the sake of gaining knowledge and who pursue challenges despite setbacks.
  • Performance-prove goal-oriented: These employees want to perform at their best in order to prove their competence in a position.
  • Performance-avoid goal-oriented: These employees don’t want to look foolish and may not take direct criticism well.

6. Focus on the Progress
A main component of failed performance appraisal processes is that they are just that, nothing more than a required process. Since you have several employees to take care of in your department, it does not give reason to allow the meaning of the review to slip through the cracks. Get rid of the “good job” and “this needs improvement” statements, and focus on how much the employee has grown and where their development can take them in the company.

Employees typically dread the performance appraisal, but they don’t have to. Supervisors aren’t fond of the practice either. However, if the reviews are conducted in a more discussion-oriented manner with an emphasis on progress and providing a helpful takeaway. As a manager, you can conduct performance reviews better by communicating goals and expectations before the review. Prepare questions to prompt discussion, and target communication with your employees to set the stage for a more productive team and a review that is worth the time of you and your employee.

The performance appraisal is part of your responsibility as a leader.

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Wednesday, February 4, 2015

3 Steps You Should Take Before the Next Round of Performance Reviews

Supervisors need performance appraisals and so do employees, if not for the direct impact to drive business, at least for the professional satisfaction of both parties. In order to better employee performance, they have to know where their shortcomings lay first before they are criticized for underperformance. Performance reviews help to keep this growth system regulated to get the most out of the entire process.

More or less a formality for many organizations, there are clear performance-related indicators that your current method of review doesn't quite live up to expectations. Fewer than 30% of organizations feel their performance management program drives performance at all. That's why there are an overabundance of articles telling companies to scrap the idea of a performance appraisal rather than update a highly antiquated process. What these organizations don't know is that companies who institute regular and frequent performance reviews see a 15% lower turnover rate. The performance appraisal process needs a remodel, but that can't happen unless there's a stepping-stone to start from. So, let me be your stepping stone...
Set the Bar
Preparing for an employee evaluation can mean the difference in the success or failure of the review. One out of 5 employees don’t feel their manager is prepared for the performance review. Part of that preparation is making sure your team understands the review process. Before the performance appraisal, give employees an overview of what they are expected to accomplish and what they will be evaluated on during their review. It is important to delineate the following before the performance appraisal so employees are clearly aware of what the process entails:
     What are the expectations between appraisals?
     How will performance be evaluated?
     What are the ramifications of good and poor performance?
Performance reviews are widely misunderstood by employees. Often seen as the dreaded formality, one of the biggest problems is that they don't know what they are expected to do. It is your job to ensure they understand how not only their work currently affects the organization, but how they will bring value in the future.
Employee Participation
The very basis of a productive work environment and relationship among the team is communication. Performance reviews are not one-sided, or at least they shouldn't be. The dialogue between a supervisor and their employee is invaluable to the successful outcome of a performance appraisal. All too often, it becomes a situation in which management talks at members of their team versus creating a communication-centric atmosphere.
Today's workforce is highly collaborative. Yes, that includes performance. Employees want a role in their performance reviews; they want to work towards a common goal of solving performance issues or communicating why they felt they performed well over the past quarter. Karima Mariama-Arthur (@WSRapport), Founder & CEO of WordSmithRapport said:
"Performance reviews aren't only about identifying blind spots. They also offer an opportunity to highlight excellence. If you don't offer balanced evaluations, you're not maximizing their potential to inspire your team's performance."
Include Technology
While that relationship does form the base of the performance appraisal, that doesn't mean technology can't play a role. Just as it can automate processes in the hiring process, it can also take the mundane tasks off of your plate as a supervisor. A performance management system can help to track employee progress from one appraisal to another. In fact, 30% of HR professionals rank performance management as a top priority in their companies.
Many organizations already use a performance management system, and the software they purchased a decade ago doesn't quite cut it anymore. Companies are beginning to recognize the need to change their current processes in accordance with the changes in the advancing workforce. Larger organizations are especially ready for the change, as a surprising 29% of them have had their performance management system for more than 7 years. With ineffective and outdated systems, it stands to reason that performance reviews would be similarly ineffective and unappreciated.
Tweet This: 29% of large organizations have had their performance management system for more than 7 years.
After all, the goal of the evolving performance appraisal is to have a more meaningful outcome, i.e., better employee performance. For employees to get the most out of their performance appraisal, it's important they have a role in the discussion. Rather than a flat resolution of mere problems, well-rounded and highly effective performance reviews are multidimensional involving successes, issues and employee goal alignment.

You are responsible for defining what the performance appraisal means for your company.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Understanding the Way Minds Work: Think Like a CLO

If you could reduce a good performance management system down to ONE element (hint: you can’t), it would be the ability to allow organizations and managers to train and develop their employees in a free learning environment while maintaining an understanding of where employees rest on the learning curve. An environment that cultivates a desire for more knowledge and experience clearly benefits the employees and the organization as it can improve employee performance by up to 14%.

But how do training and development dovetail into a vibrant learning culture? Both aspects of employee development go hand-in-hand; just because your organization has a learning atmosphere doesn’t necessarily mean the training and development are as robust as they should be. Cultivating employees through performance management inspired training begins to create a learning culture in a cyclic motion of development. While each needs the other to survive, one does not automatically imply the other. Here’s how to get them working in sync.


The inundation of technology has changed the way companies train their teams. Using games as a way to teach employees industry and organizational standards is now more commonplace than ever before. Gamification takes traditional workplace training and situates it in a virtual game. This increases the hard feedback for workers and allows employers to track and document employee progress in their performance management systems. 73.6% of the training provided to Fortune 500 employees is through online methods. While not technically gamification, many enterprises are heading in that direction.

Structural and serious game simulations are used to engage and motivate employees to learn better practices or change work behavior. Structural game characteristics are more popular than serious game simulations (25% and 19%, respectively), and help employees reinforce or practice skills to increase performance.

Training can’t all be fun and games...or can it? While there are one off skills that must be taught one-to-one, organizations like Evault are turning to exciting platforms to teach and engage and are trying to discuss what a real learning and gamification platform looks like:

The program is exactly what Dorothy Serdar had hoped it would be: consistent, comprehensive, efficient, interactive and, according to employees, highly engaging, if not downright fun. “The biggest positive statement is how much they learned in a short period of time,” she says. Read more about how Evault (and other companies) are using gamification both on and offline to teach and train new hires.


Informal learning is inextricably linked to training and formal learning. Informal learning provides a context for what employees glean from the company’s formal training programs. Saul Carliner (@saulcarliner), Research Director at Lakewood Media Group, said:

“One of the advantages of formal learning is its efficiency. With prescribed objectives, structured learning activities, and built-in feedback, workers can master one or more work-related responsibilities in a brief period of time. Formal learning lacks context, however.”

However linked they may be, training and informal learning are different. Training and formal learning spark instances for informal learning. Employees can take the information learned in the corporate classroom and put them into practice. The differences in formal and informal learning are based on:

  • Who is in control of the learning and assesses its effectiveness
  • Where the learning happens (i.e., in the classroom or outside the cubicle)
  • If the learning was the primary objective or a byproduct of an activity
  • How much of the learning material is conceptual or contextual

Part of the difficulty is dealing with learning initiatives is the inability of different business units to measure it consistently. Consider this insight from Jay Cross, an informal learning champion:

In 2001, training directors turned their attention to return on investment. Unfortunately, instead of learning cost-benefit analysis, people who wanted to speak the language of business studied accounting. Created long before knowledge work was invented, accounting values intangibles such as human capital at zero and counts training as an expense instead of an investment.


Employers are responsible, in part, for the cultivation of their employees’ skills and assets. They are not, however, solely responsible for developing the future of their entire team. Employees take the knowledge and experience they’ve gained from an organization and use it to build their careers. One of the biggest issue companies have in engaging their teams is creating an atmosphere that develops management and leadership when employees are overwhelmed with their workloads. Company leadership and the environment they promote within the office are two driving factors behind employee development. Josh Bersin (@Josh_Bersin), Founder of Bersin by Deloitte, said:

“‘Best places to work’ companies don’t just have ping pong tables and free lunch, they have a ‘soul’ which makes work exciting and energizing. They invest in great management and leadership. They train and develop people so they can grow. And they define their business in a way that brings meaning and purpose to the organization.”

Because training and informal learning are so connected, informal learning is a direct result of the complexity and effectiveness of the training program. Subsequently, employee development is a combination of the formal training, informal learning sessions, and how employees use this knowledge in their work to increase performance. Formal training programs have to be robust in order to see results in performance management and better outcomes in performance appraisals. It becomes cyclical: a learning culture is the culmination of the formal training, informal learning, and the development that happens when employees are able to apply their training to their jobs.

How are you implementing training within your workforce? If you had to classify your initiatives, would they be training, learning, development focused? Would they be formal or informal? Do you practice new fangled or old school gamification? Let us know in the comments.

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Reviewsnap Headquarters Reviewsnap is headquartered in Des Moines, Iowa, and is a division of Applied Training Systems Inc., founded in 1995.