Evolving Evaluations in the Workplace

Catherine Mulder on

Woman sitting on top of a computer looking at reviews

Evaluation is an essential and crucial part of business. It drives change and areas of opportunity, and is what separates a company from being average to amazing. What is great about 360 Reviews is it gives the opportunity to go full-circle. Each person - no matter the position, is given the opportunity to give and receive feedback. Managers learn their leading style, and areas that they show their strengths. Employees learn about their working habits, and how to better maximize their potential.

How we do reviews

Giving constructive feedback is difficult for a lot of people. Most people don’t enjoy the connotation of discomfort that comes with feedback, it can be intimidating and often sparks the fear of hurting another colleague’s feelings. Even though logistically it makes sense that the feedback is good for the growth of the team and individual, it must be done strategically to produce the most effective results.

When completing our 360 Peer Reviews, we used a company called “Decision Wise.” There are a lot of impressive organizations that do 360 reviews, the important part is to find which works best for your needs. Each member of our team was sent an email with a link to their own personal review, as well as other surveys about their colleagues and managers. These surveys had about a two week deadline in which each person was requested to complete the evaluations, along with encouragement to be as open and honest as possible.

The surveys asked a variety of questions from decision making capabilities to engagement within one’s career, while ranking the skillsets on a “Behavior Scale”. This key used a rating system, with the numbers indicating the level of ability:

On top of using this rating system, there was also an opportunity to share written feedback - which I found to be most effective. Being able to more deeply explain and provide context to why you may have ranked someone’s skill a specific number cleared up a lot of the confusion. It also humanized and gave a more constructive perspective that was easier to understand.

Once the surveys were completed, each team member scheduled a meeting with their manager to discuss the results of their own feedback. To prepare for the meeting, the individual reviewed their personal results and answered some prompt questions about their findings. The format broke down how the individual ranked their skills versus how they are perceived by their colleagues. This gave an open opportunity to really evaluate deeper and have thorough communication about strengths and areas for improvement. The communication aspect is essential. The manager is responsible for creating a healthy environment in which the information can be discussed, while the reviewee is responsible for being open to the information and commitment of change. After the discussion, the two brainstorm ways and create a set plan on how to create progress in necessary areas. However, the process doesn’t stop there. The idea of self evaluation is a daily focus, and it is known that throughout the year the manager and reviewee will connect to see the progress. A study from Clear Company concluded that “companies who implement regular employee feedback have turnover rates that are 14.9% lower than for employees who receive no feedback”. This demonstrates that giving feedback is just the first step, but the continuation is what really gives the best results.

Creating the Feedback Mindset

I am a person who previously has struggled with giving feedback. Before my role at Metadot, I had never had a company invest into the process, and it was an intimidating experience for me in the beginning. To ease the process, I worked on shifting my mindset to look at these reviews from a different perspective. Whenever the time comes to give feedback or review another colleagues work, I remind myself of a few simple things that really help easy the process:

Feedback reviews are not a reflection of someone’s worth. They are merely a perception that someone holds about the work or work habits that another individual possesses. It is not an attack on someone’s personal character, but more so an opportunity to help them grow. 360 Reviews are a sign of respect. Being able to have open conversations and invest in others personal and professional growth - is a sign of respect. It demonstrates that you value them and their development, and are willing to be a positive part of the journey. Instead of dreading the process, focus on WHY it makes you uncomfortable. Is this an opportunity to work on communication skills? Is this an opportunity to work on better articulating ideas? While you are giving feedback to others, you’re also practicing how to communicate in an effective manner - and growing yourself.

While these ideas help build a healthy mindset to receive feedback, it is also just as important to train on giving feedback. A study from Gallup found that 92% of employees found that constructive feedback - when given correctly - is effective at improving performance in the workplace. So how do you create a healthy system of giving and receiving feedback?

Consistency: From the beginning, adopt routinely giving and receiving feedback as a norm of the company. Don’t present it as something that should be concerning, present it as an exciting learning opportunity.

Specificity: Being vague while giving feedback only creates more confusion. Be prepared with direct examples and experiences that provide context to your critique.

Verbiage & Tone: Using accusatory language and tone of voice are not helpful in addressing issues. This creates an environment of conflict, and the feedback loses all value and will most likely not be received.

Acknowledge Strengths: Feedback doesn’t always have to be negative or constructive, sometimes it can be acknowledging one’s strengths or an area where they performed well.

Some companies choose to implement the anonymous approach when giving feedback. This means the name of the person is not disclosed, and this strategy usually encourages those who are a little more reserved, to be more forward and honest with their responses. While other approaches hold value in owning your words, and give more opportunity to openly discuss feedback. This strategy drives conflict resolution and communication skills while building confidence. Either way, these are both seen as effective ways to give feedback - it primarily depends on the personalities and preferences of the organization.

Constructive Feedback for Colleagues

Another element that adds some difficulties to peer evaluations is the friendly work-relationship that you grow within a team. Realistically, you spend a large portion of your time with your coworkers, and form a connection through your tasks. Breaking through those barriers to discuss their performance or areas where you see improvement, can feel a little awkward. However, there are few better people to give feedback on your work habits than those who spend each day working with you. They have a front row seat to how you operate in the workplace, and therefore can give the most realistic perspective. Teams that know how to communicate and give productive feedback with one another, create a healthier environment for growth. This foundation and ability to openly communicate leads to a more successful, and more enjoyable workplace.

Leader Reviews

When leading a team, being receptive to feedback is essential. Employees are much more receptive to the guidance of someone who is willing to reflect on their own areas of opportunity, in comparison to someone who believes they are above feedback. Similar to everyone else, receiving feedback in a leadership role improves the quality of the environment and arguably has an even greater impact. A humble mindset and willingness to improve sets the standard, and demonstrates true leadership skills. The same survey by Gallup showed that managers who are willing to receive feedback showed 8.9% increase in profitability. The leaders were better able to invest into their strengths, and improve the situation of the company as a whole.

While receiving feedback is important, giving feedback is just as necessary. The current workforce climate is showing a greater interest for receiving consistent and constructive feedback. A leader really needs to hone in on their delivery skills, and make sure they are providing top-notch advice. This requires possessing an ability to connect with each member of the team, and being strategic in the way in which the company seeks growth. If there seems to be a higher demand for feedback, the leader is responsible for strategizing an efficient way to ensure that the needs of the employees are being met. Although this can feel overwhelming, it should be viewed more as an exciting opportunity as the team is engaged. When employees see a leader dedicated to greatness, they are more likely to feel inspired themselves and bring that loyalty to the organization.

The Benefits of Self-Reviews

Self-reflection is a skill that carries far beyond the workplace. An individual who is self aware has an understanding of how they operate, how they are motivated, and how to keep themselves engaged in the process. They are also aware of their faults, areas of opportunity, and how their growth is not a destination but more so a journey. Self aware individuals take their strengths and utilize them to the best of their abilities to drive success.

Investing into learning more about yourself and how you navigate not just in the workplace, but in the world - is an invaluable investment. It creates a level of understanding which can make accomplishing new tasks or learning new skills more rewarding. The way to overcome barriers is to analyze what is standing in the way of the end goal. Developing these skills of self-reflection overtime only makes identifying these roadblocks easier, and the process more efficient. Now imagine establishing a company of individuals who have practiced this skill, working together to reach one common goal. The organization is able to move as one unit - and not only is the company successful, but the team is more engaged.

As your organization continues to grow, 360 Reviews should stay a high priority. While they can take time to see results, being diligent in the practice will be one of the best investments for the success of your company.