Eliciting Employee Input Effectively: The Pros and Cons of Self-Reviews
For decades, the “unilateral” performance review held sway as the dominant model for HR practitioners and personnel managers in North America. In this approach, a single reviewer – usually a direct supervisor – provided the sole source of data in the performance review process.
Over the years, the theories behind performance reviews evolved, and as a result, the process gradually became a bit more democratic and multi-dimensional. The most popular outcome of this was the trend of 360-degree reviews, in which peers, subordinates, supervisors, and in some cases, even customers all provided feedback on each employee’s performance.
Meeting in the Middle with Employee Self-Reviews
Although some companies still use 360-degree reviews, many others who initially bought into the concept have since returned to a more streamlined approach. Some organizations simply found themselves swamped by too much information and no clear idea how to make the best use of it.
While the 360-degree model might be excessive for some companies, a pared-down approach to performance reviews that still considers multiple sources of information has emerged as a happy medium. By asking employees themselves to participate in their own review process, you can add another valuable perspective to the evaluation and work together to formulate more effective plans for future development and improvement. Learn how to get the most out of employee self-reviews with these simple tips.
Schedule self-reviews before traditional evaluations.
Ideally, your employee’s self-review will inform your evaluation of them, rather than the other way around. Scheduling the self-review before the traditional performance evaluation serves two purposes: first, you’ll be more likely to elicit honest answers if they kick off the process, and second, you can factor their answers into your evaluation.
Make it a take-home test, not a pop quiz.
One common mistake that’s made among companies that administer employee self-reviews is allotting too little time to complete the process. Don’t hand employees a pencil and leave them alone in your office with a questionnaire to fill out in half an hour. Instead, explain the process and then give them anywhere from a few days to a week to complete it in the comfort of their own home. That way, you’ll be much more likely to elicit deeply reflective, personally meaningful responses, rather than dashed-off two-word replies.
Ask them to be honest…and mean it.
When you’re explaining the self-review process to your employee, be sure to ask them to answer as fully and as honestly as possible. Studies have shown that the usefulness of employee self-reviews increases if they feel free to express themselves fully without fear of reprisal. There’s just one catch: if you ask for honesty, be sure that you’re really prepared for it! There’s no guarantee that everything your employee will have to say will be pleasant.
Use their answers to kick off a dialogue.
Once you’ve got the completed self-review in your hands, make full use of the information. If there’s anything you don’t understand or that you disagree with, ask for clarification. Ideally, you’ll be able to set aside time during the traditional evaluation to specifically address any issues or concerns that they raise in their self-review.
Take a cue from their responses to formulate future goals.
As a manager, you probably operate under a fairly traditional set of assumptions when it comes to defining professional success and helping to chart a course for your employees’ career path. However, a closer look at their self-review responses may reveal that your employees have drastically different ideas and ambitions. Be sure to take their input into careful consideration when you develop their targeted goals for improvement and advancement during the next review period.
Performance evaluation gurus say that you’ll likely get out of the self-review process exactly what you put into it. If you set aside adequate time, ask for (and graciously respond to) honest answers, and take employees’ input seriously, you’ll be able to make the most of this approach and the information it provides.