Key Design Decisions for 360 Feedback Success

Many managers and HR practitioners are familiar with 360 feedback as a leadership development practice. However, no two 360 feedback experiences look alike.

That is actually a good thing. Most successful 360 feedback drives behavior change both for individual leaders and their employers because the process is tailored to the organization’s unique culture as well as the intended purpose of the exercise.

On the other hand, this need for customization means practitioners face an overwhelming number of decisions when designing a new 360 feedback assessment. For example:

  • Who should participate?
  • How many survey questions should we include?
  • Who should receive the report?
  • What kind of follow-up support should we offer?
  • Who should choose the raters?
  • What role should HR play in the process?

Fortunately, some 360 feedback implementation practices have become ubiquitous. That means some guesswork, research and debate aren’t necessary. For example, below are five must-haves for strong engagement and outcomes.

Five Design Factors for 360 Feedback:

1) Which groups should participate in ratings?

Anyone who has observed a leader’s on-the-job behavior can provide useful rating input. This could include the leader who is being assessed, as well as a combination of direct supervisors, secondary managers, peers, direct reports, customers, board of directors representatives, donors and even skip reports.

In some situations, it is helpful to include other groups to meet specific requirements. For example, if a leader is actively involved with strategic partners or other third-party groups, their voices could add useful context. 

While there is flexibility to customize the participant mix, 360 feedback assessments typically include these four core rater groups as a baseline:  self, peers, direct reports, and direct managers. In fact, according to soon-to-be-released research from our firm, 88% of organizations include these four core groups.

2) Who will select and approve raters?

Among 360 feedback experts, there is some debate about the best way to choose raters. Should assessment recipients choose their participants? Those who favor this approach say it ensures a sense of ownership and buy-in. Others say a third party (a manager or HR representative) should choose raters. This ensures that feedback is well-balanced and avoids a “friends and family” bias.

Most 360 feedback process owners agree leaders should choose their own raters to build trust and establish assessment process buy-in. On the other hand, 70% of organizations tell us they review and approve final rater lists.

We agree that manager involvement is a wise practice, and a leader’s direct manager should approve the final list. Over the last 20 years, we’ve found that this is the most common approach. And according to our new benchmarking analysis, 48% of companies continue to use this method.

3) How will we score surveys and generate reports?

As with many HR processes, technology has also transformed 360 feedback implementation practices. Now, most HR practitioners rely heavily on online tools so they can collect, organize, analyze and share useful feedback faster and easier.

In 2009, spreadsheets and even paper surveys were still popular ways to collect and report 360 feedback data. Today, those methods are all but obsolete. In fact, 91% of organizations now use a web-based reporting tool to manage surveys and generate reports.

Many practitioners are also choosing to outsource this task to specialized service providers. In fact, our recent research shows that 80% of employers rely on an external vendor or consultant to handle this aspect of the process. 

4) How can we assure rater anonymity? 

To encourage honest responses, employers must ensure that feedback sources remain anonymous. Therefore, it’s not surprising that 81% of employers tell us rater anonymity is essential to the success of their 360 feedback endeavors.

A common way to ensure anonymity is by requiring a minimum number of survey responses for any group specified in the report. For example, peer scores are displayed separately only if at least 3 peers respond. If fewer peers respond, then that data is included only in overall average ratings.

Most often, organizations require a minimum of three raters in a category. In fact, 83% of companies use this three-rater threshold rule. Very few skip this requirement altogether (3% require no minimum responses). And on the other end of the spectrum, very few require more than three responses.

5) How will we help leaders translate the report into action?

For best results, talent management experts agree that personal follow-up is essential. To optimize ROI, employers should avoid the “desk drop” follow-up, where leaders receive a 360 feedback report, but no direct support to discuss results, implications, or next steps.

Follow-up can include any number of supportive actions, such as:  Adding development suggestions to the report, offering action planning guidance, providing individualized 1-on-1 coaching, assigning in-person or online workshops, referring leaders to specialized resource libraries, and more.

The most common step is also what talent management professionals feel is most critical for 360 assessment success:  Provide a one-on-one meeting with a trained 360 feedback coach who can facilitate action planning based on the results.

Historically, these sessions were conducted in person. However, in recent years, video meetings have become the dominant format. Also, reliance upon external coaches (rather than in-house staff) has become more popular.

Fortunately, 88% of organizations say they provide debrief sessions and one-on-one coaching, so feedback recipients can interpret insights and chart a relevant path forward.

Final Thoughts

Good leaders thrive on feedback. But for 360 feedback assessments to be effective, it’s important for leaders to understand the results and commit to improvement.

This means employers must take care to design and implement a valid, well-informed process from end to end. By addressing key design elements at the outset and by investing in ongoing leadership guidance, organizations can dramatically increase the likelihood of success.


Want to learn more about the decisions talent managers make when designing and implementing 360 feedback assessments? Replay this recorded webinar, where the 3D Group unveils findings from its latest benchmarking study,
Current Practices in 360 Feedback, 7th Edition. This analysis includes 20 years of data from more than 600 companies.

How to Motivate People With Better Performance Evaluations

When someone says it’s time for performance evaluations, what happens? You can almost hear a collective groan ripple across an organization. Reactions run the gamut, from indifference to full-on dread. 

It’s not just the idea of a performance review that makes people so uneasy—it’s also how the process is handled. Although employees tend to agree that performance evaluations are beneficial, too often, the way employers conduct and use reviews leaves a lot to be desired. 

We’d like to dig deeper into why performance evaluations stir up so many less-than-positive reactions. But first, let’s look briefly at how they became a standard business practice…

A Short History of Performance Evaluations

Appraisals were first developed during World War I. Back then, they had little to do with helping people improve and move forward in their careers. Instead, military leaders used appraisals to determine which personnel had the skills to qualify for a promotion when openings became available. They also used appraisals to identify and dismiss underperformers, so they could protect their ranks from harm or inefficiency.

The practice of workplace performance evaluations didn’t gain a firm foothold until the 1960s. But since then, reviews evolved in two sometimes conflicting directions. One rationale focuses on assessing current talent. The other emphasizes talent development for the future. However, as employee reviews have become more widespread, so have their scope and complexity. No wonder this topic makes so many people groan.

Why Employee Reviews Are Often Loathed

Today, many executives, managers, and employees agree that the traditional performance review system is no longer practical or effective. This is primarily because reviews are usually conducted on an annual basis.

Experts agree that an annual review cycle isn’t frequent enough to change behavior. Instead, managers should ideally offer feedback or guidance soon after an issue arises, not months after the fact.

Also, with a year’s worth of activity to evaluate, an appraisal can become an intense, high-pressure process, charged with the fear of being reprimanded or fired. In addition, an annual cadence tends to put an organization’s interests first, while undervaluing the employee experience.

Even so, most companies haven’t figured out how to replace or adapt that traditional review process with something better. How can we redesign performance evaluations to more closely meet the needs of employees, managers, and the organization? Let’s start by clarifying those needs.

The Benefits of a Better Review Process

For employers, a strong review process helps people apply their skills and experience to support organizational objectives. Clearer priorities, fewer mistakes, improved performance, and a more united team all contribute to a more profitable and sustainable business.

For managers and other leaders, a strong review process is efficient and effective. It provides timely direction, re-energizes people who have been disengaged, and makes the whole team more eager to deliver high-quality results.

For employees, a strong review process provides a clear picture of their current skills and proficiencies, while offering useful guidance on how to improve. It makes people feel more connected with their role in the organization and more supported in their specific work goals.

What’s at Stake

By relying on these various interests as a blueprint for improving the review process, organizations can achieve measurable gains. For example, a more productive, supportive form of evaluation can be a highly motivating process. Ideally, it creates an opportunity for meaningful dialogue that builds people up, rather than tearing them down. That can make all the difference for organizations that recognize the business value of employee retention.

On the other hand, choosing not to invest in an effective evaluation process brings significant downside risks. For example, people tend to become disenchanted and disengaged when they’re expected to work without constructive feedback, clear goals, or meaningful career paths.

In fact, one survey indicates that 85 percent of employees would consider quitting if they felt they received an unfair performance review. Imagine the impact if that happened in your organization!

Designing Better Reviews

The key to designing effective performance reviews is to recognize that this is a process, not an event. So many of our negative impressions of performance evaluations come from worrying about a single, looming “judgment day” when we wonder if we’ll be praised, criticized, or perhaps even fired.

For a better experience all around, try these approaches:

1) Start with a Different Mindset

The point of a performance review is to measure performance. However, evaluations don’t need to be limited to numbers and volume metrics.

This is an opportunity to think holistically about an employee’s overall connection with their team, and with your company’s culture and values. It’s also a chance to consider qualitative factors that affect an individual’s mental and social well-being.

2) Co-Create the Review

Gone are the days of top-down leadership and authoritarian work atmospheres. A performance evaluation should be a two-way experience.

It’s helpful for managers to work with employees upfront to co-create the goals that will frame their performance evaluation. Goals that align with key business objectives will serve the organization’s interests while giving an employee a sense of autonomy, purpose, and direction.

3) Increase Evaluation Frequency

You may think fewer evaluations are better. But a once-a-year trial builds unnecessary pressure. Distributing all of that annual review energy across more frequent cycles is a much smarter option.

In fact, according to Gallup, employees who receive daily feedback from managers are three times more likely to be engaged than those on an annual review schedule. To encourage professional growth, consider adding monthly progress checks or weekly one-on-one meetings, focused on development.

4) Lead with Recognition

Motivating employees is not always complicated, and we don’t always need expensive perks to do it. Simply acknowledging someone’s work and effort can go a long way to making them feel engaged and connected to their goals.

A whopping 69% of employees say they would work harder if they felt recognized. Let that insight inform your review structure. By leading with acknowledgment—communicating first and foremost what an individual has done successfully—you lay a foundation of trust and validation that can lead to further dialogue.

5) Communicate Changes Clearly

Many performance evaluations focus on a salary increase or a title promotion. But even long-awaited good news needs to be delivered in a way that’s clear and motivating.

For example, with a salary change, what new responsibilities are expected? What new objectives come with this role? Use these shifts in position as an opportunity to have an open conversation about career growth and planning for future skills development and upward mobility.

Final Thoughts

It’s no secret—performance evaluations are a challenge to manage. And improving your existing methods may seem like a thankless task. But many employers are discovering that it’s well worth taking the time and effort to ensure that your process is truly effective.

Any investment you make to improve feedback and communication has the potential to strengthen the sense of connection people feel with their job, their team, and your organization. Ultimately, those kinds of benefits can lead to a significant impact on your ability to retain talent, enhance work quality and improve your bottom line.


Matt Romond is an HR business partner at Jotform. He’s passionate about collaborating with teams to help them do their best work. Outside of work, Matt loves spending time with his family and adventuring in the mountains.

Alexis Russell is the U.S. HR business partner at Jotform. Based in San Francisco, she is the point of contact for all things HR and recruitment at Jotform.

Photo: Drew Beamer

New Research Indicates Desire for Recognition, Feedback

In the past several months, many companies have modified their performance programs. From streamlining their review processes to running more frequent pulse surveys, organizations around the world are seeking to make changes that will ultimately boost employee performance and productivity.

Our company, Reflektive, sought to measure these changes with a performance management survey. In June we reached out to 445 HR professionals and business leaders, and 622 employees, to understand the current state of their performance programs. We compared these results to a similar survey we ran in 2018. Our 2020 Performance Management Benchmark Report uncovered meaningful performance management trends over the past two years, as well as insights into the current state of work.

Formal Processes of Performance Management Consistent Since 2018

A surprising observation was that the formal processes of performance management have not changed significantly over the last two years. Nearly half of reviews are run annually or less frequently. Forty-six percent of respondents use descriptive performance ratings, such as “meets expectations.” 

People Analytics Present Big Opportunity

The survey also found that only 50% of HR and business leaders are using people analytics to predict performance and turnover. What’s interesting is that most leaders believe that people analytics has become more important, however they’re still not utilizing this technology to inform strategic people decisions. This gap can really impact workforce planning, as organizations struggle to fill needs when employees depart.

Employees Desire More Communication and Transparency from Companies

The employee survey results revealed that workers seek more communication to stay informed and engaged at work. Nearly half of respondents desire more consistent communication from leadership, and 37% said more consistent communication was needed from colleagues. 

In a similar vein, we found that employees sought more transparency from their employers. Only 19% of employees believed that their organization was transparent about upward mobility. Twenty-one percent said their company was communicative about salary freezes, and the same percentage said that their org was transparent about potential pay cuts. Employees are cognizant of the pandemic’s economic toll, and would like their companies to be honest with them about the business impact.

Employees Seek More Feedback and Coaching for their Growth

Another interesting insight we uncovered was that employees want more from their performance programs. Specifically, they’re looking for increased coaching, dialogue and recognition from their managers. Since 2018, there’s been a 3.2X increase in the percentage of employees that desire recognition. We also observed a nearly 90% increase in the percentage of employees that desire formal feedback conversations monthly or more frequently.

A performance bright spot was the manager-employee relationship. Over 80% of employees surveyed said that they are having 1:1s with their managers. Additionally, 80% said that these meetings were productive. This data was really uplifting to me, since driving alignment and communication can be tricky when everyone is working remotely.

However, we did identify a major communication gap: only 20% of employees reported that they receive weekly feedback. So it appears that managers and employees are talking regularly about ongoing work and projects, but employees still aren’t receiving the coaching that they desire. This represents a huge opportunity for managers — they can benefit from training on how to ask important questions, and how to provide valuable feedback on a more regular basis. Performance management technology — including feedback prompts and 1:1 tools — can help drive productive coaching conversations too.

Getting Feedback Remains Challenging for Employees

One interesting discrepancy between leaders and employees was sentiment around initiating feedback conversations. Only 14% of HR professionals and business leaders felt that employees weren’t empowered to initiate feedback conversations. However, 30% of employees — or over 2X the percentage of leaders — felt that they weren’t empowered to request feedback. This discrepancy indicates that HR teams and leaders are overestimating employee comfort with feedback processes. Employee training on giving and receiving feedback, and an easy-to-use feedback tool, can help fill this gap.

Executives and Employees Remain Optimistic for the Future

While sentiment and outlooks are continuously evolving in 2020, both executives and employees remain optimistic about the future. Specifically, executives anticipate more investment in technology (35% of respondents) and more efforts to boost engagement and retain employees (29% of respondents). 

Employees anticipate that six months from now, it will be business as usual (34% of respondents). Additionally, 26% expect to have learned new skills, and 25% believe they’ll feel proud of their accomplishments. Despite the many headwinds that they’re facing, employees feel that they will come out of 2020 stronger and more prepared for the future.

As employees, HR teams, and executives navigate the ever-changing environment, agility and resilience will be crucial. The ability to work productively in different environments, and collaborate cross-functionally, will be highly valued. Companies that maintain engaged and productive workforces will be the success stories of 2020.

This post is sponsored by Reflektive.

Performance Management: It’s Not a Product, It’s a Partnership  

For winter, here’s a cold-weather metaphor any homeowner can relate to. But it’s a model that, as you’ll see, has to do with any major shift in a big system. Imagine you’ve finally made the plunge and opted to spend a whole lot to invest in a brand new heating system for your house. It’s super high tech: state of the art, energy efficient, entirely customized to your needs, with digital thermostats and a cognitive design that will not only remember your heating needs but anticipate them. You can control it from your smartphone and, theoretically, coach family and guests on how to use it. The installer walks you through it all, and it seems incredibly simple. And then the installer leaves.

And you realize you haven’t a clue how to use it.

What do you do?

You call the installer. Come back and show me again. Or my family will be furious with me, because I made them give up the old furnace that may have clunked and roared, but it worked.

Workforces are not heating systems. But as with any other essential part of the infrastructure, you can’t make a massive, systemic change to how you manage the workforce and then let it run itself. What we’ve also found is that in terms of performance management, 88% of companies want to rethink how they do it, according to a 2015 study by Deloitte. But of those, only 8–12% stopped relying on performance reviews.

Here’s one simple reason: they don’t get enough help. To revise one of the very foundations of an organization — one that blends culture with process and strategy with system, and has an impact on the single most valuable asset, people —  there should be a partnership guiding the change. Just as we set expectations for our employees, it’s time to set them for our consultants as well. What do we need to drive successful change? Here are five key behaviors companies can ask for:

  1. Don’t just hold our hand. Inspire us. This is one instance where handholding is not just appropriate, it’s necessary. No matter how sophisticated an organization’s knowledge of the software, or how savvy the HR team is, there are going to be gaps in that intelligence. It’s not just about software and tech issues, either. It’s about the very role performance management can take as a driver of organizational success. You want a consultant who sees the role of performance management as a catalyst, not a punishment, to enable employers to grow and thrive. It’s part technician, part coach.
  2. Don’t make it too complicated.  There are too many instances of plug and play applications that are not fully utilized due to poor support and overcomplicated mechanics — yes, and that can adversely affect both successful ROI and next steps. A badly conceived change could cancel out the value of future initiatives. Innovation only drives innovation when it works. Not only do we need dedicated human beings as well as chatbots to help troubleshoot, there should also be a point when a complicated problem is handled back on the consulting end, freeing HR to go back to its other tasks.
  3. Craft alignment with the customer. I recently wrote about the need to revise the foundational culture underpinning how companies manage performance: “Without the engagement and alignment of our workforce, all the big plans in the world won’t amount to much.”  The same can be said of a support system. If a company has committed to changing its performance management, it’s made the cultural shift. But without the engagement and alignment of the provider / consultant from which it’s sourcing its new performance management system, that cultural shift won’t amount to much. The new system may not function smoothly or seam into the existing organizational culture, and may drive disengagement and resentment among the workforce.
  4. Partner, don’t just provide. The tremendous shifts transforming the world of work point back to the same need again and again for teamwork not just within organizations, but outside of them. Success depends on positive collaboration — working together to facilitate the change, initiate the change, train the change, and then maintain the change. Innovative companies will not only customize the software and elements like the dashboard or the portal, they also tailor the entire process, managing not just the moment of change, but the continuum from initial adoption to fully integrated use.
  5. Act a bit like a startup. There’s a recent, compelling article on organizational change by friend and colleague Josh Levine. He breaks organizational culture into 5 Ps: package, potential, people, purpose, and perception. It’s also an apt way to look at how an organization handles a profound change such as a new performance management system. Just how the system works — what’s in the package has to be clear: its platforms, check-ins, surveys, self-assessments, and more — so employees know what to expect. But they also should see the merits and potential — for instance, if management is going to be based on motivation instead of separation (as happens in stack rankings and badly designed peer reviews), or performance reviews are going to happen more often and with less stress involved and more flexibility.

Presenting the potential is up to the people involved, and may be more effective when it’s conveyed by those who created the system. They don’t need to sell it anymore, whereas the organization may feel compelled to pitch it to the workforce to facilitate a smoother adoption. And is the workforce given the chance to really see the purpose of this new model from their own point of view? It’s as critical to manage perceptions as it is to carefully manage change — but to do that transparently and authentically. That needs to come from both provider and purchaser.

We talk a whole lot about the need to change our performance management systems, and how they’re already changing for the better. We focus on how best to engage rather than evaluate, how to use feedback to empower, how to stop treating employees like numbers whose performance simply checks off desired boxes. The specifics of a system can vary widely. But the bottom line should be a sustained, agile, responsive and scalable partnership.

This article was sponsored by Reflektive.  All opinions are that of TalentCulture and Meghan M. Biro.

The A to Z of Feedback

It’s no secret that feedback is a hugely important in the workplace. Giving and receiving useful feedback is a key part of both personal and organizational development. It impacts individual growth and allows people to work on self-improvement, whilst also pushing people towards organizational goals.

We’ve put together a handy overview: all you need to know about feedback from A-Z.

Anonymous vs non anonymous feedback

It’s important to decide whether feedback conducted with a tool should be anonymous or have names attached. There are perks to both: with anonymous, particularly upward feedback sometimes people feel they can be more honest with their responses, whereas non-anonymous keeps the conversation open, allowing for easier follow-ups. It’s important for you to decide which option your organization feels will benefit your feedback process the most and help your team work most effectively.

Biases & Performance Reviews

Conducting performance reviews is a helpful process when it’s as objective as possible. Unfortunately there are some biases, which can affect the credibility of reviews when not handled well. Biases such as the halo/horn effects, primacy & recency effects and stereotyping can impact on how people conduct reviews and can have a huge difference on the feedback people give out, and make reviews less valid.

Carol Dweck & The “Growth Mindset”

Psychologist Carol Dweck talks about mindset, specifically a ‘growth’ mindset compared to a fixed one. In terms of receiving feedback, mindset can make a huge difference. People with a fixed mindset see their intelligence and personality as unchangeable, so are more likely to respond emotionally to constructive feedback as it’s like a personal insult. Those with growth mindsets will instead see feedback as an opportunity to develop and improve their skill sets. However, it’s important to keep in mind that people can change their mindset through practice.


This year, professional services network Deloitte joined the ever-growing list of companies ditching the annual performance review in favor of more effective practices. The company places emphasis on really ensuring that more regular feedback is of use and helps employees to develop.

Engagement & Feedback Culture

How engaged people are at work can make a huge difference to their productivity, motivation and happiness levels at work. Creating a workplace culture that embraces the importance of honest, real-time feedback can make a huge difference in the way people perceive their life and role within the organization. Open, honest communication amongst all employees not only means people have useful feedback to help them improve, but also that there is a feeling of trust and respect in the workplace. Implementing a great feedback culture will improve engagement in the sense it makes people feel they can offer input without judgement or backlash, and really help the company on its path to success.

Follow ups

No feedback process is complete without a follow-up conversation. Making use of people’s input means the whole process has a useful outcome. It can be effective to schedule follow-up meetings or simply make time to discuss feedback over coffee once people have had time to digest what’s been said. This means not only will wires not be crossed but that discussions as to how to best use the feedback given can take place, allowing for people to develop and work more effectively.


It’s important for a number of reasons to have goals to reach towards. Using feedback to help create goals can be a really useful process which means you take away key points and use them to establish your focuses for the next month, quarter or year, making the feedback process even more useful.


An open feedback culture creates a working environment where people feel they can have an honest conversation with their co-workers without fear of backlash. It’s a key part of maintaining a work culture which makes people feel comfortable and actively helps everyone improve and develop at the same time. If people are used to being honest with one another, giving open praise when applicable and constructive feedback when it’s needed, it makes for a productive, comfortable and constantly improving work environment.

Improves skill sets

After 360-reviews, there can be patterns in people’s feedback. For example if all of someone’s co-workers mention that they lack a certain skill or could improve in one specific area, it’s time to start working on those skill sets! Having specific skills to work on makes post-feedback development way easier and provides a good focus.

Juniper: No more performance ratings & reviews

Juniper completely revamped their performance review process.  And they did something right: the changes they made resulted in 82 percent of employees feeling that their reviews were now valuable. The company eliminated ranking and instead just aims for employees to meet expectations of four performance elements, really put focus on people’s purpose and individual achievements and how feedback can impact future performance.


A key part of performance management is setting useful goals for team members. Using company KPIs to create goals can be a great practice, as it ensures people are on track not only to individual achievements, but that those accomplishments align with organizational goals.

Leadership development

Having upward feedback in place is a great place to start in terms of leadership development. Managers receiving feedback means they are given an opportunity for development that they otherwise may not have had. Gaining feedback from team-members is a valuable opportunity to improve as a leader and ensure they way you interact with your team is as beneficial as possible for everyone.


With modern workforces being made up of a large amount of millennials, real-time feedback is more needed than ever. Millennials generally value more frequent feedback than previous generations and prefer to be updated on things in real-time, rather than having to wait for scheduled times to discuss their progress or achievements.

Not personal

It’s important to separate feedback from your personal relationships with co-workers, particularly constructive feedback. Whether giving or receiving it, it’s key to approach feedback as something which aids performance and development, not as a personal attack.

Ongoing process

Feedback should be a process, not an event. Approaching it as something which happens yearly only as a performance review, or stops outside of scheduled meetings means it becomes a task, not an ingrained part of company culture and can mean people become less willing to engage with it. Ensuring that feedback is a regular part of people’s working day is the key to making it useful, whether through use of a real-time feedback tool, regular 1-on-1’s with managers, or simply encouraging a culture where employees give open praise and are receptive to constructive comments.

Professional development

Using feedback to create goals keeps a clear focus and keeps feedback useful. Setting professional development goals is a great way to ensure continued development and growth and an ongoing sense of direction outside of just day-to-day accomplishments.


Asking your team members for their feedback is one great step towards having a feedback culture which works. But it’s also important to ask them questions to follow up or add to the feedback you’ve already received from them. Ask people for their opinions on changing practices within the company, follow up the feedback they’ve given you by asking how they think you can use it to further improve, and generally let your team know that you value their input.

Real time

Feedback is most useful when it’s conducted within a useful time scale. It’s not so beneficial hearing that something could have been improved 6 months after it took place: discussing things in real-time means that actionable solutions can be found and feedback can actually be useful in establishing what can be improved.

SMART goals

Using feedback to establish goals for the upcoming period is an especially useful practice when you create SMART goals (ones that are specific, measurable, assignable, realistic and timely.) SMART goals mean that you have a great focus going forward and have something to strive towards that is useful and within reach, without being overwhelming or unobtainable.


360-degree feedback is on the rise in the modern workplace. And for good reason. Simply receiving input from managers is no longer enough. Getting an all-round perspective by gaining input from those you work closely with makes so much more sense in terms of being able to actively use feedback to improve.

Upward feedback

An important part of 360-feedback is that it includes upward feedback: people are able to provide feedback to their managers and supervisors. This is a great opportunity as a manager to gain insight that otherwise wouldn’t be available with a conventional top-down only feedback process. Giving team members the opportunity to express their views and suggestions to managers means not only do people feel more involved and valued, but also that everyone, managers included, gets the chance to receive and respond to both positive and constructive feedback which helps them improve in their role.

Value your team

It’s so important for people to know their work is valued and appreciated. Having a real-time feedback culture in place that means people get regular, timely updates on their work and achievements not only means room for improvement when constructive feedback is given, but also that people get to hear regular praise and appreciation when things go well.

Weekly meetings

While it’s a great practice to schedule meetings after performance reviews or when periodic feedback has been given, it’s also great to engage in weekly meetings with your team, either as a group or on a 1-on-1 basis to discuss any issues that have arisen, publicly praise what’s gone well and keep up to date with people’s progress and development.

toXic feedback

Whilst giving constructive feedback is useful for development, when toxic feedback finds its way into the mix that’s where things can go wrong. It’s important to acknowledge the difference between and separate constructive feedback from toxic feedback which will not benefit you and your development.

Yearly performance reviews: a thing of the past

Annual performance reviews are now widely accepted as a fairly useless practice. A conversation which only involves one manager and takes place once a year doesn’t make too much sense when it comes to being able to use feedback to improve daily practices and performance. Viewing feedback instead as an ongoing process which helps evaluate things shortly after they happen is way more useful and effective.

Zenger Folkman research

Research from Zenger Folkman found that 74 percent of people who received constructive or negative feedback were already aware of the problem raised and were not surprised it had been brought up. Keeping the conversation open with employees can make the difference between a team of people who are aware of their issues in the workplace but are unaware how to tackle them, and one which is on track to improving and overcoming issues and difficulties.

Photo Credit: Marc_Slavin Flickr via Compfight cc

Sustaining Us: How Organizations Are Evolving to Meet the Future Of Work

Recently, GE explained how it will deeply revise performance reviews — an often untenable practice which has plagued organizations, both large and small for decades.  Heavy with the burden of process and time, yearly reviews have long been the bane of organizations and managers. When the facts were thoughtfully considered, the value of these reviews simply wasn’t justifying the invested resources.

Most importantly, performance appraisals weren’t offering employees what they needed to guide behavior and develop — as the process siphoned time from their managers. Yearly performance reviews were no longer sustaining us, or the organizations in which we work.

The average life span of a company has decreased dramatically over course of the last century. (Nearly 50% of the Fortune 500 pre-2000 have disappeared or have been the subject of a merger/acquisition.) Many become other companies, which only serves to add to the challenges that employees must face. Organizations that endure, face the dangers of aging — which can include complacency and looming obsolescence. Sustaining an organization is no small feat. Leaders must balance a variety of priorities including a strategic vision and meeting the tide of change.

While contemplating this, I’ve realized that we’ve short-changed one critical part of that discussion — sustaining “us”. Contributors. People. Human beings. Here in the US for example, we work longer, but likely not smarter. We haven’t fully mastered the feedback employees require to be successful. We struggle to provide meaningful career paths to amplify contributor strengths. We sometimes miss the mark concerning that managers require training and support to help team their members thrive. We ignore the importance of re-charging as human beings — leaving countless vacation days on the table.

Things just don’t add up. Something had to give.

And it’s been us.

However of late, there is positive movement. There are organizations getting it right, who hold a strong belief that people are their organization. They intend to evolve in a manner so structure and processes can work with people — not against them. Once petrified, I see a glimmer in leaders who see the value of addressing the organization’s core people practices. Many are making the connection (see this from Google) and rolling up their sleeves to make changes. We are now actively discussing what comprises a healthy, supportive environment. I’m hearing increased chatter about psychological safety and the employer-employee exchange agreement.

With thoughtful decisions and a concerted investment in people — the relationship between employers and employees can shift in a way that will not only affect satisfaction and engagement — but creativity, innovation and success.

I’m watching with great anticipation to see what unfolds.

What is happening in your organization? Share your perspective.

This post was first published on LinkedIn.

7 Ways Managers Can Build Trust in the Workplace

How many people trust their managers? A recent study by Edelman found that one in three employees don’t trust their employer. Another study by EY found that number to be even lower, with only 46% having trust in their organization, and 49% in their boss/team. Trust is one of the most important things you need in the workplace. Without it you won’t have the environment you need for an effective feedback culture to grow. So how can you help close the trust gap between employees and managers?

  1. Honesty is the best policy

It may be hard to share difficult news sometimes. We naturally have a tendency to believe that delivering bad news will impact other people’s opinion of ourselves. In fact, a recent article by Forbes addressed a reader’s question about how to deal with a boss who lies to avoid answering difficult questions from employees.

Being honest, even during tough times, is something the most trustworthy leaders learn how to do. Whether your company hasn’t met its goals and is unable to award bonuses this year, or you’ve decided to let go of a member of your team. Rather than putting off the difficult talk, employees will respect a manager who is able to openly explain the situation, take questions and give them the facts.

  1. Admit mistakes

While being transparent about bad news is difficult, admitting when it’s you who’s made a mistake can be even more difficult. You may be surprised to find that employees will like you more for it. Admitting mistakes actually makes you more human and thereby more likeable to others. Psychologists call this the Pratfall effect. Being able to admit to and take responsibility for your mistakes is a major part of being a great leader.

  1. Treat employees like people, not numbers

It’s easy to get lost in the numbers. If your job is based on meeting certain performance metrics, managers can often get in the habit of seeing their employees in terms of output achieved.

Managers don’t have to be their employee’s best friend, but they should be conscious of maintaining a healthy work environment. Managers who encourage extreme competition between peers and late hours are going to end up creating a toxic work culture in which employees don’t trust their manager or each other.

You don’t have to know all the details of your employees’ personal lives, but managers should have a good understanding of what their employees enjoy about their job most. If you’re able to pick up on what your employee’s need to do their best, they’ll go the extra mile for you.

  1. Give credit to your employees

As the team leader, you will often receive recognition from your peers and upper management for your team’s efforts. Make sure you share appreciation and acknowledge your team members for their hard work. A recent study by Globoforce showed that employees who received recognition from their leaders recently were significantly more likely to trust them (82% vs 48%).

  1. Put yourself on the line for your team

To gain trust, managers must be their team’s best advocate. While inwardly you may have constructive feedback for your team about the way they approached an assignment, outwardly you must be willing to praise, advocate and take responsibility for your team’s actions. When team members make a mistake it may seem common sense to distance one’s self. This may maintain your reputation, but it won’t win you your team’s trust. This is a difficult balance that each manager will have to maintain on their own, but having a team that is highly committed to you will help you achieve the results you want in the long run.

  1. Teach your managers how to overcome bias

It’s not that managers are inherently biased, as people we have a natural tendency to make assumptions about others. This can result in managers unintentionally favoring some employees over others, known by psychologists as the ‘rater bias’. Unconscious bias contributes to a major loss in trust between managers and employees, especially when it affects performance reviews. Help managers learn how to identify and avoid bias in the workplace.

  1. Make yourself vulnerable. Ask for feedback.

Trust isn’t the magic key to workplace bliss. Issues will always arise at work, but closing the trust gap means employees will be more likely to really take on and reflect on feedback from their managers and be more honest when they give upward feedback. As more and more employees are publicizing their complaints about their employer on Glassdoor, you want a workforce that feels free and comfortable to express concerns before they boil over onto the internet.

But to gain this type of trust, managers must first demonstrate they’re willing to open themselves up to criticism. If they truly start to put themselves out there and ask for employee feedback, their reports will recognize this and start to follow their example.

A version of this post was first published on

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Overcoming the Fear of Feedback

Mary considers herself to be a good manager. Whenever one of her employee’s is struggling with an assignment she swoops in to help them put things into order and give pointers. Her company is now introducing a new 360-degree performance management system based on continuous feedback and, as a manager, she’s been encouraged to lead the transition by asking for feedback from her team first. She’s excited about this new change because she thinks it’ll help a few of her team members to open up more and resolve conflicts amongst each other.

However, when she receives her feedback, she’s surprised to find that several people said she needed to let go more and allow people to work out assignments in their own way. One person even used the term ‘micromanaging’. Even though she’s supposed to be setting an example, her first reaction is to get angry. She sets aside a lot of time to help her employees solve problems and only gets criticism in return. She’s now supposed to act on the feedback she receives in order to encourage employees to do the same, but she’s still feeling betrayed.

Most people have difficulties receiving feedback well. For others, the only thing worse than receiving constructive feedback is giving it. When given correctly, feedback is not meant to harm or criticize people, but meant as a way to improve. Even if we know feedback is good for us, what’s holding you back from accepting and sharing it with others? The answers might all be in your head.

What are the psychological factors that make us afraid of feedback?

The most common answer is our body’s natural negativity bias. Prominent psychologists and neurobiologists have found that our brains are hardwired to react to negative stimuli faster. This was originally necessary for our survival. Sensing an attack would trigger our body’s natural fight or flight mode, increasing the amount of hormones released to the bloodstream, elevating reaction time and heightening our emotions. The experiences that trigger these reactions become etched into our brain so that we can react to dangerous situations faster. This is why we tend to remember negative experiences more than positive ones.

However, in an office setting our negativity bias and flight or flight reaction can actually work against us. Even when receiving mostly positive feedback, it tends to be the constructive feedback that we recall most acutely. Though feedback doesn’t constitute a physical attack, in their separate research Psychologist Peter Gray and Management Professor Neal Ashkanasy both explain that criticism can signal a sense of exclusion. In hunter-gatherer societies people were dependent on the group for survival. For this reason, constructive feedback can sometimes trigger our fear of exclusion from the group.

Is fear of giving feedback more about yourself than others?

In fact, this is also relevant to giving feedback. A study by Dr. Carla Jefferies of the University of Southern Queensland discovered that a failure to give constructive feedback may actually be more about protecting ourselves than others. In her experiment, participants were told to give feedback on an essay either face to face, anonymously or to give feedback that would not be shared with the author.

She found that participants with lower self-esteem gave more positive feedback face to face and more critical feedback in the other two situations. People with high self-esteem gave the same feedback in all situations. According to a researcher on her team, “If one accepts that people with relatively low self-esteem are expected to place greater emphasis on wanting to be perceived as likeable or attractive to others, then this lends support for the self-protection motive.”

Supporting this research, a study conducted by leadership development consultancy Zenger/Folkman found that 74% of employees who received constructive feedback already knew there was a problem. This shows that employees aren’t necessarily blind to the things they need to improve, they just either aren’t sure how to improve or aren’t fully aware of the impact on the rest of the team. In fact, in their previous research, they found that a majority of employees actually want constructive feedback.

However, the caveat is that people don’t want to receive top down instructions on what to do. In their study, they also found that the more managers carefully listened to their employee’s point of view before giving feedback, the more honest and trustworthy their feedback was perceived. Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman suggest that the best way to give constructive feedback is to first give the other person the chance to explain the situation and what they think went wrong. Before immediately going into feedback, first allow them to formulate their own plan of action. If you listen carefully up to this point, when you give your own feedback it is much more likely to be well received. Finally, offer to check in the following week so that you can lend further advice if needed, without seeming overbearing. For more information on how to give constructive feedback see here. So what are we still so afraid of?

Changing your mindset

Stanford Professor Carol Dweck’s studies into what she terms ‘fixed and growth mindsets’ also provide valuable insights into this fear. According to her research, people with fixed mindsets view their skills as constant personal traits, while people with growth mindsets view their skills as malleable abilities which can be improved. For example, children who have been praised for being smart throughout their lives may face difficulties improving after receiving a bad grade on an exam. However, children who have been praised for getting good grades based on their hard work and dedication are more likely to see a bad grade as an opportunity to learn more.

When we associate abilities with a part of our identity, receiving constructive criticism can feel more like a personal attack. People with growth mindsets, on the other hand, are more likely to take risks and overcome obstacles by seeing failure as a signal to try harder, rather than time to give up.

The good news is that we are not naturally divided into fixed and growth mindsets. Developing a growth mindset towards feedback is possible. According to Dweck, the first step is recognizing your fixed mindset “voice”. When you start placing blame on others for the feedback you receive, this is your fixed mindset speaking. Once you recognize this voice you can begin counteracting it and responding with a growth mindset. See Dweck’s TEDTalk, ‘The power of believing that you can improve’, for more inspiration.

Overcoming fear of feedback through habit

An important part of overcoming your fear is creating a feedback habit. In Pulitzer prize-winning journalist Charles Duhigg’s book The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, he describes how neuroscientists and psychologists discovered the impact of habits on rewiring the brain towards certain behaviors. Marketers and CEOs have used the key elements of creating a habit – cue, routine and reward – to induce certain behaviors in consumers and employees. Duhigg contends that by creating a routine and reward system triggered by certain cues, we can rewire our brain to create new habits and behaviors.

If you want to start exercising more, leaving your running clothes next to your bed will trigger a cue to go for a run in the morning. If you get into the routine of going for a run every morning your body gets used to the routine. The incentive can be a reward, such as having a big breakfast when you get home. Eventually, the habit kicks in and your body will become accustomed to going for a run when you wake up, even if you forget to leave your running clothes out or don’t have time for an elaborate breakfast.

One example he gives is Starbuck’s success in teaching employees how to navigate difficult situations with customers. In Duhigg’s book he introduces Travis, a manager of two successful Starbucks locations, who attributes his professional success to Starbuck’s lifeskills training program. In his previous jobs, Travis had difficulties dealing with angry customers. Rather than dealing with the situation calmly, he would be overcome with emotion and argue back, making it difficult to hold down a steady job. When he began working as a barista at Starbucks he entered into its education training program.

The company’s main focus is providing great customer service, and it found that the best way to do this was to ensure its workers received training on life skills such as managing emotions, how to stay organized and focused and, most importantly for Travis, willpower. Through these trainings Travis was able to master his emotions by creating go to habits for different situations that could arise at work. For example, the LATTE method is used to deal with difficult customers:

Listen to the customer

Acknowledge the problem

Take problem-solving action

Thank them

Explain why the problem occurred

The program encourages employees to imagine difficult situations with customers, decide how they would react in advance and practice through role play. By having a set routine in place, Travis was able to overcome his emotional response to angry customers. As soon as he receives the cue, a complaining customer, he dives into his routine allowing him to stay level headed. Since instituting this program, Starbuck’s revenue increased by $1 billion. See Duhigg’s thought-provoking TEDTalk detailing more insights from his book.

Creating a feedback habit

You can also use this method to create a feedback habit in your company. Amongst our clients we’ve observed that as employees share more and more feedback through Impraise, they begin to develop feedback behaviors. As the habit forms, people become more comfortable expressing feedback face-to-face. In our biggest client company, a major hotel booking platform, we’ve seen this lead to an increase in the exchange of unsolicited feedback and better professional development conversations.

Utilizing their employees’ affinity for games, a gaming company we work with has created a reward system in which people vote for the best feedback they were given, resulting in a bonus for the top contributor.

When creating your own feedback habit keep in mind these three elements to habit forming. For example, your steps could be:

Cue – Receiving a feedback notification from a colleague


  1. Analyze the feedback,
  2. Ask questions to better understand
  3. Thank them
  4. Strategize ways to improve based on your feedback
  5. Set goals for yourself based on these strategies

Reward – Using the feedback to reach the professional goals you’ve set for yourself

To put this into context we’ll go back to Mary, the manager who just received surprising constructive feedback from her employees. When her thoughts of betrayal and exclusion start to set in, she should recognize her fixed mindset voice and respond: “It’s not that my employees are ungrateful for my help, they just want more opportunities to grow professionally.”

Following these steps, after receiving her cue, feedback notifications on her real-time feedback platform, Mary should automatically read through them and write down keywords and patterns she sees. She should then respond to her feedback in order to fill in the gaps: “What can I do to better support you when you reach an obstacle?” Finish by thanking them for their feedback.

Based on their answers, it’s time to come up with strategies for improvement. Maybe her employees would like her to first ask if they need her help. When they do ask for help, she can make sure to adjust her language and tone, so that she’s sure to provide suggestions rather than instructions. She should also consider offering individuals opportunities to take on more responsibilities. For example, suggesting that an employee take the lead on a new project. Another option is committing to having more regular one-on-ones with her employees, so she can check in and offer her assistance when needed.

Finally, Mary can set her professional goals around this feedback: “Becoming a better leader by providing more autonomy to my employees”. Mary should then check in from time to time and ask her employees for feedback on her management style and what she could do to more effectively reach her goals.

A version of this post was first published on the Impraise blog.

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6 Reasons Why Your Company Needs Real-Time Feedback

In the news today we’re constantly seeing major companies announce they’re dumping their old performance management systems for more agile solutions. Accenture, Adobe, Deloitte, Gap and Microsoft are just a few of the big names that have upgraded their people management processes based on real-time feedback. You may be asking yourself what the reasons are for this major shift in HR and how it will affect your company? Here we’ll share the six major reasons your company needs an HR revamp.

  1. Stack ranking is out

Stack ranking does not work. Despite its popularity during the 80s, 90s and early 2000s, companies began to realize that it actually works to tear down teamwork by pitting employees against each other and encouraging office politics. Though mounting evidence has been building against the system, it was when founding company GE decided to move away from stack ranking that the evidence became clear. According to the Institute for Corporate Productivity, the number of companies practicing stack ranking plummeted from 49% in 2009 to 14% in 2011.

  1. The Problem with Annual performance reviews

Similarly the annual performance review is already becoming a thing of the past. In today’s rapidly changing work environment employees need advice and training more than once a year. 95% of managers are unhappy with the way performance reviews are conducted in their companies. Furthermore, evidence has proven that the stress caused by annual performance reviews triggers our body’s natural ‘fight or flight’ reaction.

  1. The Need for Better Data and Greater Transparency

Basing assessments solely on annual performance reviews and stack ranking is not only ineffective, but also inaccurate. 90% of HR leaders question the accuracy of the information received. Research shows that two-thirds of performance management systems actually misidentify top performers regardless of forced rankings. The reason for this is that they’re highly subjective. When someone rates you the rating often says more about them than about you. Motivation for example is an abstract concept. If your manager rates you on how motivated you are at work it’s based on what they consider to be high and low amounts of motivation. Business consultant Marcus Buckingham calls this the idiosyncratic rater effect. Studies show this can also result in bias against women and minorities, resulting in low performance reviews and ultimately unequal promotions and pay.

  1. Modern Employees

The skills that companies are looking for in an employee have changed. In the fast pace changes of the modern business world, especially in the tech industry, professional skills have an average life of 2 ½ to 5 years. This means that employees must constantly be learning to keep up with new trends. Even more than technical ability, companies are looking for creative young talent that have a high learning capacity. However, even with the ability to learn quickly, these employees also need managers who will spend more time (more than once a year) on coaching in order to keep up to date with the latest trends.

  1. Millennials

The new generation of workers have the reputation of being disloyal and impatient. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Millennials are smart and tech savvy. This generation is more likely than others to have advanced degrees and, growing up in the social media age, they are always hungry for more information. However, they’re also used to getting answers instantly in real-time. What millennials want is more training and opportunities for development and they have no qualms about job hopping until they find it. In a survey by TriNet and Wakefield Research, 85% of millennials reported they would feel more confident if they could have more frequent performance conversations with their manager.

  1. What we know now about motivation

Employees want to be recognized for their efforts. Showing appreciation for a job well done goes a long way. In a survey 83% of employees found recognition for contributions to be more fulfilling than rewards or gifts. Furthermore, a number of HR experts are now finding that focusing on improving an employee’s strengths, rather than weaknesses, boosts motivation. However, to make strengths based training work managers must have more frequent discussions with employees to help them pinpoint and develop these skills. Managers who know their employees’ strengths are 71% more likely to have employees who are energized and engaged.

To find out more about the benefits of real-time feedback and the best ways to introduce it into your company download Impraise’s free white paper.

A version of this post was first published on the Impraise blog.


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Performance Reviews are Dead: Use Technology to Develop Employees

If the thought of performance reviews makes you cringe, you aren’t alone. Research supports the fact that performance reviews are pretty much universally viewed as ineffective. So it generated a lot of attention, if not a ton of surprise, when GE—recently named by Forbes as the ninth largest company in the world —announced it was scrapping annual performance reviews in favor of more frequent engagement with employees.

HR professionals, recruiters, and organizational change experts have been forecasting the demise of the performance review for years, not just because research says we don’t like them, but because they’re all but irrelevant for a broad swath of employees.

Millennials and their more mature counterparts in the workplace are often more likely to request, and respond positively to, regular feedback that both recognizes stellar performance as well as identifies how they can improve. This is a change from the status quo, but that’s good news for managers. Not only are workers more likely to be open to feedback, there are tech tools that make that dialogue easier.

Millennials Want To Improve Now, Not Next Year

Speaking of Millennials, they are not a particularly patient bunch—and that’s a good thing. Karie Willyerd, the workplace futurist for SuccessFactors, quoted a Millennial in an article written for HBR: “I would like to move ahead in my career. And to do that, it’s very important to be in touch with my manager, constantly getting coaching and feedback from him so that I can be more efficient and proficient.” What an improvement that is over waiting around for that once or twice yearly performance evaluation and subsequent conversation with the boss.

Reflecting on research done by SuccessFactors and Oxford Economics, Willyerd said, “What [Millennials] want most from their managers isn’t more managerial direction, per se, but more help with their own personal development.”

What does that mean for an open feedback loop? Here’s a look at the kind of input that works.

Millennials are motivated to prove their ability to do a task well. Feedback that reinforces what people are doing right, not just what they’ve done wrong, recognizes strengths and abilities while also letting them know how to improve.

More than that, if someone isn’t suited for a task, they’d rather know about it now and move on to other things they’re better at doing. The awareness that Millennials want constant feedback has been often unfairly described as narcissism or the result of helicopter parenting, but it just makes sense. Imagine doing a job for 12 months only to be told you weren’t good enough at it? The core idea behind regular feedback resonates with employees across generations: Put me where I work best, both for my sake and for the company.

People hate criticism. Negative reinforcement doesn’t work for employees, and—when it comes once a year, with another 12 months before they find out whether they’ve improved—it becomes a morale killer. Taking an iterative approach, as GE has, makes it easier for people to receive criticism and drive momentum on the things that truly matter to their own development, while also having an impact on the company as a whole.

Ongoing feedback benefits both managers and employees. Millennials, the largest demographic in the workforce, hate performance reviews more than anyone—but they aren’t the only ones. Anyone with a forward-thinking mindset wants regular feedback and coaching so they can do their best work at the right time. They want jobs that they love, and they want to be doing things that are interesting and fulfilling to them. Feedback helps employees stay engaged and motivated, and it helps managers attract and retain top talent. A win-win.

Add Technology to the Review Process

As you move from yearly reviews to open communication, there are a number of purpose-built tools that can you can explore to help with the process. These include offerings from companies like Impraise, Workday, Glint, and 15five, to name just a few, that can help with your new process. Each is built to encourage regular (even daily) dialog and can help make this concept a reality within your workplace.

Feedback goes both ways, and employees need to feel safe to share their thoughts; it’s up to employers to pick the right technology and introduce it in a way that clarifies its intent.

It’s important to remember that real-time feedback isn’t just a matter of adding new apps to your processes; it also requires a shift in mindset. An organization can’t just talk about change; it has to show their employees a commitment to change. As such, technology can be both a boon and a danger. If you rely too heavily on technology—in this case, an employee engagement platform, and take the humanity out of relationships, you’ll reinforce the idea that your people are just a cog in the machine instead of valued human beings. in a myriad of ways. Better culture, happier employees, more productive teams, more productive managers, and greater profitability overall. As you reshape your company’s culture of feedback to become more continuous, your employees’ development will be tied to the company’s development and growth. And that’s really what the performance review was supposed to do in the first place.

What do you think about performance reviews? As an employee, do you like or loathe them, or do you fall somewhere in between? As an employer or HR pro, what are your thoughts? I’d love to hear.

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This is How Google Redefines Performance Management

When it comes to unprecedented scale of success and growth, one company reigns supreme: Google. Started as a research project in 1996 by then PhD students Larry Page and Sergey Brin at Stanford University, Google has become a multinational technology company with industry leadership in Internet-related services and products. Between its foundation as a company in 1998 and now, Google has gone through many transformations (the most recent one of which is its reorganization as a holding company named (Alphabet Inc.). But one thing remained a constant at the Internet giant: Its commitment to employee satisfaction and engagement.

Google’s commitment to its employees can explain why the company has topped the Great Place to Work list in 2013 and 2014, and it has remained in the top five in the preceding years. A closer look reveals another important factor in this victory: Google’s carefully constructed and truly nurturing performance management system.

How Google Works

In 2014, Google Executive Chairman and ex-CEO Eric Schmidt and former Senior Vice President of Products Jonathan Rosenberg wrote a book about how Google operates its organization. Titled “How Google Works,” the book provides great insights into corporate culture, strategy, talent, decision-making, communication, innovation, and dealing with disruption.

The authors admit that technology now defines and shapes almost every business sector. The influence of technology is causing massive changes across many businesses to a degree that the word “disruption” has become commonplace. These conditions in the world of work has created a new segment of professionals, named “smart creatives” by the authors. Here is how they are defined:

  • They are product professionals who bring together technical and business expertise with creativity.
  • They are not easily fooled by traditional motivators, such as compensation and bonuses.
  • They feel the need to care about their workplace and what they are doing.
  • They do not like formal business plans and strict schedules.

Attracting and hiring smart creatives is a skill in itself. The authors suggest that creating successful products and ideas based on unique technical insights is the first step. Having the focus on growth instead of revenue and keeping an eye on the competition are the other steps to maintaining a successful, original venture that would attract smart creatives.

However, the hardest part is retaining smart creatives once they are hired. Since they are not necessarily motivated by high salaries, smart creatives will not hesitate to quit a job that does not add value to their personal and professional growth. Google does this through its unique workplace culture and successful performance management system.

How Does Performance Management Work at Google?

Performance reviews are customized to provide great results for Google’s smart creatives. Senior Vice President of People Operations Laszlo Bock provides great learnings about their performance management in his book titled “Work Rules.” Googlers first identify a group of peer reviewers for each employee, which also includes co-workers that are junior to them. Google abolished numerical ratings in April 2014, so each Googler are now subjected to a five-point scale ranging from “needs improvement” to “superb.” Carried out semi-annually, peer reviewers are asked to state one thing the reviewee should do more of and one thing that they can do in a different way.

After the feedback cycle, managers come together to take a look at these peer reviews. The main aim is to prevent bias in feedback by asking each manager to justify their decisions to each other. Managers are informed about potential obstacles to objective feedback, one of which is the tendency to overemphasize an employee’s most recent performance.

By keeping these obstacles in mind, managers decide on the final evaluation of an employee. Summaries of these assessments are shared semi-annually and compared to a set of examples to justify the evaluation. Employees are then informed of their compensation, however compensation is decided separately from the evaluation taking place during the reviews. Google keeps pay discussions separate from and peer feedback with an aim to provide the right motivation to their employees, which is to grow and contribute to Google’s success.


Research done by Edward L. Deci, a professor of psychology at the University of Rochester, sheds light on the effects that two types of motivation have on achieving goals. Deci’s research indicate that when someone is motivated using an external reward such as money, their motivation tended to decrease. By contrast, when they are motivated by verbal reinforcement and positive feedback, their motivation increased.

This in line with what Google pursues with its performance management. Bock, et al. understand the importance of motivating their smart creatives with right initiatives and provide enough freedom for their ideas to flourish and become the next big thing at Google.

The ultimate goal of performance management systems should always be retaining talented employees by keeping them fulfilled and enabling their growth. Google seems to get it right with its carefully thought performance management. A vital part of why performance management works well at Google is its transparency. The company keeps performance data of everyone accessible—including the CEOs Page and Brin. This way, Google manages to increase credibility and keep employee engagement on track.

Apart from quarterly, semi-annually, and annually conducted performance reviews, Google’s next step should be enabling continuous feedback between peers. This way, managers can overcome evaluation bias much more easily as there will be hard proof of employee’s performance over a given period.

It’s a fact that employee Feedback apps are on the rise and leading companies are adopting them considering how cost effective they are. By just implementing a solution similar to Impraise, Google can engage its smart creatives much better by providing them with complete ownership of their own development.

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Performance Reviews – Don’t Throw Out the Baby with the Bathwater

The demise of annual performance reviews is a hot topic today—thankfully so.

There is a groundswell throughout the HR community and ongoing discussion, even in the mainstream media, about companies throwing out annual performance reviews or performance reviews altogether. They have been recognized as outdated, ineffective, and not providing real value to the ultimate goal of improving organizational workforce performance.

By now, the rationale has been spelled out often. HR leaders and thoughtful professionals understand the problems—feedback is too late, highlights (and lowlights) are forgotten, categories, such as strengths and weaknesses, can be nebulous.

Performance Management—Formal Reviews Out, Technology In

It might seem a dichotomy that formal performance reviews are falling out of favor at the same time that “performance management” software and technology to help organizations improve workforce performance are gaining in popularity. Looking at the situation more closely, however, helps clarify the situation.

The concept of the two-way dialog is gaining favor and this is great news. Rather than a one-way conversation, with the supervisor relaying his or her ratings and observations gained over the course of several months or a year and the employee either agreeing or supplying a rebuttal, a balanced, two-way discussion leads to a more beneficial exercise.

A conversation will hopefully lead to more open and honest communication. Real value to the employee as well as the manager can be realized with a back-and-forth exchange that results in improvements to employee and manager performance. All for the better of the organization. There is still a lot more necessary to improve performance than merely having a conversation, for example, training, coaching, and leadership development, but these new conversations are an important step.

Where’s the incongruity?

The Valuable Pieces

Despite the above-mentioned benefits, it does not make sense to throw out all aspects of  performance reviews. Certainly, it does not mean that managers and employees only need to have conversations, however frequently, and think that will fix everything.


  • Conversations can be forgotten or misinterpreted by one or both parties. For this reason, key elements of conversations need to be recorded and agreed upon by the employee and the manager. This is especially true as the amount of time between interaction increases, even if it is more frequently than once or twice a year.
  • Without documentation of conversations, the opportunity for disagreement is high. This will result in frustration at best, but more likely continued or worsening behavior that never gets corrected. And, that can lead to an unfortunate and perhaps unnecessary separation down the road.
  • Without some formality or uniformity to the process, unfairness can easily seep into the overall review of any conversation. See the above point for the depressing consequences.

Technology: The Performance Enabler

While not a cure or substitute for the above potential pitfalls, technology is an enabler of the improved performance management process in this new era of valuable two-way conversations. Indeed, the larger the organization, the larger the teams and the more direct reports, the more important and valuable technology becomes. At a minimum, it becomes a point of record. But more importantly, it leads to a wealth of information and insight that leads to continued employee, team, and organizational improvement.

Through the insight gained through data available via improved performance management and with the ongoing conversations as a foundation, organizations will realize numerous benefits:

  • improved communication and alignment between employee and supervisor
  • goal alignment between employees and organization and between teams and organization
  • improved trust among employees and leadership
  • improved employee retention
  • better succession planning
  • identification of training needs and opportunities
  • better resource allocation
  • reduced legal exposure

Keep the Good

But none of this will be accomplished if an organization simply ends the practice of performance reviews. Embedded within that dreaded practice is a wealth of valuable information, which can be obtained in a not-so-disheartening manner.

While it may be time for you to throw out annual performance reviews, don’t throw out the valuable insight that you can still obtain through new, ongoing conversations.

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How To Give Constructive Feedback Your People Want To Hear

What is the most constructive way to give feedback? You praise, you criticise or you do both? Some say that the Americans prefer the feedback ‘sandwich’. It means 3-step feedback. You start with positive comments, then add one or two things that can be done better, and finish with more positive points. However, some leadership training experts advise that one should step away from this model. Their argument: couching criticism with positive comments can dilute the message and sound insincere.

So, how do you know that your feedback is constructive and has an impact? In an increasingly culturally diverse workplace, there is no simple formula for all feedback. Nevertheless, you can learn to give feedback constructively by starting with the right question. First ask yourself WHY instead of how.

Why do you want to give feedback? You want to help your colleague to work better, right? Keep a positive attitude and start any performance review conversation with it.

“Let’s look into how we can improve our performance in the next quarter.”

When you talk to people about WHY, your message goes to the part of the brain which controls feelings and drives behaviors. When people empathise with your motivation, they are more likely to accept your feedback and work on it.

Now, let’s move on to HOW

You have set up a positive mindset about giving meaningful feedback. Now you should know about the right time and space, and adopt the right behaviors to give feedback constructively.

The Right Time

It is better to give feedback sooner than later. How soon depends on the specific situation. When a teammate does a good job, you should pay her or him a compliment as soon as possible. Whenever other people are affected by a certain behavior, try to address the issues in time so further damage can be avoided. If strong emotion is involved, it is wise to wait till the heat has gone before giving any comments. Choose the right time for your feedback. Impraise’s mobile app can help you share feedback right when it matters the most.

The Right Space

Most people like to receive compliments in public. An Oscar is not really as good if you receive it in your front room instead of before an audience including your respectable peers, your family and friends. A public recognition of one’s achievement feeds their needs for respect and boosts their self-esteem, the second highest level in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. When a colleague achieves exceptional sales record, give your compliment in front of the whole sales team. It not only shows your appreciation of his or her contributions but also encourages others to perform better.

Regarding more critical feedback, the golden rule is to do it in private. No one wants to receive negative feedback in front of others. Find an empty conference room or go to the lunch room if it is vacant. Make sure that you choose a place where your colleague and you can relax and feel comfortable. If you want to give your feedback in a meeting room, make sure it is well lit and the temperature is not too hot or cold. Sit close to your colleague so you can have eye contact and do not have to shout. You want to make it like a casual conversation rather than a formal meeting. Alternatively you can take your teammate out for a walk, talk over a coffee and make it a natural and relaxing chat. You want to avoid extra pressure that might block your colleague from receiving the feedback well and ultimately accepting it. Allow enough time and space to discuss unclear points until you reach a common ground of understanding.

The Right Behaviors

Be Specific

Think about the specific behaviors that are important for your team to do an amazing job. For example, having integrity and paying attention to details are essential for a good auditor. An excellent communication skill and the ability to work under pressure are otherwise necessary for those who work in a PR agency. Considering your team, you need to define the ideal behaviors and communicate them up front to your people. Everyone should be aware of those and continuously receive personal feedback on them. Impraise makes this a simple and natural process.

If you notice room for improvement, share it with your colleague in break-down points. Say you receive a complaint from a client. Your colleague failed to help the client to fix a technical problem within the time requested by the client. Besides, he didn’t get back to the client afterwards with an explanation. You don’t just tell your colleague that the client is not happy with his service. Instead, break it down into behaviors that would create a good customer service experience: 1. Sticking to a client’s requirements. 2. Keeping good communication with a client: during and after providing a service. 3. Having a strong drive to exceed a client’s expectations. 4. Reaching out for help if appropriate and if necessary. Your feedback will help guide him away from inappropriate behaviors so that he can deliver a better experience to a client the next time.

Offer Suggestions For Improvement

Give some practical examples about how to do things better. Practical examples are easy to remember so your colleague is more likely to take up your suggestions. Provide a sense of direction. For example, a colleague achieved a higher sales record in the last quarter. You are giving feedback to him or her. Besides a compliment on a good job, you can offer him or her a direction to move forward, like to get involved in training new sales staff.

Listen Actively

Always listen to what others have to say. Why do they choose design A instead of design B? Is it because of their personal preference? Do they know certain scientific research backing up option A? or Do more tested users give positive feedback on A than B? Ask clarifying questions and encourage them to give suggestions. When you listen actively, you know more about their field of interests and discover development solutions. The knowledge will help your feedback be more constructive.

Follow Up

Do not just throw an icy bucket of your opinions at someone and leave them with it. You need to follow up. Come back to the person after a week or a month, depending on the nature of the matter. After you suggest your accounting team to use a new tool to keep track of small expenses, check back with them after a month. Ask if they are comfortable with changing their way. You can sit down with them to see if the new tool saves them more time and helps them keep a more accurate report. Ask for their feedback.

The Final Word: Practice

It takes practice to give constructive feedback. People hold various perspectives, and respond to feedback in different ways. Giving feedback to a dominant character and to a timid person on a similar matter can be two different experiences. Practice gives you the flexibility and confidence in delivering feedback in the most constructive way. Practice giving feedback to your colleague today with

  • A mindset starting with WHY
  • Appropriate choice of TIME & SPACE
  • The right BEHAVIORS

Do you find these tips helpful? Are you struggling with a dilemma and you are not sure if your feedback would help? We would love to hear your stories.

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Don’t Let Bias Affect Assessment Of Employee Performance

Leaders are always influenced by their personal preferences, biases that are a product of an individual’s personality, work style, and work history. A manager who spent 20 years working in startup environments might have a very fast-paced approach, while a manager with an engineering background will have preferences that lean toward detail and process.

Those preferences and biases aren’t necessarily good or bad—they just exist. People are a product of their environments, and there are successful leaders with a wide range of preferences. While it is important to embrace the uniqueness of your individual leadership style, it is critical that you do not let those preferences and biases influence the way you assess employee performance.

When Personalities Collide

Checking personal preferences at the door is far easier said than done. A leader who values process and detail will have a hard time assessing the performance of a sales rep. Why? The core competencies of a salesperson may have less to do with detail and more to do with big picture. Likewise, leaders can have an equally difficult time conducting an objective assessment of an employee who is similar to them. This “halo effect” leads managers to see these employees in a positive light, even if job performance is less than stellar.

So what should leaders do? Teams are made up of diverse individuals. There will be employees who have similar personalities, preferences and work styles to yours, and there will be employees who fall on the complete opposite end of the spectrum. How can you conduct truly objective performance reviews of these types of employees, without letting your personal biases influence the outcome?

Data: The Great Equalizer

The key to objectively assessing employee performance is diversity of input. The more data points you collect, the clearer the picture. Peer reviews are an excellent tool for helping cut through some of the bias. Peer reviews also give employees the chance to see themselves through their colleagues’ eyes, and it gives them a greater understanding of how their job impacts others.

Self-assessments can also be valuable in reducing bias. They allow employees to think introspectively about who they are and what their strengths and weaknesses are. Throughout the course of the performance review process, you, as a manager, can circle back to those self-identified strengths and weaknesses and work to see how strong and weak performance relate.

Personal preferences and biases can’t be avoided—but they can be neutralized. In order to approach performance reviews and assessments objectively, leaders must be willing to collect data from outside sources to ensure that they can conduct the kind of reviews that will help their team members grow.

About the Author: Beth Armknecht Miller is CEO of Executive Velocity, a top talent and leadership development advisory firm.

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What Will Millennial Managers Expect from HR?

The challenges of recruiting and retaining Millennials have been well-documented. They’re demanding. If they don’t find meaning in their work, they’ll go someplace else. They expect flexibility in how they do their job. To hear many recruiters, managers and HR professionals tell it, Millennials are an exceptionally challenging generation of employees.

Now they’re becoming managers, and that could pose new challenges to HR organizations that have already struggled with Gen Y’s approach to work. For example, citing a study by EY, USAToday says that Millennial managers are often seen as entitled and don’t score well as team players.

Whether you like their approach or not, “Millennials as managers won’t be that much different from Millennials as workers,” Josh Bersin, Principal at Bersin by Deloitte, Deloitte Consulting, LLP, told me. He notes that Millennials have different values and work experiences than their predecessors, which they’ll bring to their roles as managers.

For example, Millennials expect organizations to be transparent. The idea that budgets, salaries, diversity data and similar information should be restricted isn’t going to play well among the generation that grew up with Facebook. “Millennials are pushing organizations hard to be transparent about a lot of things that were kept secret before,” Bersin says. As managers, they’ll be in a position to press directly on HR to provide access to more information.

Expect to hear more demands for flexibility, too. Whether it’s the hours they’re in the office or how they approach a particular problem, Millennials tend to seek the solutions that work for them. HR, which often acts as a steward for carefully crafted policies and procedures, will be pushed to accommodate new approaches to any number of management issues.

“Millennial managers are not going to do something the way it’s always been done just because it’s always been done that way — especially if it doesn’t make sense to them,” writes Brad Karsh in his book Manager 3.0: A Millennial’s Guide to Rewriting the Rules of Management.

And if you haven’t yet begun re-thinking how you conduct performance reviews, you may want to consider what your Gen Y managers think about a traditional, checklist-style approach. Already, many organizations making their appraisals focus less on critiquing and more on coaching. That fits with Millennials’ expectations of a more open, communicative work environment.

Though their approach to work is different, Millennials will face the same challenges as other managers in leading their teams and meeting their goals. To support them, HR will have to be flexible, responsive and collaborative. Millennials are growing up, but, as Bersin notes, they’re not going to suddenly change their behavior just because they’ve gotten a management job.

Mark Feffer has written, edited and produced hundreds of articles on careers, personal finance and technology. His work has appeared on and as well as on other top sites. He is currently writing for, the top local resource for job seekers, employers and recruiters in New Hampshire.

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