was the last time one of your employees
told you he or she had an effective performance
review? While this may be a rhetorical
question, it’s a valid one given today’s
volatile business climate and the need to
receive consistent feedback on performance.
a direct manager’s or supervisor’s review
of an employee may, indeed, not be enough
to adequately provide the employee with
enough information. One of the trends
occurring in business is the "skip-level"
review. Also known as "360-degree
feedback," employees are reviewed
by their manager or direct report’s manager,
employee peers and even subordinates.
are many benefits to this process. For
the individual, perception is reality
and the skip-level process helps workers
understand how others perceive them. While
many may tell each other day-in, day-out
how they feel, getting these thoughts
on paper in a stylized, confidential process
is a completely different matter. The
individual also benefits because feedback
is essential for learning, and individuals
can better manage their own performance
a skip-level review also benefits the
“team” by increasing communications among
and between team members, and supports
the teamwork process by involving everyone
in developing the appraisal methodology.
Organizations, too, benefit by promoting
better career development for employees,
improving customer service by having customers
contribute to evaluations, and directing
the training process.
national human resources consulting firm
quantified the reasons for skip-level
reviews. According to a recent survey,
HR managers said that 360-degree feedback
is being used for management and organizational
development (58 percent), performance
appraisal (25 percent), supporting strategic
implementation and culture change (20
percent), and team development (19 percent).
there are a variety of methods to gather
data by using paper-based forms, diskettes
or other storage, through an electronic
network or by interviews. Scoring can
be conducted on-site or through central
scoring by an external vendor.
burning question is the frequency of the
review – how often should the review be
conducted? While annual performance appraisals
usually suffice, skip-level reviews may
be done more often. Since employees need
time to make the changes proposed on the
last set of reviews – and because it takes
some time for others to perceive that
change has taken place – six-month intervals
make sense. This time frame allows people
to create change, and then get feedback
on their progress so that they can develop
next-level goals and action plans. However,
some organizations prefer to conduct surveys
of just 10 to 15 questions, focusing on
a specific topic. These smaller-size reviews
are done monthly in conjunction with training
on that certain topic.
the matter of whom should be the reviewer(s).
The method in which organizations set
the criteria for this important step could
make or break the review depending on
a variety of circumstances. For example,
the length of time the respondent knows
the subject is important, as is the amount
of contact. You also may want to choose
reviewers who understand what the subject
does, as well as some who work well with
the subject and some who do not.
After the review is conducted, the subject
is the only person who gets a copy of
the report. The manager gets group and
organizational data, but no individual
information. While giving the data could
increase accountability and enable the
manager to quantifiably track progress,
there are a variety of pitfalls to giving
the manager a copy of the report. Here
are a few examples:
will fear the process.
comments will not be as constructive.
may be higher.
can become a weapon, not a development
manager may lack the ability to interpret
the data appropriately.
manager may reprimand the employee for
not doing well.
consideration in skip-level reviews is
whether feedback should be linked to performance
appraisals. While skip-level reviews or
360-degree feedback and performance appraisals
can be complementary, they should
not be linked. If 360 is linked to compensation
decisions, it loses its power as a development
tool. With compensation as the outcome,
individuals quickly will learn how to
play the game, a.k.a., "I'll scratch
your back if you scratch mine."
are lower than expected, morale can decrease
when the review is linked to performance
appraisal. However, when low scores are
used purely for development, the scores
tend to be viewed as constructive feedback.
Be sure that team members are coached
on the rating scale so feedback is consistent
across the board.
skip-level reviews to a potentially resistant
organization isn’t insurmountable. First,
start at the top and conduct a pilot.
Directly address, up front, the issues
that are at the source of the resistance,
and focus on the benefits for the individual
or group. When possible, use an external
consultant to minimize fears of confidentiality
and inappropriate data usage.
skip-level reviews ever inappropriate?
In some cases, yes. For example, if the
person receiving feedback is too new to
the group or organization, there probably
aren’t enough respondents who truly understand
the full scope of the individual's responsibilities.
In addition, during a time of major change
like a merger or acquisition, skip-level
review may not be very effective because
the staff is focused on other, more important,
efforts. An environment with a high degree
of mistrust is a red flag that also would
inhibit the process.
reviews or 360-degree feedback can be
a cost-effective, measurable method to
the appraisal process. Before embarking
on any sudden or short-term change to
the way appraisals are currently conducted,
consult with your performance measurement
advisor for his or her feedback.