Can Crowdsourcing Make Performance Reviews Less of a Waste of Time?

Don Tennant

Is there a more torturous workplace ritual than the annual performance review? As someone who has been on both sides of that table as reviewer and reviewee, I can attest that it’s difficult to decide which role is more painful. So as far as I’m concerned, anyone who has an idea to make it less painful is worth listening to.

Globoforce, an employee recognition services provider, has come up with an interesting way to make the employee performance review process less taxing on managers and more meaningful for employees: crowdsource it. That is, establish a mechanism whereby any number of other employees and managers can weigh in.

In an email interview, Globoforce CEO Eric Mosley responded to the questions I had about the crowdsourcing idea, and I thought the exchange was worth sharing:

TENNANT: You note that in today’s workplace, the traditional review fails to recognize and address critical changes in the way we work. What are those changes in a nutshell, and in what sense does the traditional review fail to address them?

MOSLEY: While technology, management techniques and organizational models have undergone revolutionary change over the past few decades, the performance review has plodded along in the same format since it was invented. The traditional performance review is a rigid and often dreaded ritual. In fact, only 55 percent of HR professionals think the traditional performance review is accurate, and we’ve seen this number dwindle each year. The new performance review uses crowdsourcing technology to round out employee reviews. It congregates actionable data from multiple sources in real time, allowing feedback to be continuous and instantly available – we call this social recognition.

TENNANT: What are the strengths of the traditional performance review, and how does the crowdsourced review system preserve them?

MOSLEY: The traditional performance review ranks employee effectiveness based on specific examples and is meant to help employees learn and progress in their jobs. The crowdsourced review system encourages employees/peers to track such examples and reward and recognize each other based on those achievements, as they happen. The system makes it easier for managers to assess employee performance throughout the year, not just annually.

TENNANT: How realistic is it to expect a typical organization to adopt a radically different performance review system when the existing system is so deeply entrenched and institutionalized?

MOSLEY: The traditional performance review system is not the best conceivable system. It is a set of habits understood by everyone and it will likely stick around for a long time. Crowdsourcing is a rising and fascinating trend that can fix the performance review. When you combine data from social recognition and the traditional review, you get a more rounded-out view of how an employee performed.


TENNANT: When the idea of implementing a crowdsourced performance review system meets resistance within the organization, who within the organization is typically the source of that resistance? How is that resistance overcome?

MOSLEY: Participation is fundamental to success. This system should be employed across the board, and at least 80 percent of the workforce must actively participate in order to have reliable data. As the budget strategy implies, phasing in a social recognition program is a matter of adding it to an established routine. Gartner recommends running a test of the social recognition program alongside existing pay-for-performance programs.

TENNANT: Many organizations are virtual, or have liberal telecommuting polices. Can a crowdsourced review system work when an employee has little or no interaction with the rest of the crowd?

MOSLEY: The holy grail of performance management is a culture that creates and sustains high achievement, whether inside the walls of an office building, or in a coffee shop halfway around the world. A crowdsourced review system inspires employee engagement, and ties the company together no matter how dispersed the workforce.  Traditional performance reviews by themselves can inhibit culture, whereas social recognition encourages daily interaction and brings everyone together.

TENNANT: Are there any particular attributes of IT organizations and employees that make them more or less favorably disposed to a crowdsourced performance review system than other professionals?

MOSLEY: IT professionals spend most of their jobs on, or with, computers.  They are likely to catch onto the trend fast. The crowdsourced performance review system would be available to them no matter where they are working.

TENNANT: Given that no system is perfect, what are the imperfections of a crowdsourced review system?

MOSLEY: As discussed earlier, participation is key in order for a crowdsourced review system to work. Companies must create a strategic plan for implementing a social recognition system in order to see improved results. In order to fix performance reviews, companies can’t just get rid of the traditional performance review. There are legal and other business reasons for keeping it. The winning element is adding social recognition to truly make it effective and accurate.



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