For what it's worth, it sure seems like we always tend to focus on reviewing each other's performance. Managers review their employees, and then sometimes employees review their managers, and then there are group reviews . . . it goes on and on. We tend to miss the organization, however. How about this idea: do you have an option of employee review for your organization?
A Practical Story for Employee Review
This idea started a long time ago with me. I was attending a corporate executive meeting of a mid-sized company. This meeting was a long one, with a lot of topics on the agenda. Apparently some of the executives saw the agenda and thought they could avoid pressing issues by chasing insignificant ones and talking about them at length. They argued over silly items and seemed to avoid even looking at the agenda. As a result, the founder of the company was getting increasingly irritated. He wanted to talk about more pressing and significant issues, but they were being ignored. Finally he had enough of the discussion and interrupted everyone.
He told the executives, “This is just ridiculous. Y'all have made this whole business into a cruise ship. We don't move well. We're more focused on personal agendas and other things, and making sure we get the final say. It's ridiculous.” Then he gave them an even tougher jab: “If I started a (new business like this one), I'd build it like a speedboat and just beat y'all. And you'd deserve it.” He then proceeded to tell the executives how he would beat them, and then told them he was fed up with the politics that were steering HIS business in a direction he didn't want to go. Let's just say that it was a much quieter meeting after that.
What most of the executive team didn't realize was that the founder had been implementing a strategy to find out how his business was really doing. He had friends in the industry, so he would call them to find out how the customer service was working. He also asked for some other people that the executive team didn't know to purchase items from the company as well, so he could review performance. Lastly, he went around to the stores and asked employees about what they thought about customer service, inventory control, sales processing accuracy, etc. He had his own observations going into these conversations, but he wanted to confirm what he suspected. Sure enough, he was pretty much accurate on what was going on – and how it needed to be fixed.
Employee review was mixed. Most employees were pretty satisfied, but there were some common themes in their negative comments. This founder took these comments seriously and gave them to the executive team when he finally put an end to the bickering over petty issues. As a result, the executive team developed a streamlined agenda full of the important matters of the organization. In addition, the team was “strongly encouraged” to meet with employees and to listen to their concerns. Some executive team members ended up leaving the company, but that was a healthy step for both those members and for the company. The bureaucracy that kept the company from functioning well was eventually eliminated and hasn't come back since that time.
Taking a proactive stance on employee review works for organizations, including ones that are high-profile. Andy Stanley, a pastor of a large church in the Atlanta area, implemented a policy where new hires evaluate the church and its leadership and staff after a few months on the job. Stanley's organization found that the new hires bring in new and innovative ideas, in large part due to their lack of familiarity and routine in the organization. They also found that they were able to make improvements on training as well. The questions and concerns shared in the evaluations showed them where they could make better improvements in equipping their new hires to perform better.
Obviously there is a risk in asking your own employees to review your organization's performance. You should get some honest reviews, but you could run the risk of getting reviews from people who have personal agendas which are self-serving. Conversely, you may get employees who don't want to be totally honest, simply because they may think that they could be punished for providing a poor review. To help in this situation, consider these suggestions:
Provide bonuses and rewards for ideas and suggestions that increase revenue and productivity.
Incentivize positive behavior and contributions by offering bonuses and rewards. It also doesn't hurt to publicly recognize employees who make these recommendations or plans to help the company. Be sure to make the bonuses and rewards commensurate with the benefits of the recommendations or plans.
Allow employees to complete anonymous surveys.
This method may not work in a small organization. For a medium-sized or large-sized organization, it is a good method to get some feedback. Don't make the survey too long, but do pay attention to the questions. Focus on the information you need to gather, and make sure your survey is effective as possible.
Promote an open-door policy.
Especially employees who interact with your customers every day, allow them to speak freely about negative matters. Be intentional about listening to them and avoiding a defensive posture. Certainly there may be employees who may try to take advantage of your listening ear by griping too much. Prepare for tough conversations beforehand. Have a strategy for accepting their comments. For those who are speaking honestly and legitimately, have a process ready to respond and act on their concerns. If you don't act, you will lose trust and you will not continue to receive the important information you need.
What does your company do in regards to employee review? Do you have an established employee review process or system?