Should Multiple Levels of Management Review Employee Appraisals or Other Formal Feedback?
Is the Role of HR to "Just Encourage," or to Ensure Execution?
Many organizations have a review and approval process through which upper-level managers (we will call this the “up-line”) and/or HR review the contents of an appraisal, check-in, or other formal feedback, and provide their perspective before the manager holds further discussions with the employee. Managers at organizations that don’t do this through a formal process still often find ways to pass feedback to an employee from upper-level managers and/or HR.
Typically, most growing organizations reach a philosophical inflection point where they decide how hands-on they would like to be with formal performance management processes. Fortunately, good technology is making it easier to manage details about the execution of performance management that years ago would have been impossible – allowing organizations to be as hands-on as they would like. However, some organizations have a very hands-off approach on purpose while others are more in the middle and aren’t quite sure what they want.
So, should multiple levels of management review employee appraisals or other formal feedback, and should there be a formal process? If so, how can good technology help facilitate your process so that HR can ensure execution of the desired process?
Advantages of Formal Processes:
Up-line managers and HR stay informed: By formally routing feedback to up-line managers and/or HR, there is at least a process in place that keeps up-line managers in the loop and they can decide how little or how much they would like to be involved in the process for any individual situation. At the very least, up-line managers or HR will take the opportunity to ensure that the criterion upon which an employee is being reviewed is consistent with the values and strategic objectives of the organization. Too often there is inconsistency around what the CEO needs from high-performing teams, and what those teams or individuals are doing based on what they know they will be receiving formal feedback on.
Up-line managers and HR can provide feedback and coaching to managers or employees: Managers and/or HR can, like 360-degree reviews, provide their own feedback on the performance of the employee. Doing so comes along with all the advantages of a 360-degree review, but is unique in that it allows managers to provide unified and corroborated feedback to an employee through a consistent message. Higher quality feedback will result in higher employee engagement, which will increase the odds that they are able to perform at a high level.
HR or up-line mangers can perform a “feedback quality audit”: There may be specific employees or manager/employee relationships that HR or up-line managers may want to keep an eye on. Knowing where those are and creating a formal process for additional feedback will help HR stay organized so that they can ensure to keep an eye on these situations. Or, audits can be performed more generally to make sure that formal feedback provided to an employee doesn’t put the company at risk for any reason.
Corroborate informal and formal feedback: There may be instances in which a manager provides different informal feedback to an up-line manager about an employee but then gives inconsistent feedback during a formal feedback process. Formal processes give everyone the opportunity to provide clarity and make sure they are on the same page.
Disadvantages of a Formal Process:
Formal processes create bureaucracy: The more check-points and requirements that organizations create for their managers, the less time they will have to focus on other initiatives. Plus, it will take that much longer to complete a formal feedback process.
Potentially creates more work for HR if not managed with good technology: It’s challenging enough knowing which managers and employees have documented SMART goals, let alone have completed a single cycle of feedback. Add on top of that complicated formal processes where feedback gets routed in different ways through multiple layers of the organization. If not managed with good technology, this simply would not be realistic for HR to manage.
Creates opportunities for micro-management: While in a perfect world all levels of management would agree on everything all the time, that just doesn’t happen as often as everyone would like. While a formal process will catch areas where there must be agreement, other more inconsequential discussions may arise that could leave the manager feeling like their manager is taking over the feedback strategy for their employee.
How Can Good Technology Help?
Watch the video associated with this post to see a few ideas around how good technology can help you manage your formal process around up-line and/or HR feedback. Before you watch, there are two main areas to think about:
Automation, alerts, and flexibility: Once you know what your process is, you shouldn’t have to revisit it repeatedly with different managers. Your performance management system should be able to be configured to automate even the most complex processes for routing or soliciting feedback from anywhere within the organization. Once configured, email alerts and reminders will keep everyone on track.
Reports: It’s the role of HR to manage processes and identify bottle-necks. Good technology will allow you to customize reports or dashboards that show you exactly what you want to see about your formal process, when you want to see it. Which manager is sitting on the most routed feedback that needs to be reviewed? What formal feedback has been stalled for the longest period, indicating a possible trouble spot? Which manager struggles to approve routed feedback and which manager seems to have a rubber stamp?
As a final reminder, all performance management processes should be set up with the goal to improve engagement and overall performance by the greatest number of employees. Depending on the industry your company competes in, and the culture of the company, making the best decisions may result from an internal focus group with the blessing of the executive team. Once you settle on a path, you’ll be ready to reach out to your performance management vendor to make sure your software fits with what you are trying to do.
Would you like to share your ideas with us on this topic? If you don't currently use our software, click here to speak to a member of our team. If you do currently use our software and would like to read more about how to use Performance Pro for setting up formal approval processes, click here. You can also visit this page to connect with a support team member.
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