Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 28 November 2020

Appraisals without anguish

The Life: As companies gear up for their annual performance review of employees, some may be considering a "360-degree feedback" tool. But the approach may not succeed in every workplace.
Jane Sunley, the chief executive of learnpurple, a UK consultancy focused on employee engagement. Satish Kumar / The National
Jane Sunley, the chief executive of learnpurple, a UK consultancy focused on employee engagement. Satish Kumar / The National

It is that time of year when many companies gear up for annual employee appraisals.

Yet the mere mention of a performance review leaves many workers shuddering at the thought of what they might hear, especially in this uncertain economic climate.

One issue is that many do not believe they are evaluated fairly in appraisals. In the US, a majority of employees - 51 per cent - said performance reviews were not an accurate barometer for their work, according to survey results published in April by Globoforce, a company that is co-headquartered in the US and Ireland and offers employee recognition software programmes.

So-called 360-degree feedback is one of the many talent-appraisal tools that have been receiving more attention lately, and advocates argue that it can be more effective for capturing exactly how well an employee performs.

The process involves having people all around a particular employee report on that person's strengths and weaknesses. The feedback can come from subordinates or supervisors, as well as suppliers and customers. The point is to have more than just an employee's manager offering tips for improvement - or lavishing praise.

But even advocates of the 360-degree feedback approach acknowledge it will not always work without the right corporate environment.

"While it's a very good tool, and useful, there are loads of provisions," warns Jane Sunley, the chief executive of learnpurple, a UK consultancy focused on employee engagement that opened a branch in the UAE this year.

"There are loads of people who sell 360 solutions and perhaps don't make sure it's managed through properly, and it freaks out people completely," she says.

One of the reasons 360-degree feedback does not work in every company in the Emirates, experts say, stems from a culture of clearly defined relationships between managers and subordinates in many organisations. This could make the review process hard to handle in cases where a manager might be critiqued by subordinates.

"It can sometimes cause tension and conflict, because people may feel they are being investigated a little too much," says Lynne Zarbhanelian, the managing director of learnpurple UAE.

Creating a work environment where reviews are based on trust, by ensuring they remain confidential, is paramount, Ms Sunley says. She also recommends having a well-trained manager to present the feedback to the employee.

Even then, the process is often more expensive than other appraisal tools because of how time-consuming it might be to gather feedback from all the right people.

"When you're doing 360 degrees, it does take a lot longer," says Ms Zarbhanelian. "It can take a few days solid of your time."

Rather than conducting only a single, annual review, companies might increase their odds at boosting employee performance by providing feedback more regularly, some experts suggest.

Only a quarter of workers who responded to Globoforce's survey this year said they received a performance review more than once every 12 months.

"An ongoing, 365-day performance management solution that accurately measures employees' year-round performance not only drives engagement, it uncovers the true leaders and influencers across the organisation," Eric Mosley, the chief executive of Globoforce, said in April when the survey results were published.

nparmar@thenational.ae

Updated: November 18, 2011 04:00 AM

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