Today’s blog is by Carol Pollack, VP of Finance and Operations
In two previous blogs, “Measuring Employee Performance: Easier Said than Done,” and “Employee Performance from Both an Inside and Outside View,” I described how we were learning to improve our Performance Management Process (PMP) by experimenting with new and improved PMP elements. One such experiment featured team assessment meetings as a means to capture constructive peer feedback.
History of Peer Feedback at CT Health
When we first implemented peer reviews in 2008, we asked staff to complete a survey about each staff member. For each question, they would rate their staff member between 1 and 4 and add comments. The reviewed employee would receive a composite score for each question and all comments broken down by Supervisor, Direct Report and Peers.
I don’t know who hated this more—those completing the questionnaires or those getting the results! Concerns ran the gamut—everyone interpreted the questions differently and some didn’t understand them at all. Not everyone had the same opportunities to exhibit the skills and behaviors being assessed, and some staff did not work with each other enough to have real input. Lastly, the anonymous comments were not always constructive.
Over the next couple of years, we tweaked the questions and did extensive training. There was marginal improvement and cons still outweighed pros.
Team Assessment Meetings
Despite the bumps, we believe that peer feedback is important to ensure effective teamwork and high-quality “customer service” to others inside and outside the organization. Given this, in the fourth quarter of 2013 we implemented team assessment meetings facilitated by our external human resources consultant. We encouraged team members to clarify roles and identify skills and behaviors that were particularly strong, as well as those in need of improvement.
The facilitator captured, in writing, commitments made by the team for things they would “keep, start, and stop” doing within the team and as a team. Individual team members then extracted two or three items from the list and included them in their PMP as goals for the upcoming year.
After the meetings occurred, we surveyed the staff to get their impression of the new process. Overall, the response was positive! Staff felt less threatened. More credence was given to individual feedback as those providing it were viewed as knowledgeable about the skills it took to do team jobs, the competing priorities that impacted responsiveness and the idiosyncrasies of team members. Lastly, the face-to-face nature of the meeting led participants to be more constructive in their observations.
In the following year, the Foundation held facilitated team meetings again. Where applicable, team members discussed their performance against commitments made in the previous year. Team members provided feedback to the team member to develop a view of performance within the last year. Each team member developed new commitments for the forthcoming year and recorded them in their PMP.
This PMP new element had a positive effect on team and individual performance, but it isn’t perfect. We need to do better at dusting these off at interim points in the year.
In my next blog I will share changes we are making to the process for obtaining input from outside each employee’s immediate team. In the interim I welcome your observations and suggestions for improving our PMP.