Crowdsourcing Employee Feedback … Really?

In the recent Mckinsey article, Ahead of the curve: The future of performance management, takes us on a journey of what really happens after companies jettison the traditional year-end evaluation. I couldn’t agree more that the annual review is out….and, I don’t have to stand alone on this one. Google, Microsoft, Deloitte, GE and Gap will all agree that trying to capture relevant data one year after the fact is actually an oxymoron.
Is there such a thing as relevant year-old data when you’re evaluating an employee’s recent performance? In the course of a year, companies may switch direction numerous times, and many times due to forces that are external. And, as companies, if we are not utilizing tools that allow us to continually communicate and collaborate with one another, how do we tie a single employee to an ever-changing list of desired outcomes on an annual basis?
Where I started to disagree with the article was when Mckinsey introduced a totally new concept of crowdsourcing employee feedback …They showcase a company called Zalando, who uses crowdsourcing…”as a means of gathering… real-time [performance] using a real-time online app designed to collect “positive and critical comments about each other…in a playful and engaging way.”
Although the concept of crowdsourcing is interesting and has been very successful in building massive open source software products (Firefox), raising funds (Kickstarter) or building a knowledge repository (Wikipedia), I don’t believe it belongs in the workplace for collecting employee feedback.
4 Reasons Why Crowdsourcing is Dangerous for Collecting Employee Feedback:

  1. Comments without Context: Crowdsourcing relies on feedback from a large sampling of individuals who may or may not have any former knowledge about the individual or the context. In other words, respondents are not intimately connected to the individual or topic. They may only be sitting in on one meeting, listening to one webinar, or be engaged in only a small part of a project then asked to provide feedback for an employee.                                                                                                                                                                         
  2.  Unfiltered Opinions: Crowdsourcing invites everyone inside & outside your organization to participate and provide unstructured comments….in a “playful and engaging way.” Just how would that work in most workplaces? Although workplace rules and regulations have tempered most outlandish commenting, having an unstructured form of feedback is like a license to criticize, de-motivate, intimidate and possibly offend employees.                                                                                                                                                 
  3.  Inviting Expensive Mistakes: Crowdsourcing can lead to a decision based solely on the majority vote and not what is feasible and realistic or best for the employee.  Example: The New York Mets asked their fans to select a new anthem for the eighth innings of home games. Rick Ashley’s Never Gonna Give You Up won with over 5 million votes. “The song was played once, during the home opener, when it was resoundingly booed.”                                                                                                    
  4.  Creating an Open Forum: Crowdsourcing is like opening the door for inappropriate language and suggestions. That means unstructured comments can lead to nightmares.  With today’s highly litigious workplaces, taking bold risks like this could send your insurance company running the other way.

I have spent the majority of my career in human resources. Remember the old “Suggestions Box” outside the HR door?  If you do, you will understand why soliciting totally unstructured ideas and feedback can defeat the whole purpose of gathering valuable information for the greater good of the entire workforce.  
So, what can companies do to keep engagement high, feedback flowing frequently and in real time; foster an environment of idea sharing; and involve co-workers and customers to provide insight into employee behaviors?
There is a Better Way

  1. We don’t need a crowd. There is no doubt that feedback from multiple people gives us a better picture of an employee’s performance, but you don’t need a crowd to achieve this. Using the employee’s work circle to provide feedback gives us relevant data from sources who are closely aligned to the employee’s key areas of development. Soliciting comments from  co-workers, managers, and customers keeps the focus on goals and objectives that are key for employee, team and organizational success.                                                                             
  2. Move to 360 degree feedback. I think we can agree that the first step in gaining additional information about an employee should not include feedback from a crowd. Although the 360 degree reviews have suffered a bad rep for gathering ineffective feedback from coworkers, great improvements have been made. Today’s 360 degree review platforms come with a library of true and tested behavioral questions that can generate valuable feedback when used for employee development.                                                                                    
  3. Don’t wait. Afraid of the backlash when you ditch your annual evaluation? The process of “gradually leaving behind your annual review” is available to any company making this transition. Change management is hard… but by taking a step by step approach and gradually converting to monthly, quarterly and semi-annual evaluations, acceptance and user-adoption have a much greater chance of success.

There are performance management tools available that foster real-time communication by launching weekly check-ins to all employees. This practice helps keep employees closely aligned to goals and expectations by opening the door for coaching opportunities….. as well as giving kudos.  
Crowd-sourcing may be a new buzz word in performance management but unless it’s designed and monitored closely, it can be a nightmare. To learn how you can see measurable results by using a revolutionary cloud-based application that is all about performance, click here for a demo.

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