How to Gather and Use Input from Others in Performance Evaluations
Performance evaluations should first and foremost be grounded in what a staff member achieved (their results), as well as how they did it (their approach, skills, and mindset).
Getting input from others who work closely with your staff member can help you flesh out your understanding of their work. Seeking other perspectives is a great way to get a fuller picture of the role your staff member plays in your organizational ecosystem.
Check out some frequently asked questions and our answers below!
1. Whom should I reach out to for input?
You don’t need to get input from everyone but strive for a representative sampling of people with whom the staff member works most closely. That could include members of their team, colleagues that they’ve worked with on specific projects, and people outside of your organization. If the person you’re evaluating is a manager, you should definitely talk with their direct reports to get feedback on their management. The more diverse your group is in terms of race, gender, age, tenure, and other lines of difference, the more balanced your input will be.
While you should have an idea of whom to reach out to, we recommend asking your staff person for input when creating the list.
2. What’s the best way to gather input from others?
Be transparent with both the person being evaluated and the people whose input you’re seeking. Tell them what you’re doing and how you’ll use the insights gained.
- To the people you’re seeking input from: “As part of X’s annual evaluation, I’m checking in with some people about their experiences working with them. I’ll be presenting general takeaways and broad themes based on the input gathered, but nothing will be attributed to specific people (unless that’s what you want).”
- To your staff person, if this is your first time seeking input from others for an evaluation: “As part of your annual evaluation this year, I’ll be checking in with some of the people you’ve worked with this year to get a better understanding of your work. When we discuss your evaluation, I’ll present general takeaways and broad themes based on the input gathered.”
- Here’s an example of how to present the input: “I spoke to several folks in other departments with whom you work. The general view was that you’re incredibly helpful when they get time with you, but sometimes you can be unresponsive. They mentioned that it’s worth following up with you because your guidance is useful but they wish they didn’t have to pursue you quite so much.”
3. What if someone’s input is very different from my own experience with the staff member?
With any input you receive, consider two things:
- The source: How is their vantage point similar to or different from yours? What are the lines of difference and power between them and the person being evaluated? How are they different from yours and your staff member’s?
- How it fits into the bigger picture (including your own observations): Is this feedback part of a pattern? Is it an outlier?
Ultimately, your goal is to use the input to assess the team member’s effectiveness fairly (and accurately) and to support their growth. Keep this goal in mind as you choose how and if to share input.
If you want to pass something along but not weight it heavily, you could say: “I heard a bit of feedback about X. I’m passing it on in case it strikes a chord, but it didn’t come up a lot. What I’d really emphasize as an area of improvement is Y.”
4. What if someone raises something that I feel is important to address but I can’t include it in the evaluation without compromising the source’s anonymity?
If you get feedback that you feel is important but that is outside of your own experience with the staff person, you should try to see the behavior live (such as by shadowing or taking more slices of the work). If it’s not something you can personally observe or if the feedback will be hard to raise without naming the source, try to get their permission to share. Explain that you can’t realistically share the feedback anonymously. Usually, when someone wants to share information in confidence, what they really want is to avoid any fall-out as a result of having talked with you. Figure out what you can (and can’t) do to ensure that they won’t face negative consequences for having spoken with you, and let them know. You can also encourage them to share that feedback directly. Ultimately, you’ll need to decide how important this feedback is for your staff member’s success in their role.
5. What about using 360s?
In our experience, 360s require an enormous amount of energy, particularly if you’re doing them across the board or for a broad set of people. While we don’t recommend them to everyone, there are certainly advantages to 360 reviews. They provide a confidential avenue for staff to provide feedback on their manager or their manager’s manager. The breadth of perspectives can also help the manager spot patterns and trends particularly across lines of difference. There are some cases where 360s could be incredibly valuable:
- To inform an important decision, such as whether to elevate a state director to a key national role
- To provide input about a senior staff member, such as a director who works with many constituents in the organization, or for a board to get input about their ED
One option to consider is doing them only in cases where getting that kind of extensive feedback is particularly important, rather than doing them across the board.
If this is the route you want to go, check out our field guide to 360 reviews.