our everyday life

Alternatives to Performance Appraisals

by Billie Nordmeyer, studioD

At their best, performance appraisals evaluate an employee’s accomplishment of goals, and identify areas for improvement and foundations for salary increases and promotions. But, the focus of performance appraisals is the past and not the present, short-term rather than long-term performance, and individual rather than team achievement. As a result, many employees and managers perceive performance appraisals to be poor substitutes for managers who effectively guide subordinates’ development and performance. Many businesses have adopted new performance appraisal methods that, ideally, focus on coaching and goal setting.

Peer Evaluation

Rather than conduct a traditional performance appraisal, management can select several members of an employee’s work group to conduct a peer evaluation. In this instance, a consensus is formed regarding a team member’s work based on his co-workers’ first-hand knowledge of his work and abilities. The co-workers might document this knowledge as responses to predefined questions. For example, “Does your team member complete all assignments?” and “Does the team member effectively demonstrate the needed job skills and knowledge?” The manager reviews the documented team responses and provides the employee feedback based on the peer evaluations.

360-Degree Feedback

Companies that use a 360-degree feedback appraisal method, rather than a traditional appraisal, prefer to evaluate an employee’s performance based on more than one person’s opinion of the employee’s work. A 360-degree survey combines confidential comments made by an employee’s peers, superiors and subordinates regarding the employee’s performance to form a comprehensive view of the employee’s strengths and weaknesses. Survey questions may include “How would you rate the quality of your team member’s work?” and “Does the team member listen to directions from management?” The employee’s manager shares the results of the survey with the employee during a one-on-one meeting. At this time, the manager also discusses any themes and trends the survey identified, such as failure to complete assignments. The employee then works with the manager to set self-development goals – the primary objective of the 360-degree feedback survey -- to address any performance issues and advance his career.

Performance Preview

The performance preview is an alternative to a performance review that a manager might use to coach an employee toward preferred on-the-job behaviors, rather than discuss previous performance. Samuel Culbert writes in the 2012 “Wall Street Journal” article “Get Rid of the Performance Review!” that a performance preview provides a manager and employee an opportunity to discuss ways they can work together as partners to accomplish mutual goals. During the performance preview, each person describes the actions the other person can take to accomplish goals, which may include higher sales or increased productivity. For example, an employee might ask a manager to enroll him in a class for a recently installed sales system. The manager or employee can schedule a performance preview on an as-needed basis.


Managers coach employees to success by providing feedback throughout the year, rather than one point-in-time with a performance review. Managerial coaching alerts an employee to what he’s doing right or wrong before it’s too late to make the corrections needed to achieve the best outcomes. Coaching lets managers and employees share information and ideas, and alerts employees to what managers consider “good performance.” Coaches offer guidance regarding best practices and help the employee solve problems and provide a consistent reminder of the employee’s responsibility to achieve particular goals.

About the Author

Billie Nordmeyer works as a consultant advising small businesses and Fortune 500 companies on performance improvement initiatives, as well as SAP software selection and implementation. During her career, she has published business and technology-based articles and texts. Nordmeyer holds a Bachelor of Science in accounting, a Master of Arts in international management and a Master of Business Administration in finance.

Photo Credits

  • Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images