Best Practices for a Peer Review at Work

By Indeed Editorial Team

February 22, 2021

When managers want to assess the performance of an employee, they may ask their colleagues for help. Since you typically work closely with your coworkers, they may have a better idea of your performance in the workplace. Along with getting useful feedback, peer reviews are a good way to hold one another accountable. In this article, we discuss the peer review process at work and how you can benefit from the feedback of your peers.

Related: Giving and Receiving Feedback: Definitions and Examples

What is peer review at work?

A peer review at work is when colleagues rate each other's work performance. Managers typically create a peer review form for everyone to anonymously fill out about their colleagues. Since this form is anonymous, it gives you the chance to share your honest thoughts about your coworkers. Of course, keep in mind that your manager will see these documents, meaning that you need to keep them professional and polite.

Related: 5 Methods for Updating the Performance Review Process

How can feedback from peers improve performance at work?

A peer review is a good way to get honest feedback from your colleagues. Peer reviews can help you better understand your strengths and weaknesses in the workplace. For instance, you may be unaware of a certain habit or tendency you have at work. By having a colleague point it out, you can continue favorable behaviors and work on areas for improvement.

One caveat of a peer review is the stress associated with receiving feedback from your peers. Some people may dwell on what their coworkers have to say about them. Coworkers need to put their personal feelings aside and try to give useful feedback rather than pure criticism. One thing to remember is that everyone has room for improvement, and receiving a peer review gives you the opportunity to assess certain aspects of your work.

Related: Performance Review Examples for the Workplace

How to manage the peer review process

Managers and HR professionals can follow these steps when implementing a peer review process in the workplace:

1. Make it anonymous

One of the most important parts of a successful peer review is making it anonymous. Since colleagues may know each other's handwriting, consider doing online peer reviews. Having full anonymity gives people the freedom to be open and honest about their feelings toward their coworkers. While people should still be respectful, being anonymous prevents them from being overly gracious.

2. Outline expectations

Before your team fills out their peer reviews, make your expectations for this exercise apparent. Let your team know that the purpose of peer reviews is to help each other become their best professional selves. While including criticism is helpful, remind your team to give each other praise as well. When people learn what they are doing well, this can help boost their morale and feel more committed to their work.

3. Leave room for feedback

Peer reviews often include a Likert scale where employees can rank their peer's efforts on a five- or seven-point scale. While these number scales can be helpful, make sure you also include some room for employees to write in their own opinions and thoughts. Having actual written feedback is much more helpful than simply receiving a number score.

4. Review the documents before distributing them

While you may be able to trust that your team is respectful, it is best to review each document before handing them out. This way, you can ensure the feedback each employee receives is helpful. The peer review process should ultimately be an inspiring one. Make sure your team members are giving each other additional feedback and plenty of praise.

5. Meet with each employee one-on-one

After everyone has a chance to read through their peer reviews, meet with each employee for a one-on-one performance review. You can use this meeting as your chance to go over what an employee's colleagues have to say about them. You can also share your own thoughts about their performance. Use this meeting as a chance to identify each employee's strengths and weaknesses. You can also help them come up with goals moving forward.

Related: Tips for Offering Feedback to a Peer

How to complete a peer review

Follow these steps to complete a peer review about one of your colleagues:

1. Reflect on their work

Before you begin your peer review, think about your colleague's efforts and successes. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What did they accomplish recently?

  • What are their strengths?

  • What are their weaknesses?

  • What skills could they work on?

  • What do they contribute to the team?

  • What do I wish they would do more often?

  • What do I appreciate about them?

2. Be honest and respectful

While you want to share your honest thoughts on a peer review, continue to be mindful of your coworker's feelings. Rather than solely highlighting their weaknesses, think of ways you can motivate them to do better. Always use professional and polite language, like you would in any other work-related correspondence.

3. Make it comprehensive

While you may want to focus on a certain area of your colleague's work performance, try to evaluate everything that they do at work. For example, rather than discussing one particular project they worked on, you can include that plus how they operate on a daily basis. A more comprehensive review can help them understand how others view their work all the time.

Related: 12 Peer Interview Questions and Sample Answers

4. Write in clear sentences

Instead of jotting down brief bullet points, try to answer all of the questions on your peer review form in full sentences. Summarize what you have noticed about your colleague's performance during a specific period of time. Make notes of what they have improved and what you hope to see them work on in the future.

5. Balance feedback and praise

Try to include an even amount of feedback and praise throughout your peer review. While it's helpful to let people know what they could do better, it's also important that they get enough feedback to feel good about themselves. If you know your colleague quite well, try to figure out whether feedback or praise is more helpful for their motivation levels.

Tips for using peer review feedback in the workplace

Follow these best practices when your colleague gives you feedback:

  • Meet with your manager. Having a one-on-one meeting with your manager to discuss your team's feedback can help you figure out what to do moving forward. Work with them to set realistic goals for yourself and to assess which comments you should focus on.

  • Measure your progress. When deciding to apply some of your colleague's feedback. Come up with a system to measure your progress. Every so often, check in with yourself to see how you are doing. You could even ask your manager if they have noticed any of your improvement.

  • See it as an opportunity. The purpose of a peer review is to learn more about yourself as a professional. Use any feedback you receive as an opportunity to work toward your full potential.

  • Be kind to yourself. Remember, one person's opinion doesn't define who you are. Allow yourself to accept your weaknesses and learn from your mistakes. Likewise, give yourself time to celebrate your successes and focus on your strengths.

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