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Innovation is not just about new technology. It is also a matter of doing things differently – replacing traditional procedures with new, smarter methods. And not just in the work you do for customers, but internally as well.
Here at Internet Architects, our operations manager used to take care of the annual evaluations of employees. But as the organisation grew and the complexity of his primary function increased, it became clear that we had to look for an alternative approach. Hilde Van de Vijver, our HR manager, together with the management of Internet Architects proposed to introduce peer evaluation: our employees were invited to choose four to five colleagues to give feedback on their work by answering nine questions. Those answers were subsequently collected by the employee’s ‘counsellor’: a member of Internet Architects’ management who coaches a number of employees by means of a personal development plan. At the moment, there are about three counsellors in the organisation, which are each responsible for about eight employees.
Looking for adventure
In a second phase, the counsellor discussed the feedback of the colleagues with the management . “We don’t just go through all the answers”, Hilde explains. “It is important that the feedback is processed first, that the counsellor, let’s say, digests it and speaks it through with the management. Finally the counsellor sits together with the counselee to discuss the input of the evaluators.
This new method of evaluating employees was greeted with some scepticism by some employees, but everybody went along with it eventually. “We saw that some people chose the safe road and only asked feedback from colleagues they got along with very well”, Hilde says. “Others were more adventurous, and also selected colleagues whose judgement they were curious about, even if it would not necessarily be positive. They really wanted to hear how they were doing, and how they could improve and grow in their role.”
More input, please
Apart from the fact that this procedure is quite time consuming, the overall feeling about it is very positive. “In many organisations, evaluations are considered a necessary evil at best”, says Hilde. “That is not our experience. In fact, we have already decided to use the same method for the next evaluation period. We even think of extending it, by involving our freelancers, for instance. We will probably even include partners and customers, and invite them to give feedback on our employees as well. We are certain that their input too can be a very useful element in the professional development of our people.”
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