2022 Comprehensive Guide on Peer Review Feedback

December 11, 2021
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What is peer review feedback?

Peer review feedback is a process by which you receive valuable input from your peers or those on the same level as you. This means that they have a similar knowledge and skill set to what you require for the success of your work — or at least what they think will help make it better in some way. It's important to note that not all peer reviews are created equal. We'll get into that a bit more later, but for now–we will define what it is and why it exists as an integral part of the professional world.

Why does peer review feedback exist?

The reason you do peer reviews is to improve your work by incorporating valuable input from those who have an understanding of what you are doing but are not in charge — meaning that they will be able to provide valuable feedback on your work without being biased by the big picture or overarching vision of it. 

Why is peer review feedback important?

Regularly scheduled peer reviews and their feedback is not only important, but it's also critical. That's because it allows you to get valuable, constructive feedback and other inputs on your work that are not clouded by politics or bias. It also helps ensure that what you think is good about your work performance passes the test of peers and experts within the industry. 

The better alignment and performance resulting from peer reviews typically results in more quality output for fewer resources and time wasted in rework — which can be a huge cost to organizations looking for the best way to expand.

Definition of peer review feedback

Peer review has its roots in the academic setting; Merriam Webster defines it as "a process by which something proposed (as for research or publication) is evaluated by a group of experts in the appropriate field." However, the meaning has been translated to the business world. The review process in business cases works by reviewing and formally evaluating a reviewer's skills, performance, competencies, attitude, and more.

The peer-review process may vary from business to business, but in most cases, the employee under review is only evaluated by a peer they work shoulder to shoulder with, although some companies like Optimax add the employee’s supervisor to the mix.

Benefits of peer review feedback

The benefits of peer review feedback are numerous, and here are some of the advantages you will get from the process:

  • An unbiased evaluation by someone who knows your skill set and can speak on how well you perform them under stress.
  • A chance for self-reflection and growth, which are necessary steps to improving your work. This technique will also help you identify areas that need improvement.
  • A chance for feedback on how well you can perform in a team setting. This factor is key because it ensures that there aren't any major gaps in the way teams function when they're together, which could impact their overall performance or productivity.
  • An opportunity to identify any significant personality conflicts. This advantage is important because it helps you learn how to deal with difficult people so that they don't become roadblocks to your work.
  • A chance to improve on the way you present yourself and projects within an organization or team setting — this aspect can help build trust, which builds relationships, not just for this process alone but for others.

Remote teams and peer review feedback

Remote teams are becoming more popular, especially for businesses that need to cut down on overhead costs. In addition, this means that they will have to rely even more heavily on the process of peer review feedback to improve their work and self-perception.

While this type of team faces some challenges when it comes to the process, such as not being able to identify each other's body language and tone of voice, there are also benefits. One such advantage is the ability for people who work in different time zones or locations to work together, which can be great for productivity and getting more done without sacrificing the quality of their output.

The good news is that studies repeatedly show that remote employees are fast learners and tend to get more done. They will benefit from peer-review feedback and will likely take any comment their peers make on them seriously and take action on any constructive criticism immediately. They also perform better and get work done faster than their in-person counterparts on average.

Peer review feedback examples

It's an alarming statistic, but 28% of employees are finding a lack of real-time feedback an issue, stating that the feedback in their organization doesn't happen frequently enough for them to understand ways they can improve. That's not a very good employee engagement metric, and it speaks to a broken employee development process that can hurt employee morale and retention.

Most organizations give a performance review to an employee once or twice a year, but peer review feedback should be ongoing and not limited to short review periods like an annual performance evaluation is. One main benefit is that when evaluations are given throughout the year, there aren't any surprises rolling around come review time. 

So the key is to provide regular and informal, effective feedback, and examples to see on the peer review include:

  • The quality of work the employee produces.
  • Their ability to handle stress and problems under pressure. A key factor in determining whether or not they'll be able to complete projects successfully during times where deadlines are tight.
  • How well they can perform on their own, as an individual contributor. This input can dramatically impact how effective they are in a team setting and ensure that they don't become roadblocks to their teams' productivity.
  • Their attitude and the way they interact with others or help with other's work. This can be key for identifying any major personality conflicts which could derail work, or even worse, affect other employees.
  • How well they do when working remotely. This is important so you can determine whether or not they're willing and able to adjust their work style when necessary.

What shouldn't be on there: remember, positive feedback is the way to go. As such, you want to put helpful feedback on these reviews and not put things like salary or bonuses on them — it's not something that should be shared with others. 

Also, avoid putting criticism in there which could affect the person being reviewed, such as any major personality conflicts they're experiencing with other employees since it can influence how well they perform their work.

Peer review feedback templates

You don't want to start from scratch every time a peer review rolls around. Therefore, it's best to benchmark what another company is doing or try out an online template for peer reviews. Here are a few peer review templates and forms from leading companies that you can click on and try out for your next peer review feedback session:

Peer review feedback samples

Peer review forms developed from the different peer review templates you are trialing are good for developing the unique review template that will eventually be used to give peer review feedback at your organization. During the development, your team should consider the following items:

  • How often should you have a peer review? On average, every one to two months or even quarterly is usually good enough for giving useful feedback. Some people may want more frequent feedback, while others might need less or none at all.
  • How long does each session last? It depends on how much work needs to be done and if any deadlines overlap with it. Is there a set structure? If so, what is it and does everyone have the same role to play in each session? It's also important that you're consistent with your approach as well as setting up clear goals for peer review feedback.
  • Key points that will be on the peer review template the company will be using. It should be an amalgamation or mashup of the best attributes of the example templates the team has reviewed. A meeting should be held on the best way to provide feedback in the template sections and provide an example of what answers should be expected for training purposes and formulating the final document.
  • What is the goal? What do they want people to get out of each session? Why does it matter, and how will it help them be more effective as a team member or individual contributor? Make sure there's clarity on what their goals should be so that they can focus on the right things.

Peer review feedback forms

Related to the peer review template is the peer review form. The main difference between the two is that the peer review template is the master version of the company's digital document, and every copy filled out from it is called a form. Meanwhile, you can also think of a form as an individual occurrence made from the template that you fill out. In other words, each form you use is based on a template.

Once you have all the details worked out from the sample and drafted into the template the workplace will be using, the team should get consensus that the final employee template draft and its related forms are ready to be published for a first revision. Then, test them. 

The peer-review forms that come from the template can be handed out to reviewers to be filled out manually with pen or pencil, or they can be taken online through something like the company's learning management system software.

It's a good idea to give out the peer review feedback anonymously since this option creates the safe space needed to help build trust and authentic connections. It also allows you to broach challenging topics and enables reviewers to comment freely or ask any questions they have with confidence.

On the other hand, anonymity also gives the reviewer the freedom to provide an honest evaluation without any judgment or later reprisal. This helps demystify the peer review feedback process and gives you actionable facts and information to improve your personnel.

Peer review feedback software

Companies can use peer review software to make the process more efficient and streamlined. The software and tools can also be used as a supplement or replacement for traditional forms of feedback since it's easier to share with team members located in other regions. This makes it easy for companies that have employees far away from each other, as well as those located in the same office.

In addition, peer review software can be used for a variety of purposes, including creating templates to share with employees while they're still fresh on everyone's minds. It makes it easier for them to provide feedback directly through the system so that their comments are logged and will be available during future training sessions or performance reviews.

You'll hear the term 360° feedback programs bandied about quite a bit with these types of software and tools, and what that means is that you're getting feedback from all members of your team, throughout the review process. This is especially helpful if you have an employee who isn't comfortable giving social cues or doesn't like speaking up in front of people (even though they do great work).

Here are a few examples of peer review software that has tools that can be easily implemented into the company's employee training and development curriculum:

  • Echospan: This software has robust professional feedback tools that allow you to customize the aspect of your company's 360° feedback program. The tool features progress tracking, a question library, a self-service portal, and surveys & feedback (including anonymous feedback).
  • Blue: Another good competency development tool is Blue, and it can help your firm automate and centralize Your 360° reviews. It supports peer review feedback, along with skills assessment, talent & performance reviews, and more.
  • Trello: Trello is a Kanban-like, list-making app, and the cards created in it help manage projects. You can use its peer review tool feature to allow employees to create boards for their team members. This way, everyone will be able to give feedback on what's working well and where there are opportunities for improvement in a safe space.
  • Formstack Feedback Software for Teams: This tool for team leaders and employees can be used to create a survey that will allow you to collect feedback from your peers. It also has tools like a question library, reporting options with charts, progress tracking, with deployment capabilities across the organization.
  • Zoho People: This Zoho feature can help you create a 360° feedback program for your employees, and it also has automated reports to make the process easier. It is another good option that allows team members to give feedback in real-time with instant notifications that let managers know when they've received new comments from their peers.
  • Matter: While some aspects of peer review feedback should be anonymous, accomplishments can be publicly celebrated. MatterApp allows you to share Kudos for all to see and celebrate, and now you can give public Kudos all inside Slack. Once you share it, you can sit back and watch everyone's happy reactions and appreciation among themselves.

As you can see, peer review feedback software offers companies of all sizes a way to improve employee performance and development. It's also easy to implement these tools into your existing HR program, so you won't have to worry about hiring additional staff or taking on new expenses just for this purpose.

Your employees are your biggest asset, so it's important to empower them by giving them the tools they need for success. And now that you are armed with the knowledge about the best ways to give peer review feedback, you have a great way of doing just that without breaking the bank or adding more tasks to your HR department's already busy list.

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