Performance appraisals, performance management, and feedback has been evolving in one form or another for over 50 years. When it comes to feedback, everyone has an opinion on how feedback should be given and received.

Recently, there have been a number of discussions about anonymous performance feedback. Advocates of this type of feedback believe employees are hesitant to speak honestly because of fear of hurting the recipient’s feelings or worse yet, fear of retribution – especially if providing feedback to a manager.  Although these concerns are realistic, the issues with anonymous performance feedback far outweigh the benefits. Generally speaking, there is no guarantee of an increase in feedback, feedback which is more applicable, or feedback which is constructive. And there are other issues as well:

Lack of True Anonymity. Unless feedback is given through purely multiple-choice questions, there is no true anonymity. Everyone’s writing style is unique, like a fingerprint. Familiarity with one’s style of writing, way of thinking or issues/views with the particular subject makes it easy to determine who wrote the feedback.

Superficiality of Anonymous Performance Feedback. Using anonymous performance feedback reduces the effectiveness and quality of the feedback by decreasing the recipient’s ability to clarify or follow-up on the comments given. The feedback is superficial and this lack of depth typically doesn’t provide enough information as to how to improve. This can leave employees unclear of the direction to take for growth and performance improvement. Also, with less context, feedback recipients are less likely to accept the feedback given.

Impact on Manager Development. Anonymous performance feedback limits the opportunity to develop managers into coaches. Managers who provide guidance for growth, career and succession paths and plans for improvement are seen as more effective than managers who simply focus on the effectiveness of task accomplishment. Managers who are taught to provide constructive feedback and have the opportunity to practice this both formally and informally become stronger managers and better coaches. Anonymous performance feedback limits these opportunities.

Impact on Culture. All of these factors pale in comparison to the biggest factor which is the negative impact anonymous performance feedback can have on a company culture. Where the intention is to create trust, it does just the opposite. Recipients of critical anonymous performance feedback may start to doubt their peer relationships, counteracting any team building efforts. Anonymity also creates an environment enabling a group of colleagues to band together to give similar negative feedback to one person. This is often seen with feedback given to high performers, employees in line for promotion, competitors and people outside of the group’s social circle. The ramifications of this scenario can be harmful to the motivation of the high performer, often resulting in their overall dissatisfaction with the company or job, sometimes resulting in their decision to find another opportunity elsewhere.

Elements for Effective Performance Feedback

For performance feedback to be effective, it needs to have several elements. Some of the most vital components of effective performance feedback are eliminated if feedback is anonymous, such as:

  • The ability to ask for clarification and examples
  • The ability to go back to the reviewer for feedback in the future
  • A Plan for Improved Performance
  • Checkpoints, follow-up and guidance along the way to increase the chances of improvement and/or growth.

Effective Use of Anonymous Feedback – Employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS)

Although anonymous feedback is less effective for reviewing employee performance, it can be effective in some circumstances, including critiquing programs, processes, products and presentations. One of the more recent trends is the calculation of the eNPS. Similar to its predecessor, the NPS (which measures customer loyalty), the eNPS is the employee Net Promoter Score, which measures an employee’s willingness to recommend their company to friends and family. Like the NPS, the eNPS divides answers to employee questions into 3 general categories:

  • Detractors (Critics)
  • Passives
  • Promoters (Champions)

The eNPS is a simple way to check the pulse of employee engagement and satisfaction. With just a couple of simple questions, you can easily find employee views of working at the company. Using intelligent software, more in-depth follow-up questions can be readily asked. This allows the first question to be analyzed statistically and further questions to provide more qualitative information.

An opening question can be as simple as this:

“On a scale of 0-10, how likely would you recommend working at this company.”

Detractors score 0-6 (dissatisfied with the company or work)
Passives score 7-8 (indifferent, not emotionally invested, disengaged)
Promoters score 9-10 (satisfied, engaged, loyal)

eNPS Scoring

The eNPS score provides both a quantitative snapshot of overall company cultural health as well as areas which may need to be improved. The eNPS is scored by determining the % of each category and then subtracting the detractors from the promoters. For example, if 30% of the respondents were promoters and 10% were detractors, the eNPS would be 20. eNPS scores can range from -100 to 100. Some view a positive score (anything over 0) as a good score, others say 10-30 is a good score and 50 or above is an excellent score.

Benefits of eNPS

eNPS is a quick easy way to determine company cultural health. It lets employees share their views anonymously and helps to create trust. It identifies trends in job satisfaction and engagement, can reduce attrition, and help to identify healthy and unhealthy department cultures and effective and ineffective team leaders.

There is a place for anonymous feedback if used in the right way for the right reasons.

(Photo credits: pixabay)

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