Peer feedback can boost employee performance by 14%, Gartner has found. When given freely and regularly, peer feedback can enhance teams’ efficiency as well. Employees will master the art of giving feedback in constructive ways when encouraged to deliver it frequently and thoroughly using the tips shared here. Read on to learn more about the benefits of peer feedback and techniques for promoting it within your team. 

Why is peer feedback so important?

Peer feedback plays a vital role in helping employees move closer to their goals. Coworkers typically understand one another’s strengths and weaknesses better than anyone else since they work with each other so closely. Thus, peer feedback shows them exactly where they can improve and where they’re excelling in a concrete, specific way. Further, frequent peer feedback promotes healthy relationships and robust communication within teams. 

When managers gain peer feedback about their direct reports, it can make them aware of employees’ hidden strengths or areas of weakness, too. They’ll gain a more in-depth understanding of how to support their employees through this feedback.

Who should give peer feedback?

The term “peers” is actually quite broad. Any given employee should receive feedback from several different categories of peers, providing a more well-rounded range of insights. Gartner recognizes four different types of peers who can provide valuable feedback:

  • Enablers
  • Coaches
  • Collaborators
  • Mentors

Enablers share similar roles with the employee receiving feedback, often working on projects together. Thus, they can give firsthand feedback on how the employee’s work affects them on a daily basis. Coaches handle different projects but have similar roles, which can also allow for specific, in-depth feedback on daily responsibilities. Collaborators make a different type of contribution to the projects the employee works on, giving them a different vantage point. Mentors have a different role and skillset and handle other types of projects, so they can provide a valuable outside perspective.

Techniques for promoting the exchange of peer feedback

Let’s take a look at different methods of collecting this feedback and when each is useful. Employing each of these types of feedback will give you and your employees stronger insights into their performance. 

In-the-moment feedback

Real-time feedback allows for immediate understanding and can help employees make improvements in the moment. It can also help prevent errors that could have broader repercussions on projects. Help employees feel empowered to provide in-the-moment feedback by offering various ways of sharing it. For instance, a software platform that enables instant feedback allows employees to share their thoughts without delay rather than waiting until the next time they see their coworker. 

A buddy system

Create a buddy system that allows people to give each other one-on-one feedback on a daily basis. Encourage them to talk on Zoom or in person from time to time while also giving each other regular feedback as needed. Rather than feeling awkward about voicing feedback, they’ll develop mutually supportive relationships based on these conversations. You could have them trade off buddies every couple of months or once per quarter so they can build stronger relationships with different coworkers! 

360 surveys

360 feedback surveys can provide longer-term perspective from a wide range of colleagues over a period of months. This allows employees to see a fuller picture of how their peers perceive them. Organizations typically opt to make this feedback anonymous to promote complete honesty. The 360 feedback you collect should not influence promotional decisions, serving purely to help employees improve their individual performance.

Setting ground rules

Providing clear advice on how and when to give feedback will help employees to deliver it in constructive ways. Preface any feedback-sharing program with this guidance, modeling examples of beneficial feedback and how to receive as well as share it. 

Here are a few important ground rules to remember:

  • Avoid the “feedback sandwich,” which places a “tough-to-hear” observation between two compliments. Instead, encourage employees to give praise when it’s warranted and constructive feedback when they notice something that needs to be addressed.
  • Ask for permission to have a tough conversation rather than just jumping in.
  • Set an agreed-upon time to present and discuss any in-depth feedback.

As you practice these tips, you’ll see feedback flowing more regularly between peers rather than just from managers to employees. Plus, you’ll probably see your employees enhancing their skills at delivering feedback! Ask for feedback yourself, too, which will emphasize its importance and reinforce how to accept it graciously. That will help all employees grow more comfortable receiving input from others!