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The Role of Performance Reviews in Social Business

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The Role of Performance Reviews in Social Business

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There is a misconception that social business is primarily a technological thing.  It’s perhaps not surprising given the strong role social networks play in our lives, and the equally strong role software companies have played in growing the social business sector.

As Gartner have shown though, 80% of social business projects fail, and it’s pretty likely that they aren’t failing due to poor technology.  So, lets get away from this notion that this is a technology thing and realign our focus to the cultural aspects of social business.

Let’s talk about behaviour.  That sits at the root of social business.  Think about the kind of behaviours you want to see exhibited by your employees on a regular basis.  If you’re like many managers, you want them to be more collaborative and innovative.  That’s great, we can work with that.

Once you have your behaviour in mind you can start creating an environment that supports and encourages those kind of behaviours.  There are traditionally around eight areas you can focus on when building this environment.

  1. Organisation, ie how the organisation is structured
  2. Task, ie how you want employees performing tasks
  3. Rewards, the rewards you give them for doing well (and punishments for not)
  4. People, the training you provide, recruitment tactics you deploy etc.
  5. Information, how information flows through your company
  6. Decision making, how decisions are made
  7. Physical workplace, the layout of your workplace
  8. Measurement, what things you measure and how

That’s a really basic overview, but you get the gist.  Performance reviews play a fundamental role in a couple of those areas.


This is an obvious one, because a central part of the performance review is to analyse performance based upon the data you have on that individual through the year.  In a social business sense though, reviews are often hopeless because the focus on individual performance and are seldom timely.  Encouraging greater measurement of how employees help others and the supply of that data to all concerned when it happens is a big step in encouraging greater collaboration.


This goes hand in hand with measurement, but again, bonuses and pay rises are typically applied to the individual.  Consider instead pro-social bonuses, where employees are allocated funds to reward other people in the organisation.  It’s a great way to spread some love whilst also highlighting the importance of team work.


Most performance reviews are broadly based around the individuals job description, which in turn feeds their KPIs that are used to judge success.  Consider instead the job crafting approach invented by Amy Wrzesniewski and Jane Dutton that sees employees crafting their own job descriptions based upon their personal interests and values.  This gives much greater meaning to the performance review.

Information flow

With the traditional review, the information is both privately held and only flowing one way.  If you’re to encourage a collaborative environment it needs to flow both ways and be in the public domain.  Performance reviews that allow employees to rate their bosses, and for ratings to be shown to all are a great way of creating such an environment.

Getting these things right is crucial if you want to encourage the social and collaborative behaviours that sit at the heart of social business, and the humble performance review can play a crucial role.

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