The Key Characteristics of An Effective Workplace Review

Do you have a work group where there is a constant barrage of low level but persistent complaints of bullying that are coming from a wide range of staff against a wide range of others? Do you have people constantly speaking off the record about issues or problems within their team, but then refuse to provide any specific information on the record? Is the list of problems with this team becoming increasingly many and varied?

If “Yes” to any of the above, then it sounds like your team is off track, and likely to remain so, until you get to grips with the underlying causes of dysfunction.

You will benefit in these circumstances by initiating a workplace team review.

Yes, an investment in this will cost some money. But the cost will pay absolutely many times over in future dividends. You avoid the considerable amount of management time, stress and angst you are otherwise going to consume in fighting spot fires for the next few years, not to mention the major drop in productivity as employees spend time on interpersonal conflicts rather than work tasks!

Key characteristics of an effective workplace review

At its heart, a workplace team review is an opportunity for staff to have their say about how the team is functioning and what they think needs to be done. A worthwhile workplace review will have the following features:

1. Allow staff to speak candidly and in confidence

This means:

  • The reviewer needs to be genuinely independent from the organisation.
  • No comment is attributed in the report.
  • You communicate exactly how the data is going to be collected and what you will, and will not, do with the final report. You do not want participants to get unwelcome surprises.

2. Cover a representative selection of interviewees (where the total group is too large to cover everyone)

It is important to interview a broad enough scope of staff so that results are not skewed by a small (or selected) group of disproportionately disaffected employees and/or a group colluding to skew results.  We find that including recent leavers from the work group can also be a great source of candid feedback. You also need enough participants to ensure that perspectives cannot be attributed by default.

Where extremely large groups are concerned, an on-line engagement survey can be used first, to identify both the specific areas of concern and the work sub groups where your efforts will be most productively focussed.

3. Enable voluntary participation

You want to encourage staff to help shape their own work environment, but you can’t force them to do this. If significant numbers of invitees refuse to participate (which in our experience is very rare), then you may have an issue with trust in the organisation; confidence that you can deliver confidentiality; or belief that input will be acted on.

In most cases, staff are able to reach a degree of comfort and confidence with an experienced workplace reviewer and the depth and richness of information given at interview forms a valuable resource in understanding what is going on in your team.

4. Keep scope broad. Don’t prejudge what the issues are

The presenting issue for a review may well be (and usually is!) perceptions of inappropriate workplace behaviours but more often than not, there is a root cause for these. Organisation structure, job role clarity or conflict, organisational decisions making, supervisory style, work allocation or overload, reward and recognition processes, poor training or inadequate induction can all be drivers of dysfunctional behaviours. And yes sometimes, though rarely, you just have a rogue individual who is toxic by reason of personal style

5. Keep sight of the fact that the review report is summarising perceptions not tested facts

A review process should never be used as a closet investigation or a covert appraisal process. There are plenty of available processes for conducting 360 feedback. If that is what you need to do, then be transparent. The person being appraised is entitled to know that is the intent of the process. Likewise, if you need to test specific allegations, then participants deserve to know that the information they are providing is going to be used in that manner.

That said, if the review covers supervision and leadership and there is only one supervisor or leader of the team, then clearly the perceptions collected will be relevant to one specific individual. If you plan to use this perception material to coach and develop said supervisor, be upfront about that likelihood.

6. Include Recommendations for Action

The purpose of collecting and analysing the data is to determine what interventions will lead to a more productive and high functioning workgroup. Therefore a key part of the outcome of the review is practical and effective recommendations about what issues to tackle and in what order to do this.

7. Lead to action

There is no point in seeking input if you do not intend to use it to shape your actions! Conducting a review will raise expectations of feedback about the key conclusions reached and the plan of action to address issues. So communicating well with staff after the review is as important as setting it up well with them before hand.