The typical 1-on-1 performance review is outdated, unhelpful, wildly subjective, and biased. Keeping the meeting between a manager and employee is not the future of workforce management. Three's a crowd!
The standard performance review looks like this...
Employee fills out evaluation. Let's stop right there. I have to evaluate myself - should I be confident and give myself high marks? Maybe I should dial it back some to seem more realistic? Ok some 5/5s and some 4/5s. Bad.
Manager fills out evaluation. This is a step in the right direction. Let's get the input of a direct manager who sees how well an employee works throughout the year. But, if we only do this once or twice a year, this evaluation will be skewed by recency bias (whether we like it or not). It can also be overly subjective. Also, does the manager see everything that's going on between teammates?
Manager and employee get together to discuss. Strap in and hold on to this rollercoaster. We're looking at a nice mild ride if both manager and employee agreed on their scores. If not...woah nelly. We're in for stomach-churning inversions, loops, and G forces. No one likes having this conversation.
Employee signs off on review. Once an agreement is reached - which is weird, why do we have to come to a consensus on historic performance as opposed to future behaviors - the employee signs the document (OLD SCHOOL). This document finds itself hidden away in some filing cabinet or Google Drive folder never to be seen again.
Reviews can be so much better if you involve more people in the process.
While it doesn't solve EVERYTHING, getting more voices in the conversation helps to provide a more accurate and agreeable look at an employee's long term performance.
The most involved version of this is 360 reviews. To put it simply, each person is reviewed by and also reviews the other people they work with. You'd be reviewed by your manager, other teammates, and any direct reports. Similarly you'd provide reviews for them.
Even if we don't go to the extreme end of the spectrum, having more people contribute to a review can help in a few ways.
Having the opinions of a group is a more accurate way of measuring a person's performance. Direct teammates work more closely. They're conferring on projects, having to settle disagreements, and overcoming obstacles. They establish their own relationships amongst themselves that are separate from managers. Adding this wider perspective means that each review consists of a more complete look at how an individual works and acts on a daily basis.
When a review contains the opinions of many, the results are more accurate and thus easier to "accept." The outcomes are more defensible.
Managers and employees know that they can rely on the group's consensus because it can't be thrown off by a single response. It's harder for someone to be surprised by a group mentality when it comes to their performance. The manager/employee relationship becomes a partnership that reviews the findings of the group - discussing the overall results and addressing any outliers to determine where problems or miscommunications can be addressed.
It's less of a me versus you and more of an us versus the consensus.
The interactions of teammates can also reveal some new items that the manager or employee had not been previously aware of. This is great for identifying possible areas of concern between coworkers or for finding places in which a person excels that may not otherwise be visible.
As a manager, rely on the team for their honesty and the information they can provide to make your job easier.