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Making Peer Review Work

HR Magazine, January 2004​The Eastman Kodak Co. has implemented its Resolution Support Services (RSS) process, including peer/management review, in different ways as dictated by circumstances. The company first launched the system in its Rochester office headquarters and mammoth manufacturing operations.

That program is staffed by six people: RSS director Mary Harris, an administrator and four professional staff. The latter-resolution support specialists-do case intake, communicate as needed with appellants' line organizations and shepherd appellants through the various steps of the RSS process. They also set up peer/management panels and can serve as facilitators that moderate panel hearings.

Although a number of very large companies like Kodak offer peer review, the method can function in almost any size company, says Harvey Caras, president of Caras and Associates Inc., a Maryland-based consulting firm that helps companies install and administer peer review systems.

Both large and small employers face certain challenges in making the process work. Big operations require significant infrastructure to administer the program, for example. Those with many small outlying distribution sites may have to connect outposts to each other or to their closest manufacturing facility to enable employees to pick peer review panelists from a location other than their own, Caras explains.

Kodak's own experience in different environments illustrates the adaptability of the model. After establishing RSS in Rochester, Kodak installed the procedures in an 1,800-strong manufacturing plant in Colorado, as well as among its field engineers-a workforce of 600 people, including supervisors, who work out of their homes.

For the Colorado plant, the company modified the duties of two HR professionals to administer the process. Rochester staff sets up panels for the field service organization. A smaller plant of fewer than 900 employees soon will be served by yet another configuration.

On the other end of the spectrum, Caras says he has set up programs for groups of as few as 28 people. In a workforce that small, the process gets next to no use, he said. "But the messages [that peer review transmits] are more important than the actual decisions. It really doesn't matter how small your workforce is."

Nevertheless, there are particular challenges in administering the process in very small companies. "It's very hard to get impartial panelists, because everybody knows each other. That problem goes away as you approach 100 employees," Caras says.

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