Imagine this scenario. You’re administering a grant, scholarship, fellowship, or other application-based program. You’ve carefully crafted an application workflow and have spent weeks collecting information. You’re thrilled to have a great pool of candidates, and after collating all of the applications, you’ve sent them off to your reviewers. And then you wait… and wait… and wait.
The front-end of an application process is what often gets the most attention, and without a doubt, it’s important to make sure that the experience for applicants is clear and straightforward. But, we can’t forget about reviewers. In fact, the review process is where a lot of the delays and hold-ups happen.
For program managers, coordinating reviewers can feel like herding cattle. Reviewers are often external stakeholders – perhaps they’re board members, domain experts, or even celebrities – and usually have limited time and are juggling multiple responsibilities. Making sure they stay on track and complete their reviews can be a challenge.
While some organizations bring their reviewers together in person, it’s costly and logistically difficult. Remote review processes, with reviewers spread across the globe, are much more common.
So how can you effectively coordinate a remote review process to make sure the best candidates are selected and timelines are met? Here are four tips that can help:
1. Set clear expectations
Reviewers are often volunteers – they donate their time to support and contribute to a cause they believe in. Because of this dynamic, program managers sometimes feel uncomfortable setting and enforcing requirements, not wanting to appear too demanding or ungrateful. Unfortunately, this hesitation only contributes to problems and frustration down the road. It’s important to:
• Be upfront with requirements. Be honest with reviewers about what will be required of them. Clearly outline the time commitment and the level of responsiveness that’s needed. Make sure they know what they’re signing up for before moving forward, and establish a mutual understanding of expectations.
• Give them an out. Reviewers might hesitate to decline a request if they strongly support the cause, and as a result, might agree to something they can’t fully follow through with. As a program manager, make sure to give reviewers a clear out. For example, in your email outlining requirements, you could say: “Although we’d love to have you participate as a reviewer, we know that you have other commitments and responsibilities. If you’re unsure about your ability to meet the requirements of this role, please let us know. We’d be happy to discuss other, less time-intensive, opportunities.”
2. Move away from email
While email is still the most common mode of communication in many organizations, it’s inefficient and messy when used to coordinate a review process. Think of how many emails you receive on a daily basis. Your reviewers receive just as many, if not more. Emails are easily lost and forgotten about, and the problem is only amplified when you factor in the volume of attachments and back-and forth involved in a review workflow.
Instead, leverage an online application management software with a reviewer portal to act as the primary hub for your review process. Reviewers will be able to log in from wherever they are, access all of the applications (and associated materials) that are assigned to them, view the review and evaluation criteria, and submit their reviews. All of this will happen in one place, and you’ll be able to track exactly what’s happening across your process. Just think – no more long email threads or misplaced attachments, and complete visibility into your workflow.
3. Be top-of-mind: Send reminders and thank-you’s
Keep reviewers updated and on track by sending them helpful reminders and notifications as they move through your process. For example, make sure they receive a notification when a new application has been assigned to them, a confirmation when an evaluation they’ve submitted has been received, and a notification before an upcoming deadline.
The thought of sending so many reminders and notifications can be daunting, but with an application management tool, these messages can be automated to send at key times, so they won’t increase administrative workloads. Also, in any communication, be sure to tell reviewers how much you appreciate the time they’re taking out of their busy day to provide their input.
4. Provide incentives
Sometimes, you can’t rely on goodwill alone. If you’re having a tough time getting reviewers to complete evaluations, try offering incentives to boost your completion rates.
• Gift cards and raffles. Without a doubt, monetary incentives will encourage reviewers to stay on track. While many organizations don’t have the budget to offer such rewards, they can be used strategically. For example, you could enter the first five reviewers to complete their evaluations into a draw for an Amazon gift card.
• Emotional incentives. Incentives don’t always need to be monetary. You can appeal to your reviewer’s heartstrings by sharing stories about the impact they’re helping create, and emphasize the importance of their role. If they know just how critical a part they’re playing, they’ll be motivated to get moving.
The bottom line: Don’t forget about your review process
As we mentioned earlier, it’s natural to place more of a focus on your application experience. But, reviewers deserve our attention too. By setting clear expectations, creating a workflow that’s straightforward, and maintaining an open line of communication, you can make sure that your reviewers stay on track and you get the input you need to make the best decisions on candidates.
To find out more about how you can implement these tips in your own process, contact us today!.