360 degree feedback is a continuous process that assesses the performance, development, and potential of individuals in their current roles rather than in relation to a required competency or attributes for a future role. It is therefore a powerful tool in promoting respect for diversity and fairness at all levels in an organization.
In 360 degree feedback, all the stakeholders are a part of the process. It includes peers, direct reports, managers, vendors, or anyone with whom the employee has a working relationship..
360 Degree Feedback and Its Popularity
The rationale behind this approach is as follows: “If performance appraisal is about what you do well/not so well, then 360 degree feedback should be about how others view your work – what are the strengths and limitations of your working style, how other people feel about working with you.”
Globally, the system is in use by leading corporations to assess not just their own employees but also clients and suppliers.
Research shows that using a combination of methods such as peer assessment and manager assessment results in a better understanding of an individual’s performance than does either alone. The coming years will see a sharp increase in demand for qualified consultants offering services related to 360 degree feedback.
Ensuring Process Effectiveness and Significant Results
HR managers or external consultants, who are process experts, carry out the 360 degree feedback process. It usually takes one to two months, depending on the size of the organization. The process involves the employees who have worked with the individual being assessed over a period of at least one year.
It requires managers to complete written reports on their subordinates and others to complete questionnaires about the performance of those with whom they work directly.
Many organizations find that their 360 degree feedback program is effective only if used as part of a comprehensive performance management system. The 360 degree feedback process is useful in order to have a complete view of how team members perceive their manager. Monitoring and reviewing the process regularly helps supervisors identify areas of improvement.
A key issue here is ensuring confidentiality and maintaining anonymity throughout the process so that employees feel free to express their views honestly without fear of reprisal.
Tips for Implementing a Successful 360 Degree Feedback Program
Here are some tips for you to follow in establishing 360 degree feedback program the right way:
1. Use a trusted external consultant, or a colleague experienced in conducting 360 degree feedback.
2. Ensure that the process is properly designed and implemented by teamwork between the external consultant, an internal facilitator who will be responsible for driving the program, and key people within each area being assessed.
3. Involve line managers throughout the design and implementation of the program.
4. Train all those who will be a part of the process.
5. Clearly communicate the intention of using this process, so that everyone has a clear idea of how it will benefit them.
6. Ensure confidentiality during data collection and at all times thereafter.
7. Results can be used in a number of different ways: giving people confidential feedback about the way others see them; providing benchmarks against which employees can compare themselves with their peers; identifying developmental needs that may require further training or coaching from line managers or HR professionals; identifying areas of improvement, etc. In addition, the information from 360 degree feedback reports can give superiors a better understanding of their employees.
8. Ensure that there are no biases or discrimination against anyone because of their views.
9. Ensure that all managers receive training on how to provide feedback and coaching based on this information. It can help improve individual performance even further.
10. The design of an effective 360 degree feedback process is reliant upon two factors: soliciting honest opinions from others about you, and receiving the findings with an open mind. The best way to increase these likelihoods is by making yourself accountable for your own learning. Everyone has blind spots, but if your vision is clouded by personal bias, then you will miss many opportunities to improve your effectiveness as a leader.
Dealing With Resistance to Change Within the Company
Change is one of the most difficult things to make happen because it requires a willingness and ability on the part of managers and other key people within an organization; not only to support the implementation process, but also to take action as required. It’s far easier for them simply to do nothing and hope that negative issues will resolve themselves over time.
However, this approach runs contrary to everything we know about organizational development, which recognizes that change management is a critical step in creating sustainable performance improvement.
To reduce resistance to change:
1. Involve managers and other key people in the design and implementation of the 360 degree feedback process as quickly as possible, so they can become involved in setting up policies and procedures; making decisions about processes; training those who will receive, interpret and provide feedback; as well as delivering coaching
2. Document policies and procedures to make it clear on how 360 degree feedback results are collected, analyzed, used for coaching purposes
3. Provide line managers with a leadership action plan which outlines what actions they must take to show commitment to the overall organizational development program
4. Ensure that everyone understands how their individual performance affects overall company performance. As a result, they will be more motivated to initiate action plans for change.
5. Ensure that all managers receive feedback from their direct reports as well as others who have worked closely with them.
6. Promote the use of 360 degree feedback results at all levels within an organization to ensure fairness and reduce potential bias toward individuals.
7. Provide training on the process so employees recognize it is not part of any disciplinary procedure or witch hunt.
8. Be careful how you phrase messages about expectations for change. It’s easy to give messages that are misinterpreted by people anxious about change management or unable to cope with ambiguity or lack of information about what is happening next.
9. Communicate often with all staff about the company’s commitment to both the process and the need for change
10. Ensure that managers have access to help, advice, training or other resources they might need to take action on their 360-degree feedback reports
11. Implement a communications plan designed to ensure everyone understands how their work relates to the success of the organization
12. Hold management accountable for doing what is required under the leadership action plans. If necessary, tie continuing participation in 360degree feedback processes to individual performance reviews.
Benefits of Using 360 Degree Feedback as Part of an Organization’s Overall Performance Management Strategy
In addition to the many benefits that accrue from using 360-degree feedback as a tool for individual development, there are also significant advantages in terms of increasing organizational productivity and effectiveness. These include:
– Increased teamwork and cohesiveness
– Improved morale and engagement levels both at work and home
– Reduction in absenteeism rates
– More effective managers can build on the information contained within reports to further improve the performance of their direct reports
– Enhances efficient use of resources
– Improved decision-making as team members provide feedback on the overall effectiveness of managers and peers, and how they can be more effective
Using 360 degree feedback as part of an organization’s performance management strategy is an important step in building high-performing teams. It ensures that all team members understand the expectation and how their individual contribution helps to drive organizational success.
As such, it becomes critical for employers to invest time and money in providing the right environment and tools so employees feel comfortable using this process to achieve their potential.
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