What 360 Feedback Tells You That Managers Cannot

by Kylee Stone Feb 10,2017

The People Strategy Leaders Podcast

with Srikant Chellappa, CEO

Here’s a scenario.

You are going to buy a new phone. You look up reviews, ask for opinions of others who have the same phone and compare the specs of the device to that of other devices. By doing all of these things, you get to weigh the good and bad against each other. As a bonus, it also helps you make an informed decision.

On the other hand, if you went ahead and bought a phone after only listening to one opinion, or reading one review, you are taking a chance. The phone could be good or bad. You cannot know because you’ve only heard or read information from one source.

Feedback works in the same way. When you hear feedback only from one source, it is rather limiting. When a manager is giving an employee feedback, they are giving feedback from their own perspective. And they might forget that a manager and employee have very different perspectives.

Evaluating employee performance through the medium of feedback is an important part of the workplace. It isn’t something that can be ignored. But which is the most effective way of reviewing an employee’s performance? The two options that are available to managers are performance reviews and 360-degree feedback. Both these processes have their pros and cons, but when used correctly, they can work wonders.

A recent study by Software Advice asked a question based on the above premise:  do managers have enough insight to assess their employees?

The study surveyed around 300 employees based in the US and made a few illuminating discoveries.

Key findings from the survey:

  • Thirty-seven percent of employees say they have regular one-on-one meetings with their manager once a month or less.
  • Thirty-one percent of employees find one-on-one meetings with their manager minimally or not at all productive.
  • Nearly one in five employees (19 percent) are minimally or not at all confident that their managers have enough information to adequately assess their job performance.
  • Half of the employees say their department coworkers—not their managers—have the most insight into their job performance, other than themselves.

These findings emphatically answer the question posed in the survey. Employees don’t feel confident that their managers know enough to evaluate their performance accurately.

There is also one another finding that managers might find interesting. Employees feel like their colleagues/teammates have a better understanding of job performance than their own managers do.

Managers might know what an employee does, but only peers will know how an employee does it. It stands to reason that while a manager can offer feedback on the kind of work an employee does, peers will be able to offer better feedback on how that employee works, simply because they spend so much time in close quarters or on the same team.

What research says about 360-degree feedback?

Here is what a senior market researcher who worked on the survey had to say.

“At the heart of this report, we had a simple question: Do employees feel like their manager has enough information from their limited one-on-one time to do a sufficient performance review? Our survey results show that 1 in 5 workers don’t feel they do, which is a problem.

A manager’s perspective on their workers’ performance is inherently limited—any singular point of view by itself would be. This is why 360 degree feedback is so important, because it combines multiple points of view to create a more comprehensive, reliable picture of how an employee is doing in their day-to-day. This gives managers more data to work with to assess their employees, which then gives employees more faith that their assessment is accurate.”

– Brian Westfall, senior market researcher for 360 degree feedback tools consultancy Software Advice

The above comment perfectly illustrates why performance reviews fail sometimes. They offer limited perspectives that employees find lacking. But where performance reviews might be lacking, 360-degree feedback can step in to fill the breach. The beauty of 360-degree feedback lies in the fact that it allows users to experience the benefit of feedback from multiple sources. Employees are more likely to trust an aggregate of reviews or feedback, as opposed to feedback and review from a single source.

Let us revisit one of the key findings of the study:

Half of employees say their department coworkers—not their managers—have the most insight into their job performance, other than themselves.

This finding can help you decide what kind of evaluation method you want to use. When an employee’s own peers seem to have the best insight when it comes to performance, it makes sense to use the 360-degree review process to evaluate an employee’s performance.

Organizations are understandably hesitant with 360-degree feedback evaluations. After all, the process is known to be finicky and hard to pull off.

3 Simple Tips

A good 360-degree feedback process must contain the following elements in order to be successful:

  • Reviewer anonymity
  • Customized feedback templates
  • Customizable feedback cycles

Engagedly’s Multirater/360 Degree Feedback module checks all of the above requirements. And more importantly, it gives HR administrators complete control over the feedback cycle. Once the feedback cycle has been set up, the rest of the process falls into place. HR administrators need not have to constantly keep track of what is happening in the feedback cycle, thereby taking a lot of the pressure off them.

Want to know how Engagedly’s Multirater module works? Then request a live demo.

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Kylee Stone

Kylee Stone supports the professional services team as a CX intern and psychology SME. She leverages her innate creativity with extensive background in psychology to support client experience and organizational functions. Kylee is completing her master’s degree in Industrial-Organizational psychology at the University of Missouri Science and Technology emphasizing in Applied workplace psychology and Statistical Methods.

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