How to conduct a 360° appraisal

Multi-rater or 360° feedback refers to the process by which feedback on an employee’s performance is collected from a full circle of viewpoints - peers, bosses, other staff, and customers. It was one of the most notable management innovations of the 1990s. A 360° feedback program gathers the information, usually through a questionnaire, and feeds that information back to the employee in a structured interview. Here’s how to get the best value from this process...

1. Get your design right.

A key feature of a 360° appraisal is a detailed questionnaire delivered to people who are familiar with the performance of the person being rated. The questionnaire items can be related to traits (e.g. ‘unhurried’, ‘dependable’), behaviours (‘praises people for a job well done’), attitudes or values (‘believes in democratic participation in decision making’), and competencies (‘manages quality customer service’). Whatever the focus, the issues must be:

  • agreed on by senior management
  • linked to performance criteria
  • relevant to the job (or job family)
  • clear and unambiguous
  • valid at face value
  • reliable
  • able to reflect observable behaviours.

Remember, 360° feedback can be used at any level of the organisation so you need to be quite clear, in compiling the questionnaire, about what, and whom, you want to assess. It is also important to decide up-front about the key issue of confidentiality - who gets to see the results.

2. Promote the benefits of the process.

Like most initiatives, 360° feedback needs to be promoted to reach its full potential. Some of the key benefits to promote are that 360° appraisal provides:

  • a more complete and accurate process than the traditional top-down appraisal system
  • a broader perspective because of involvement by colleagues, boss, and customers
  • enhanced self-development opportunities
  • an opportunity for self-evaluation
  • greater accuracy as reviewers have to defend their evaluations.

Of course, 360° feedback achieves the best results when conducted in a climate of trust, cooperation, and sharing. Results will improve if you communicate the benefits, involve, and prepare all those involved.

3. Involve the employees.

Participation by employees will enhance significantly their commitment to the feedback process and, therefore, produce better results. For example, they could be involved in choosing colleagues to be invited to complete the questionnaire; and employees could also rate themselves against the criteria.

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