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How to maximise the value of 360° feedback

360° feedback can be a powerful performance management tool. When used inappropriately, however, it can be quite threatening. Experts have found that 360° feedback should be used only as a tool to improve performance - not as a formal appraisal tool (although many managers are tempted to use it that way). It is most effective when employees and managers trust each other and are relatively open and honest with each other. To get the most value from this important process, consider these pointers...

1. Focus on positives; be aware of negatives.

Some of the advantages of this form of evaluation are important:

  • 360° feedback is generally more complete, accurate, and objective than the traditional boss-down approach.
  • Perspectives other than the boss’s are taken into account.
  • Self-development opportunities are enhanced.
  • Self-evaluation generates discussions about individual strengths and weaknesses.
  • The involvement of key others will increase accountability to a staffer’s internal and external clients.
  • An employee gets to understand the gaps between their intent and their impact.
  • Greater accuracy is achieved.
  • Comments are difficult to ignore when expressed by a number of colleagues.

Some of the drawbacks include:

  • The process can be time-consuming.
  • The raters can become fatigued and, having so many feedback reports to do, they may not think about the responses as carefully as they might.
  • If not positioned properly time-wise, it can create unnecessary anxiety.
  • Competition among staff can affect individual ratings.
  • Employee-raters may rate their bosses high because the levels of trust are not high.
  • Employees may be reluctant to contribute because of concerns about rocking the boat.
  • Results can be difficult to interpret if too many appraisers are used.
  • In companies where 360° feedback has been used formally - especially where results directly contribute to remuneration and reward decisions - ratings tend to be higher, generating data that is unreliable.

2. Reinforce organisational goals.

The bottom line about an individual’s behaviour is that it will contribute to the organisations’ competitive advantage. A great deal of time and effort is likely to have been expended on setting strategy, so it’s important that the actions of individuals contribute to achievement of that strategy. The 360° feedback program will, therefore, serve as a valuable barometer for organisational change initiatives. Other effective uses can include identification of high potential employees, career planning, and succession planning.

3. Aim for a performance management system.

Consider using 360° feedbacks as building blocks or elements of an organisation-wide performance management system. This system will help your people focus on what’s important and reinforce working relationships to ensure better business results are achieved through people. After all, if you are inviting colleagues’ and customers’ comments, it makes good sense to maximise the benefits of such data.


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