How to Manage 360 Degree Feedback

If you are considering 360 degree feedback in your organisation, here are some questions to think about:

Is it the right time to introduce it?

A performance appraisal system works best if there is a climate of open-ness and trust in an organisation - and this is even more critical when you are using this process.

Avoid introducing this tool as a way of getting information on employee opinions and attitudes - it is a tool designed primarily to give an individual feedback on his or her performance.

What are some of the benefits of 360 degree feedback?

As with standard performance appraisals, there should be no surprises - but it can:

  • Provide confirmation to back up a standard performance appraisal
  • Provide more data which makes the process less subjective
  • Reassure an employee about the perceptions of those he works with, which may build confidence and better relationships

How should you introduce it?

  • A pilot run is strongly recommended, so that you can sort out any issues. A poorly handled system can cause a lot of damage; the process needs to be handled with tact, sensitivity and confidentiality.
  • It needs to be seen as a fair and objective process.
  • As many people are involved (typically up to six people providing feedback on one individual), good communication is critical.
  • Those involved need to be willing participants. Allow employees a role in selecting those giving feedback; they need to feel that the feedback is coming from a credible source.
  • Decide and communicate how you are going to manage confidentiality - those completing the feedback should remain anonymous.
  • Keep the paperwork clear and concise, with guidance given to those completing it.
  • Provide appraiser training for those giving the feedback.
  • Appraisees also need guidance and support to ensure that they understand and act upon the feedback they receive.

What is the best way to collect the data?

  • Build structured questions based on job competencies, and clearly indicate the standards required.
  • Create questions that are relevant to the job - and result in information that leads to real change.
  • Avoid vague statements that lead to vague answers.
  • Use positive language e.g. "In what ways can the individual work even better in a team" is preferable to "How can the individual improve his/her contribution to the team".
  • Include open questions rather than just "tick box" questions which provide more meaningful feedback for the appraisee.

What about online 360 degree feedback systems?

Online 360 degree feedback systems are growing in popularity. There are a lot of advantages to be gained, as they save time, support confidentiality and provide more information than traditional paper-based systems.

If these are being adopted, again a trial is recommended; one of the pitfalls of such systems is that the response rate and quality of data may be compromised due to the impersonal nature of the system.

People are more inclined to provide quality feedback if they are approached in person or by phone; emails are easier to ignore.

How will I know if the system is working?

Monitor the system for quality control purposes, for example taking a sample of the completed forms. Are stated opinions backed up by facts? Have questions been interpreted in the way they were intended?

The desired end result is a motivated employee, so survey those involved to get their views.

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