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The Seven Reservations You Should Straighten Out About 360 Degree Assessment Initiatives

If you have spent any time delving into 360 degree assessment initiatives in the preceding days, you have arguably observed what a minefield the concept can be.

In a 360 degree assessment, a behavior (or behavioral statement) is a specific, measurable, and observable action that is associated with a competency and reflects an employee’s level of mastery within the competency. Due to trust issues, 360 degree feedbackcan cease to be used for development, where it’s actually helpful. Instead it becomes used by individuals and leaders as a way to evidence performance. There is a risk that 360 degree feedbacksimply becomes an administrative burden for teams and organizations and that it provides little real value. You can team up with others in your industry to share ideas and even share a tool or benchmark. You can certainly ask for advice and input. Experts outside HR can also be your partners. Find someone who you feel you can trust and use them to assist you in selling and training in the 360 degree feedback. Business psychologists will likely be able to assist, as will OD consultants and some coaches and trainers. Business schools and local universities can also be useful to you as they might be venturing into some relevant research and be able to support and/or contribute to you and your managers. The first step in developing a 360 degree feedbackfit for purpose is to get clear on the obvious, ie what is your purpose? A useful approach is to get clear on your primary objective, the critical thing you want the 360 to achieve. As a 360 degree feedbackproject can give you a lot of things, you may of course have a “nice to have” list too which is fine. The top benefit of a 360 degree review is that it provides real-time, actionable information. A direct report is available to an employee, the employee's manager, and anyone else to whom it would be relevant. Some participants give up after 360 degree feedbacksessions. They may or may not declare that they are giving up but it is a common reaction to upset to consider it impossible, to think there is not any useful way forward, so give up. This also is difficult as it can appear like a level of acceptance and their real emotions may remain hidden.




In many organizations it would be foolish to suddenly mandate more sharing of 360-degree assessment information about individuals. A number of these organizations are still command-andcontrol environments where decisions are made at the top of the hierarchy and passed down with the expectation that employees will implement and not ask questions. Engaging a wide segment of the organization in collective learning would be a foreign concept. Some people can be very negative about others in a 360 degree process and can hold on to damning opinions with great determination and significant impact on themselves and others around them. Some cultures seem to allow these attitudes to prevail, others do not give them any space. Once again, they are very challenging to deal with. Open conversations and tough mediation and coaching can make a difference though. Supporting the individual in being OK with others’ negative opinions is the usual strategy. Including the customer in the 360-degree feedback process ensures that employees know whether the desired outcomes have been achieved and how the customers perceived the product or service that has been provided. In other words, customer feedback provides the ultimate reality check on whether performance goals are on target and are being met, in the opinion of the people who pay the bills. Indeed, input from external customers can refocus attention on performance in a way that peer, subordinate, or boss feedback may not. If you’ve decided that you want to use 360-degree reviews within your organisation, then you’ll want to make sure you measure the right skills. Use empirical research to determine which competencies actually matter to your company’s performance – don’t just run headfirst into your 360-degree performance review using metrics that a senior executive thinks are a good idea. The specificity/anonymity conundrum takes another turn when the idea of 360 feedback software is involved.


Implementing 360 Degree Feedback

The 360 degree feedbackprocess offers extensive and diverse benefits to key stakeholders in the organizationand the organization. It gives customers a chance to strengthen the customer-supplier relationship. The 360 degree feedbackcaptures the relevant and motivating information from internal and external customers while giving them a voice in the assessment process. People can be upset from a 360 degree feedbackreview, but if they are working in a professional environment, particularly where the norm is emotional restraint and politeness, eg in the UK, they may of course think that they should not show their upsets. Start the 360 degree feedbacksession with something like “Did you manage to read through your 360 degree feedbacksurvey then?” or “How has the 360 process been for you so far?” The participant may respond in full or with not much but usually they will express something of where they are at. They may complain about the process, lack of briefing, errors with reporting, confusion about reviewers, frustration about their boss not completing. They may say they did not want to participate at all or that they were not sure it was going to be at all helpful. Providing valuable and constructive feedback can help create your next steps towards smart goals and effective development plans. When giving feedback to colleagues start with positive feedback, base your feedback on observations, facts, and examples. Data, metrics, numbers and facts are of interest to all of us if they are from a respected source and on a relevant topic. In fact they are the primary currency for many. However, there are many finance directors who only pay real attention to the figures. With facts comes power. Keeping up with the latest developments regarding 360 degree feedback system is a pre-cursor to Increased employee motivation and building the link between performance and rewards.


While traditionally 360 feedback was seen as a tool for senior leadership development, it can be invaluable for many other employee groups too. People managers at all levels are one such example. Developing managerial capabilities and behaviours in this group has the potential for far reaching benefits both for the individual and the organisation. When peer reviews are anonymous, employees can’t ask questions about why a certain rating was given. Reviews without context are less constructive and lack clarity. This may lead to a gap in understanding of the appraisal – for example, if an employee thinks that a ‘Room for Improvement’ rating on ‘Communication’ means they need to communicate more, when the colleague wanted them to schedule fewer meetings. It’s worth considering how the 360 degree feedbackwill be received. If you’re dealing with an anxious employee for example, any negative feedback will probably not be received too well. Consider if your managers need training to ensure they handle the discussion sensitively. If employees are able to take feedback on board, whether good or bad, they will get more out of the programme and will be able to make positive changes. The perspective of the manager's boss is unique and is very important to most managers. For this reason, it is less useful to combine boss's ratings with the ratings of others in a 360 degree program. Breaking out the supervisor's data (that is, displaying it separately in the feedback report) is a practice that is increasingly used in 360-degree feedback reports. Yet, when a manager has only one supervisor, the confidentiality of the boss's data is compromised. Since 360 reviews focus on behaviors, they can be used widely in order to promote the kind of culture that the organization needs. One of your first steps in deciding to conduct a 360 feedback exercise is identifying which behaviors make a difference in your company–since you will want to promote them. Nonetheless, a keen understanding of what is 360 degree feedback can be seen to be a multifaceted challenge in any workplace.


Improving Employee Engagement

Interestingly, in the world of natural childbirth and also in the world of caring for the dying there is a growing awareness of the need for privacy. This is somewhat counter-intuitive as in these situations, as with highly personal data, the individual is also known to need support and help – and people who care want to give just that. But it seems the human condition has a preference for private transition. 360 degree feedbackdata can be seen as the death of a previously held (and loved!) self-identity, so it may be that you are dealing with a grieving process here too. Training in how to receive 360 degree feedbackfocuses on using the reports to ensure that employees know how to interpret the information they are receiving. Participants need to understand how to accept behavior feedback, how behavior feedback differs substantially from other feedback, and, most important, how to use behavior feedback constructively. Relationship breakdowns can be very tricky to deal with and they can show up in a 360 degree feedbackprocess. A total breakdown in trust can become very apparent. This can be upsetting to come to terms with but the key thing to remember is that the 360 degree feedbackis only throwing light on something that was already there. It can feel like something now needs to be done about it but there is no imperative to act differently. When choosing an organizational 360 feedback provider, ask about research-based content, assessment philosophy, and the level of support that will be provided through the implementation. Senior HR leaders should define the metrics and then work with other senior executives to ensure alignment. 360 degree feedbackmay be about broad overarching issues like governance, aligning vision and purpose, financial acumen and business outlook, technical and functional skills, accountability, problem-solving, engaging and responding to stakeholders or thought leadership – as the requirement might be. Making sense of 360 degree feedback eventually allows for personal and organisational performance development.


The use of 360-degree feedback in organizations has increased dramatically in recent years. Today, most people have heard of it, and many are familiar with its basic elements and procedures: a person's performance is rated by a range of co-workers, including supervisors, peers, subordinates, and occasionally customers; these are fed back to the person and compared with self-ratings; development goals are set, often in connection with a strategy for achieving these goals. Sometimes, the ratings are used by the organization to make administrative decisions about such things as pay raises and promotions. In traditional 360 evaluations, multi-rater feedback upped the sheer number of people participating in the process and the subsequent time invested. Fortunately, most multi-rater feedback systems now have online entry and reporting systems. This has almost eliminated this former downside. The implementation of a 360-degree review system can help businesses to develop their managers in a unique way, and provide an outlet for employees who may want to express praise or concerns about how one of their peers is working. Not only is it important that employees of all levels adopt a never stop learning attitude, but it is also crucial that feedback is provided throughout their career to promote continuous improvement. It is probably the case that the more you want someone to have a paradigm shift about themselves or their business, the less likely you are to get it. It is the individual having freedom to choose and control that allows them to turn in another direction. That in a nutshell is the HR dilemma. Unless this is understood the true value of HR is unlikely to ever be acknowledged. You can look to integrate 360 degree feedbackinto your best and most inspiring people themes and initiatives – this is where it belongs, as participants will not then be returning to the exact same context they were in pre-360. Researching 360 appraisal is known to the best first step in determining your requirements and brushing up on your understanding in this area.