One common tool that is used for managing and assessing employee performance is a 360° Feedback process.
What is 360° Feedback?
“A 360-degree feedback is a process through which feedback from an employee’s subordinates, colleagues, and supervisor, as well as a self-evaluation by the employee themselves, is gathered.” Wikipedia
This tool is used to solicit feedback from all coworker perspectives.
Instead of hearing only the manager’s perspective, this tool takes into consideration the thoughts and perspectives of several other people who regularly interact with the employee.
Since this tool typically provides (sometimes painfully) honest feedback, there are different ideas on the benefit and value of using a 360° feedback mechanism.
The following are some of the advantages and disadvantages of using this type of feedback tool.
Advantages of Using 360° Feedback
Provides Feedback From Many Different Perspectives
How often do we hear from employees that their manager’s assessment of them was biased or unfair?
This is because of very human limitations and biases.
However, balanced feedback regarding an employee needs to come from many different perspectives.
For example, an employee’s manager observes them very differently than the accounting clerk or receptionist.
Coworkers deal with an employee very differently and can often provide a clearer picture of how the employee interacts with others.
Isn’t it only fair to hear all perspectives?
Identifies Development Opportunities
Most employees have a desire to develop and grow in their jobs.
A 360° Feedback process can help to identify personal development and professional growth opportunities.
Whether the feedback identifies areas that could be improved such as communication skills, conflict resolution skills or simply getting the job done – employee improvement opportunities can be identified and incorporated into a developmental plan.
These employee developmental plans can be used to help employees grow in job responsibilities, gain valuable experience, and ultimately prepare the worker for promotions.
Focuses on Core Competencies
Successful organizations target competencies that it hopes to develop in its workforce.
These competencies help to ensure that all employees are demonstrating those behaviors that represent the organization’s core values.
A 360° Feedback tool can be developed and written to solicit feedback that is directly linked to the organization’s core competencies.
These competencies reflect the organization’s standard for skills, behaviors, and interactions with others.
For example, a core competency may be teamwork – an employee’s ability to participate and function within a team-based workgroup.
We’ve listed the many advantages of using a 360° Feedback tool. However, when the tools are not administered properly or are not communicated effectively there can be some real disadvantages.
Disadvantages To Using 360° Feedback
Feedback May Not be Totally Honest
While this type of tool works best when the feedback is anonymous, users of the tool often fear that what would be considered an honest answer may come back to bit them.
When this happens the answer is filtered though a thought of:
“what if they find out I said that” – and the reviewer is afraid to be completely honest.
And, as with other appraisal processes, there are natural biases that can manifest and affect the honesty of the reviewer.
The value of the feedback is only as good as the honesty of the person providing the feedback.
Grudge Assessments Can Be Hurtful
Unfortunately, there are times when a person who is providing feedback on a coworker takes the opportunity to express a grudge.
When this happens, the person getting reviewed will have to respond to sometimes harsh and hurtful comments.
This is where leadership can help the employee focus on the learning experience and not overly personalize the feedback.
It is much easier said than done.
Not Having Enough Reviewers
The value of a 360° Feedback tool is its ability to bring lots of perspectives to the process.
For smaller organizations, or perhaps a large organization that is reviewing small departments, it can be more difficult because the pool of reviewers is so small.
For the tool to work well, there really needs to be at least 5-6 reviewers that represent as many different disciplines within the organization as possible.
For instance, the receptionist may have reviewers from accounting, facilities, administration as well as department coworkers.
Employees Focus on the Negative
Feedback is never easy to swallow.
It takes a bit of professional maturity to handle those inevitable negative comments.
It is not uncommon for employees to be in denial about feedback and fail to see the developmental opportunities.
When employees focus on “who said what” and not on “how can I improve myself”, it can affect morale and general work relationships.
We need to help employees who receive this kind of feedback to process it constructively and not personally.
Young or inexperienced workers need a lot of training, retraining, and coaching on the process to ensure the takeaway is positive.
None of us like to hear the reality of how others view us, but the developmental opportunity that is available by paying attention to the perspectives of others can help us all attain a higher level of professionalism.
If you are interested in creating a tool for your organization, you can access a free 360° Feedback tool on Survey Monkey.
If you would like to learn more about using a tool like this check out The Art and Science of 360 Degree Feedback on Amazon.
Does your organization use a 360° Feedback tool?