Editorial

01 Oct 2021

360 Degree Feedback in Performance Management

Evgenii Pavlov

360-degree feedback is essential for businesses looking to improve their workforce with qualitative reviews,  from employees to managers.

Keeping your employees working hard is a challenge that you can often solve with an in-depth review process. To ensure you are getting the most out of your employees, you will generally need to think about a robust performance management procedure.

Indeed, no business can do without direct reports or multi-rater feedback systems. Comprehensive performance management is essential for maintaining and nurturing your employees' personal development and dedication.

A major aspect of any business's performance management is providing as much feedback as is required by establishing a culture of feedback. The more you give your people appropriate and responsive feedback, the more they learn about what they could do better, and the sooner and easier they improve in general with their performance.

If you are looking for a way to improve your feedback as part of performance management, one such option you might want to consider is something known as 360-degree feedback. With this, you can rapidly improve how your people engage with their work.

Let's take a deep dive into 360-degree review in performance management - what it is, how it works, what the process is like, and some pointers for how to make the most of it and do it right.

What Is 360-Degree Feedback?

First of all, let's take a brief overview of exactly what 360-degree feedback is. You might have heard a little about 360 feedback in the past, but perhaps you're not entirely sure of what it is or how it works.

Read on, and all will soon become quite clear for you, so you can start using this procedure and technique in your team with a thriving culture of feedback.

In essence, 360-degree feedback is a system wherein an employee receives feedback from peers and people who work near or around them regularly. Crucially, this feedback is anonymous and confidential. It will usually come from those in roles that are directly aligned to the individual in some way: a manager, peer, or similar person in the team.

The basics of a 360-degree assessment are that around half a dozen people will fill out online performance reviews forms about the person, which cover many different competencies relevant to their role. The individual in question will also self-rate on several topics too.

All in all, this feedback for development is a very effective way to work out the strengths and weaknesses of an individual in the team and provide ideas for what might need improvement in the future.

Is 360-Degree Feedback Designed For Senior Employees?

Who can utilize 360 feedback, and who is it best used for?

In truth, 360 feedback has its place in most business priorities and every person within an organization. But that doesn't mean that it is always used this way across the board.

In fact, it is very often explicitly used as a powerful tool for HR development for those in more senior positions with manager reviews.

So, yes, it is designed for senior employees on the whole through manager reviews, but it is also something that you can apply to any employee in the company as necessary.

Who Should Be Asked To Give 360 Degree Feedback?

When you collate data on an individual, which colleagues should be asked to give feedback? Knowing the difference is one of the most important things you need to work out when giving feedback, as it will affect the overall business strategy and results massively.

360 Degree Feedback Employee Performance Management

Some of the most critical feedback from colleagues includes:

  • The individual is arguably the most important, as their self-reflection is invaluable in the process.
  • The individual directly above them, their line manager or supervisor, should also be sought for meaningful feedback. They have a unique insight into quality interactions and how the person works.
  • Any colleagues who work closely with the individual will also be able to provide some critical feedback as required.
  • Customers and clients who have had dealings with them might also help out and provide a different and important performance feedback perspective for customer-facing employees.

With those varied people giving their meaningful feedback, you will truly be getting that 360-degree response vital for this process to work as it should. Asking these colleagues about their quality interactions is an integral part of the continuous feedback process.

How Does 360-Degree Feedback Work?

Now that we have seen a brief overview of the process, it's time to take a deeper dive and see exactly how the 360-degree feedback procedure is supposed to work.

You might be wondering just why performance reviews of this kind can make a difference to someone's behavior in the workplace. As it happens, performance feedback can be potent indeed, especially when an employee gains deep insights into the true nature of their work and personality.

360-degree feedback works by taking both the individual's self-assessment and the opinions and observations of those around them. This feedback from colleagues allows managers to see what common ground might be found in all of those direct reports.

In general, continuous feedback is an excellent way of getting a complete picture of someone's overall development and drawbacks. Indeed, managers will take any potential poor performance reports into account.

During the 360-degree feedback process, the individual might be asked how they see themselves in different situations, like dealing with other people at work. They will also rate their strengths and weaknesses and other relevant markers.

This, plus the multi-rater feedback from other people, means a more holistic view of the person - hence the 360-degrees of the name - and a much clearer picture is found.

A 360-degree feedback program doesn't just assess colleagues' performances, but those of managers, customer service, and customers too, for a well-rounded series of deep insights. A 360-degree feedback tool provides a much more rounded view of a person, which sets this kind of critical feedback apart from many of the review types of the past that you may have attempted.

The 360-Degree Feedback Process

Now that we have seen why this continuous feedback system works, it is time to look into the specifics of the 360-degree feedback process itself.

The more you know about this professional development standard from the start, the more you will be able to make use of this development tool, and it could prove to be one of the most useful tools that you have at your disposal.

The 360-degree feedback system is both simple and profound, especially when used correctly and in the appropriate manner.

You can change action-oriented 360° feedback processes somewhat to suit each situation, but these are the most important signposts along the way that you are going to want to follow as closely as you can.

The 360-Degree Feedback Process

1. Implementing The Process

Before doing anything else, you need to make sure that your employees are ready for the action-oriented 360° feedback process to begin on a regular basis. If you don't prepare them for action-oriented 360° feedback, you will only rush into it and not get the results you are really hoping or looking for.

You need to communicate to the team and the individual under performance review, what is going to take place (on a regular basis) and why it is important. This briefing is essential for transparency and to ensure that everyone appreciates the relevance of doing it.

2. Preparing The Performance Feedback Round

The most essential part of the whole procedure is, of course, the performance feedback round, so you need to make sure that this 360-degree feedback tool is being prepared in the best possible way. To achieve this, take some time to decide on who is providing deep insights and for whom.

Will the individual receive intimate feedback from colleagues they know well or instructional feedback from managers? Start putting together the actual questionnaire that you are going to be using.

You can even hire a professional HR team or agency to craft this 360-degree feedback tool for you, but make sure that it is suitable for your business specifically, as that will produce better results.

3. Obtaining & Evaluating Feedback

Now comes the part where you actually go and get that continuous feedback that you are going to evaluate. You need to capture feedback from each person that you had listed.

Bear in mind that this feedback survey process can take place over many days and include different methods, especially if you are involving customers and clients as well as feedback from managers too. It is generally best to ensure that the responses are submitted anonymously as this provides the best possible answers - which are honest and direct.

4. Acting On Obtained Feedback

Of course, the whole point to all of this holistic employee feedback is that you actually act on what you have discovered. This might mean a whole range of things, depending on the feedback scenarios, what kinds of responses you receive and what the results seem to be.

But you need to make sure that you work out some specific goals when you capture feedback for people to put into place, based on the feedback they individually received. You can also set up regular review meetings to see how these are being met.

You need to keep up with individual feedback reports, monitoring and checking as you go along, to ensure that those goals really are being sought out and that behavior is changing accordingly.

If there are any negative developments, these too need to be made aware of and dealt with as swiftly as possible to ensure that all goes to plan as well as possible.

Keep in mind that inefficient feedback collection methods might cost you many valuable insights and training resources.

How Do You Give 360-Degree Feedback?

In order to make sure that your 360-degree feedback tool is as effective as possible, it is vital that the feedback is being delivered in the appropriate manner and in the right way.

But there is a delicate and subtle art to giving 360-degree feedback, and it is one that you will need to work on as best as you can to ensure that you are helping your employees improve in the ways they need to. Above all, you need to impress upon them the main points discovered.

First of all, bear in mind that there is a major ethical component to all of this that you need to keep aware of at all times. Specifically, that moral concern refers to the fact that the potentially negative feedback everyone has given was done so anonymously, and it is your duty to ensure that it stays that way.

If you do anything to reveal an identity, that is potentially a huge mistake that could affect employee performance. Such a leak could be very difficult to overcome as a company, so it's crucial that you capture feedback in a completely anonymous fashion.

As you speak to the individual, the main focus should be on growth and their personal development. That means that you don't dwell on the negative. Rather than turning feedback scenarios into critical situations, use responses as fuel for what needs to happen in the future.

360 Degree Feedback Inclusivity

If you can do it that way, you will find that people respond positively to holistic employee feedback. Feedback scenarios can empower employees with actions that they can take to improve in the future. Most employees will be happy to learn how to improve.

Then there is the case of upward feedback, which is when employees will review their managers, who will receive direct feedback. In this sensitive case, respondents are likely to stay completely anonymous.

At all times, ensure that the individual feedback reports furnish employees with a performance management solution relevant to their role in the company. If they work in IT and don't engage with customers, there is little use in talking about customer engagement.

It helps if you keep individual feedback reports relevant, honest, and direct. This way, you are bound to get so much more out of the feedback survey process.

Should 360-Degree Feedback Always Be Anonymous?

We have spoken a lot about the issue of remaining anonymous in the holistic employee feedback provided, and with good reason. Exposure can cause untold tensions in the workplace, and it could even lead to some dramatic scenes which you would rather not have.

Anonymity also allows people to remain honest, which improves the effectiveness of the feedback procedure and employee performance outcomes massively.

All that being said, it is always a possibility, if you like, to leave an option for someone to leave their name, should they wish to. This change to your protection policy should only be an option and never a necessity, but many people will find that they want to use it regularly.

So, a shift in your breach notification policy is something that you could consider. For example, feedback from managers could weigh heavier than feedback from subordinates.

However, in general, aim to maintain anonymity for a positive and peaceful feedback survey process.

What Are The Benefits Of 360-Degree Feedback?

Now that you can see what this action plan is all about and how it works, you might be wondering some of the process's significant benefits.

Many businesses make good use of 360-degree feedback, and it is one of the best forms of providing employee development plans and feedback in general. But what are some of the specific benefits you can expect when you use 360-degree feedback with your team members?

One of the primary benefits of 360-degree feedback is that you get a decent overview of how others view a person in many different relations to them. This level of quality feedback provides a certain level of objectivity, or at least a majority opinion, which allows you to get a complete sense of who they are.

All in all, a continuous performance management culture is an invaluable HR resource.

Because of that quality feedback, you will often find that the insightful 360-degree feedback surveys you collate this way have a fantastic nuance that is often lacking in some other template feedback options. You get constructive feedback this way and detailed input of the picture painted.

You might also find that many of your employees are more accepting of the feedback they receive this way because it has come from many anonymous sources. This meaningful, growth-oriented 360-degree feedback process also helps to improve teamwork across the board.

When there is agreement on a performance management solution like this, it is harder to shrug off than it might be coming from just one or two people. Of course, that can also sometimes mean that the thought of a continuous performance management culture is a hard pill to swallow.

Benefits Of 360-Degree Feedback

For example, some managers might not be comfortable with upward feedback and hearing feedback from subordinates. The more hierarchically structured companies may find that employees have no place telling managers how to do their jobs. Still, that doesn't mean that we should dismiss upward feedback!

The Benefits Of Upward Feedback

Three significant benefits come from upward feedback. Let's unpack them in detail:

  • Better Relationships: Managers are often stereotyped for being overly focused on employee metrics, outputs, and performance rather than forging interpersonal relationships. These outcomes-based managers can learn to be attentive and more approachable with such quality feedback.
  • Human Skills: It is often difficult for managers to keep track of a company's corporate and financial progress as well as a large workforce's individual needs. A private and intimate feedback session for managers looking to build their interpersonal skills can go a long way.
  • Enduring Influence: Just how feedback from managers can indefinitely improve an employee's work standards, so too can employees make a lasting difference in their bosses' leadership styles. Managers might be amazed at how many growth opportunities their employees can provide.

What Are The Challenges Of 360-Degree Feedback?

By now, the meaningful, growth-oriented 360-degree feedback process should convince you that insightful 360-degree feedback surveys are a great employee engagement tool for performance appraisal with very few blind spots. This performance management solution is undoubtedly powerful.

Nothing is perfect, so what are some of the challenges of collating feedback on a person? There are a couple of significant challenges that you should be aware of in particular.

One of the main ones to consider is that this is quite a high-effort means of gathering feedback. There is much prep involved. It can take a long while and can be all-consuming for those involved. You need to choose a good time to conduct insightful 360-degree feedback surveys and make sure you have resources for it.

Also, the anonymous feedback aspect of this procedure can be a negative thing at times. Sometimes a vindictive employee will use it to hurt the individual under review. While rare, this does happen, and it's something that you need to be aware of and look out for.

Managers might not react kindly to honest feedback from subordinates and could become vindictive themselves. The last thing you want to do is alienate your leaders.

The Elements of 360 Degree Feedback

Lastly, an inefficient feedback collection could waste much of the potential of otherwise meaningful, growth-oriented 360-degree feedback processes, not to mention the time of those involved. However, you will improve your method with each execution and enjoy better rater training.

Conclusion: 360-Degree Feedback As Part Of Performance Management

All in all, the cycle of performance management is a very valuable way to gain an honest and objective view of an individual. By establishing a continuous performance management culture, companies can work out some reachable and important goals for them to aim for.

This performance management solution will improve individuals' personal career development and employee performance while boosting the company's productivity. It helps with decision-making, and it's well worth trying it out in your company.

When you implement your 360-degree feedback system, make sure that it involves employees, human resources, and managers. Everyone can benefit from the review process, and your colleagues and leaders know your strengths and weaknesses best.

At the end of the day, those involved in filling out surveys and questionnaires and providing feedback must do so in the most honest and empathic way. Remember to be sincere, and you will find that your colleagues grow in unexpected ways.

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