360 Degree Feedback

“Common wisdom says that it takes about 10,000 hours to become an expert on anything, but that’s really only if you have high quality, frequent feedback during those hours.” – Christian Vanek

360 degree feedback, or multi-rater feedback, is a method that gives each employee the opportunity to receive anonymous feedback from several different raters; their team members, peers and line managers, as well as an evaluation made by the employee themselves. There is no feedback tool as comprehensive and efficient as 360 degree feedback, that is, when the correct tool is used in the right manner. 360 degree feedback has received a lot of negative 360 degree feedback lately, but does that mean we should dispose of it all together?

It goes without saying that feedback from several individuals is a definite improvement from feedback from a single individual, but how do you avoid the pitfalls? Here are five tips to bear in mind when using 360 degree feedback as a method and tool.

1. Using the right tool. Many 360 degree feedback tools are not customised for use in the type of organisations in which they are used, leading to problems of validity and reliability. It is of vital importance that the right tool is used, or the results generated will be useless. 

2. Manager involvement. Some 360 degree feedback projects are run by HR without managerial involvement. To ensure the success of the 360 degree feedback tool, the manager has to be onboard, and motivate and convince their team that this is a great thing! It is also vital for the manager to not be obsessed with who said what and instead focus on identifying big ticket items such as strengths that a team member needs to leverage or potential blind spots that he/she needs to work on. This, in turn, will dial up the manager’s effectiveness as a leader.

 3. Constructive rather than personal, strengths rather than weaknesses. The manager plays an important role training the staff in what kind of feedback should be given in order for the tool to work as it should. The feedback is indeed anonymous, but a good guideline is to avoid feedback you would not be able to provide in person.

 4. Confidentiality. People need to feel safe participating in the process of 360 degree feedback, and need to be certain that the feedback they provide will not come back and haunt them when it is time for their performance review.

 5. Follow-up plan. You may have selected the right 360 degree feedback tool, your implementation may be flawless, and you may have received great, constructive feedback. However, if there is no plan on what to do with the data you have collected, it will not be of much use. A plan and regular follow-up is needed. Remember, behavioral change is hard!

Keep our five tips in mind, and you will be well on your way towards more balanced feedback, that will in turn make you aware of the development needs in your organisation, and ultimately make your organisation more efficient and successful!

Have you been on the giving or receiving end of 360 degree feedback? What were your experiences? Please contribute to the conversation below.

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