How Your Business Can Benefit Most from 360-Degree Feedback
According to an article in Forbes Magazine, more than 85% of Fortune 500 companies are using the 360-degree feedback process as a cornerstone of their leadership development process. The fact that more than eight out of ten successful organizations use it to develop management talent says a lot about its value.
Although the name is self-explanatory, using 360-degree feedback in business does not always produce the desired results. It requires knowledge, clear objectives, upper management support, and specific implementation strategies.
Defining 360-Degree Feedback
Opinions are, by nature, subjective, and can be tinged with everything from jealousy and resentment to admiration and friendship. However, when an assortment of opinions is gathered and blended together, several recurring themes and relevant observations emerge – all of which can be used to create a more focused professional development plan.
If you’re considering adopting a performance improvement program for your employees – especially managers and organizational leaders – a workplace feedback program can provide you with a useful range of constructive suggestions, perspectives, and ideas.
A good starting point to launching a targeted survey about specific employees would be to define “360-degree feedback”. The Ascent, a Motley Fool company, defines 360-degree feedback as “a holistic review process in which employees receive performance feedback from multiple raters, such as managers, direct reports, colleagues, peers, and customers, as well as self-evaluation”.
The Benefits of 360-Degree Feedback
To create a complete picture of a manager’s effectiveness as a leader, it is necessary to obtain a full spectrum of feedback. As an example of why this is beneficial, annual performance reviews, alone, do not always shed sufficient light on important things like the quality of working relationships – especially between managers and those they direct.
By including non-management personnel in the feedback loop, rather than just colleagues, you’re gaining insight into the quality and content of communication between managers and their employees. When you identify flaws in working relationships and unmet needs among team members, this gives managers the information they need to adjust their communication style.
One of the many benefits of 360-degree feedback is that it gives workers a forum in which to air their thoughts and feelings about their boss. This process accomplishes three important things:
- It addresses and counteracts a common complaint among workers that they are not listened to by management and that their opinions don’t count.
- It provides managers with important clues about how they can improve either their own job performance or that of team members.
- And the self-awareness that managers and management prospects gain from the evaluation process helps them feel good about their strengths while providing direction for overcoming or compensating for weaknesses.
The benefits of 360-degree feedback are far reaching, according to leadership development consultant Jack Zenger, who states: “We know from hundreds of studies that as leadership effectiveness increases, so does the retention of valued employees, customer satisfaction, profitability, productivity, and employee engagement”.
Feedback Pitfalls to Avoid
Let’s look at some difficulties that may arise when implementing this kind of feedback at work.
A Lack of Accountability: A candid employee and manager discussion of 360-degree survey results and at least one planned follow-up meeting is often necessary to ensure that feedback is taken seriously and incorporated into an action plan. The ideal scenario would involve an employee working with an HR coach, an immediate supervisor, or colleague to draft a professional development plan based on survey ratings and feedback received.
Allowing a Negative Tone to Prevail: The overriding purpose of 360-degree feedback is to provide organization leaders and other select staff with positive reinforcement and constructive criticism. When the tone of the feedback becomes judgmental and excessively critical, it detracts from the benefits of the program. Reminding survey participants about the objectives of 360-degree evaluations will increase the likelihood that comments will be diplomatic, balanced, and constructive.
Confidentiality Issues: As Alchemer, a survey software company, points out, confidentiality is vital to the success of a 360-degree evaluation. They advise that an organization’s staff should not be given access to reviews that their coworkers or colleagues wrote. “The point of these reviews,” they say, “is not to embarrass anyone, but to promote positive growth”.
Tips to Obtain Valuable Feedback
Surveying employees, colleagues, and other associates who interact with managers can be a valuable method of identifying problem areas and enhancing or fixing working relationships.
One of the challenging aspects of conducting 360-degree evaluations is getting everyone to participate in a timely and candid way. The keys to overcoming these potential stumbling blocks are to use relatively short surveys and emphasize to participants the mutual benefits of gathering diverse, constructive, and honest feedback.
Employees generally appreciate opportunities to express their feelings about managers, the way they’re treated, and positive workplace experiences. By reminding them that their feedback is both anonymous and highly valued, maximum participation can be achieved — especially when employees realize they’re being offered the chance to contribute to positive change.
Interestingly, any concerns about feedback being belligerent, toxic, or demeaning is largely unfounded. As Jack Zenger says in the Harvard Business Review, “We’re happy to say that after decades of conducting and reviewing thousands of 360-degree feedback reports, we almost never see messages that are intentionally barbed or mean-spirited”.
Best Practices for 360-Degree Feedback in Business
There are several keys to making the most of 360-degree evaluations, all of which are covered in our 8-lesson video course. It provides a detailed overview on how to select raters, collect feedback, analyze data, and use it to your organization’s best advantage.
This KnowledgeCity video series offers actionable tips on gathering feedback, things to avoid with 360-degree feedback, and best practices for data analysis. Whether you are new to 360-degree evaluations or have implemented them before, this course provides a framework for improving employee performance and adding value to your organization.
We also offer an intermediate course in implementing 360-degree feedback strategies. It focuses on several key topics, including asking the right questions in surveys and gaining leadership support for the initiative. The importance of leadership buy-in and developing an effective employee progress-tracking system are among the focal points of this 6-lesson video course on work performance feedback.
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