360-degree feedback is a comprehensive performance feedback strategy for employees. Traditionally, performance feedback was solely given by the employee’s direct superior. In 360 degree feedback, however, anonymous feedback is given by a range of individuals that the employee has a working relationship with. These include managers, colleagues, and in some cases, customers.
Understanding 360-degree feedback
In the evaluation itself, the employee is judged against certain behavioral, competency, and result-based criteria. Since this form of feedback involves consulting many people, a well-rounded opinion of the employee in question is formed. In turn, this guides future decisions in human resource management – such as who should be promoted, transferred, terminated, or earn a performance bonus.
Implementing 360-degree feedback
A performance questionnaire should first be distributed to the relevant participants by following these steps:
- Select 6-10 participants who can give an accurate and detailed evaluation of the employee. Remember to keep the evaluation anonymous.
- Group participants according to the nature of their relationship with the employee. For example, clients, colleagues, and customers.
- Survey questions should be open-ended and address core competencies such as leadership and communication.
- The employee receiving evaluation should also answer the same set of questions. For best results, consider hiring an external agency to manage the evaluation process.
After the evaluation has been completed, it’s important that:
- Feedback is presented in a report highlighting areas for improvement.
- The information is used to provide direction for employee development plans.
- Survey participants must be adept at providing objective and constructive criticism.
- Support is offered to the employee to assist in professional development.
Strengths and weaknesses of 360-degree feedback
There are many strengths to this comprehensive strategy. Some of the more pertinent are listed below.
- Increases employee self-awareness. Instead of simply being judged according to predetermined performance metrics, employees gain valuable insight into their personality, motivations, and strengths and weaknesses.
- Encourages continuous improvement. 360-degree feedback emphasizes an incremental and collaborative approach to performance improvement. With less of a focus on hitting large milestones, the employee feels confident and empowered to meet personal goals gradually.
- Suitable for large organizations with decentralized workforces. In larger businesses, many employees are autonomous and do not have much interaction with direct supervisors. This form of feedback ensures that employees get access to fair and constructive feedback.
However, there are some weaknesses to 360-degree feedback:
- Conflicting feedback. With such a wide and varied range of participants consulted, it is perhaps inevitable that survey answers will contradict each other.
- Non-specific questions. If survey questions are poorly designed, then the questions do not give any valuable insights that can be assessed quantitatively. In some cases, employees may also not be adequately trained in giving performance evaluation.
- Vulnerable to manipulation. Some employees may deliberately target colleagues they’ve not enjoyed a sound working relationship with. Others may provide answers with the sole intent of winning the employee in question a promotion or raise.
- 360-degree feedback allows an employee to receive a comprehensive performance evaluation from managers, peers, colleagues, and customers.
- 360-degree feedback relies on quantitative data in survey answers to guide future direction on human resource management.
- 360-degree feedback is process-centric and gives employees valuable personal insights. However, it is not immune to exploitation and manipulation by interested parties.
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