Why and How to Use 360 Degree Feedback (Guest Post)
While the start of a year always brings the excitement of new beginnings there are always some remaining tasks to put the past year to bed. One of those tasks for those in the workforce is a performance review. Many people dread a performance review because it can be considered very one-sided, the manager reviews the employee, and getting reviewed is not always a positive experience. While performance reviews are vital, they don’t always provide feedback that leads to the development of the employee. Typically, a standard job review is focused on the performance of an employee in their current job and not much more. The answer to at least this problem, is to make the reviews more multi-directional or as it is aptly named a “360-degree feedback”. 360-degree feedback differs from your normal performance reviews because it does not just gather information on an employee from his/her supervisor. Instead, people at all levels of the employees’ work environment are asked to evaluate the subject’s performance.
This type of performance review is more beneficial than one provided by only a manager because it helps the review subject learn several perspectives on their performance in the workplace. Studies differ on how many people to include in a 360-degree feedback, but more importantly than the quantity is the quality of the feedback. Feedback should only be collected from people that have direct experience working with the subject. 360-degree feedback used properly will provide employees with how they are viewed by their peers, supervisors, and any other group they work with. This input will allow employees to take action to improve on their weaknesses and better utilize their strengths.
360-degree feedback is not a new concept, but in the past it has been quite difficult to implement and manage. Where in a traditional performance review process, the HR team needs to collect input from just a manager about each employee, in a 360 process this needs to be multiplied by whatever amount for peer inputs. Done with pen and paper or by physical interviews this can end up being quite complex. The proliferation of online survey tools has made this process significantly easier since the HR team simply needs to make one survey for each employee and allow all peer inputs to be gathered on the single survey. This can even be done with the free version of most of the popular survey tools. Using a paid level of a survey tool like SurveyMonkey, FluidSurveys, or Qualtrics even allows the HR team to use one 360 degree survey like this for the entire company and just use different URL’s to collect the results for each employee. This allows for quick comparison of feedback in aggregate or drilled down to the team or employee level.
Having an easy to deploy feedback process won't only make the HR team happy, but it will also lead to happier employees. A well implemented 360-degree feedback system will lead to more accurate feedback reflecting of real performance rather than just a view from a manager. In addition, it removes a particular challenge in a manager only performance review which could be based on a manager’s most recent experience with an employee. The pointed output of 360-degree feedback will be more useful for the employee as they work on improving their performance at work.
Here are some key things to remember as you develop your 360-degree surveys:
- Ensure confidentiality – Employees are more likely to be candid in the survey if they are assured that their responses are confidential if they so desire.
- Provide training –Don’t expect everyone to just figure out how to answer the surveys. Even digital natives from the millennial generation could use some help navigating an online survey process. A lack of training could lead to frustrated employees and even poor reviews if the data is not collected properly. Set aside company meetings for training or share online tutorials via email.
- Determine who can participate in a feedback loop – The peer component is a very important part of the 360-degree process, so spend some time determining what qualifies as a a peer. Is it a teammate, a work friend, anyone that interacts with the employee? Some companies accept nominations from the employees while also asking the managers for feedback on who should be considered a peer.
- Analyze the data against benchmarks – How people answer surveys can be very dependent both on national and company culture. When analyzing the data, seek out benchmarks both internally and externally.
- Give constructive feedback in person or over the phone if necessary – Results from the survey should not just be delivered electronically. Ideally, managers should sit down with employees and share with them the most important parts of the feedback. Areas of improvement should be balanced against areas of praise.
- Use the feedback to develop a plan – ultimately the goal of the feedback is not just to give a report, but to develop a plan for an even better review the following year. Discuss specific ideas of improvement from the survey, and make a plan to have regular check-ins on progress.
360-degree feedback is undoubtedly more difficult to manage than a typical manager-employee performance review; however, the value of the feedback is infinitely better. Organizations have not just been astounded by the difference in employee attitudes and performance when they utilize 360-degree feedback, but they also find that employees are far happier with the process. If your organization is not already using a 360-degree process, it might be a worthwhile experiment to test it on a specific team and measure employee performance a few months down the road. You just might find it can transform your workforce.
Eli Schwartz is the Director of Marketing, APAC for SurveyMonkey, the world’s largest online survey platform. He oversees SurveyMonkey’s marketing efforts in the Asia Pacific region. In addition, he leads the company’s global SEO efforts and strategies across 17 languages. SurveyMonkey serves over 25 million customers worldwide, including 99% of the Fortune 500, and collects over 3 million online survey responses daily.