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Why 360-Degree Feedback Should Be Part Of Your Performance Management Best Practices

Posted by Sarah Lindner on September 4, 2017

In order to improve employee performance and thus ensure a company’s success in the long run, it is important that employees receive regular and concrete feedback. Over the past 30 years, 360-degree feedback has become one of the most important methods for the assessment of behaviors and competencies of managers and employees. 

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This form of feedback provides a number of advantages, but it also involves risks. After all, the efficiency of a method always depends on its’ optimum implementation.

Why 360-Degree Feedback? – A Clear Distinction To The Traditional Assessment

Around 80 percent of management´s work time is spent in discussions and meetings with functionaries, i.e. staff, sales, administration and quality assurance, or with customers and employees. A realistic assessment of behavior, working methods and success is therefore often only possible to a very limited extent for the direct supervisor; consequently, the conversation more often than not, does not meet the desired objectives. In contrast, the holistic feedback model pursues a more diversified approach: In addition to self-assessment, our own behavior and our own expertise from several different points of view are also considered. This includes both employees and colleagues, as well as superiors and customers. In essence, traditional feedback and 360-degree feedback follow the same goal: Increasing productivity through employee- and ultimately customer- satisfaction.

Self-Image vs. External Image: The Advantages Of Holistic Feedback In Detail

Through the great variety of opinions drawn upon, a comprehensive and objective overall picture of the working method and behavior of professionals and executives can be obtained. Thus, a light is not only shone upon the employee´s own assessment (self-image), but the opinions of the entire working environment (external image) are also considered. Often, significant differences between self-image and public image can be found. The 360-degree feedback takes these discrepancies into account and includes them in the overall assessment. This way, employees and managers can better steer and optimize their behavior and way of working: self-image and public image converge. Colleagues who work within similar levels of responsibility, provide their feedback in the same manner as customers and employees. The result is a complete picture from which the managers can work out developmental and success strategies together with their employees. Whereas previously feedback was obtained by means of paper questionnaires, nowadays specialized software offers a modern cloud solution for the implementation of more efficient and more reliable feedback processes.

Risks Of The 360-Degree Feedback With Regards To Leadership Development

If the method of the 360-degree assessment is not handled professionally, some risks could arise:

  • Employees must always be ensured that the feedback is conducted anonymously. This guarantee can solely be established over time: If 360 -degree feedback is successfully performed several times, the trust of employees will increase.
  • Lack of transparency: The survey results should be discussed and evaluated with the receiver of the feedback. This is to avoid feedback misinterpretation – for instance an unfair bias of only acknowledging strengths or neglecting weaknesses.
  • The meaning and purpose of the feedback session should be clearly defined in advance for everybody, so that it will be constructive in nature.
  • A further potential danger is failing to implement the feedback in practice: If no developmental plan is set up and no visible consequences of the actual reviews are drawn out, it may reduce overall acceptance. Additionally, dealing with feedback in such manner will only stunt manager development.

How Should 360-Degree Feedback Ideally Be Carried Out?

Like any feedback discussion, the main objective of 360-degree feedback is initially the evaluation, followed by the development of management and leadership skills. The 360-degree feedback should ideally be used in companies that are already established and in which the feedback culture has become integrated. Introducing the all-round assessment should also be accompanied by comprehensive communication to increase acceptance among executives. Furthermore, the objectives should be clearly defined: All participants are expected to utilize their strengths to make a measurable contribution to the economic success of the company in the context of a personal development plan. Management and leadership skills should also be formulated as concretely as possible and be clearly related to the company’s goals, so both acceptance and chances of success increase.

Customer Feedback From Inside And External Points Of View

Important also is the inclusion of internal and external customers: As part of the 360-degree feedback, they have the opportunity to influence the professional and personal behavior of their contact person within the company, i.e. the assessee. In this way, the employee becomes familiar with his or her strengths and weaknesses from a wider angle and can make more targeted use of said strengths when in contact with customers. At the same time, the company receives an assessment on customer satisfaction. Thus, the 360-degree feedback also serves as a tool for quality assurance.

Employee Feedback To Supervisors: Anonymity Absolutely Recommended

Depending on the business climate, it is conducive to gather feedback on an anonymous basis. It is not common for employees to evaluate their supervisors openly in every company. Anonymous assessment is an appropriate tool to obtain honest and authentic opinions. However, the specialist or manager should encourage their employees to give concrete feedback in certain situations in order to consolidate a relationship based on trust. Only with the aid of such a regular, transparent and honest feedback, a kind of early warning system, can managers quickly respond and manage processes accordingly.

These Aspects Should Be Taken Into Account For The 360-Degree Assessment:

  • The anonymity of feedback providers should always be ensured in order to obtain the most honest and authentic results as possible
  • The inquired competencies must be derived from the economic goals of the company and understandable for everyone
  • Feedback givers should name the competencies and illustrate them with concrete examples from daily work
  • This should be followed by the creation and implementation of a plan for leadership development
  • The results should then be discussed with the feedback recipient, in order to strengthen mutual trust
  • Personal and economic objectives should be determined together

Topics: Feedback

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