I had a conversation recently with a company MD and he asked what we did; I explained about how we help organisations get feedback on individuals to help them develop and modify their behaviours through on-line 360 degree appraisal solutions.
He commented that he had already conducted a Myers Briggs (MBTI) analysis of the senior management team, citing strengths and weaknesses, so didn’t have any need to run a 360 process.
I can appreciate the comment, but it made me realise that there is still perhaps some confusion as to the place of these assessments and that of a 360 degree feedback process.
MBTI in my mind, is a great tool in providing an insight into the personality of an individual; their preferences, something of how they should interact with the world and others.
However, just because that is their designated ‘profile’, it doesn’t necessarily translate into actual behaviour; who they ‘are’ may not give us what they ‘do’.
360 degree feedback is all about what an individual does, day-to-day, and what the impact is of those behaviours and actions on those around them.
It allows an individual to see how others perceive them and make a decision as to what they wish to modify in their behaviour and what they are happy with.
So, I think personality assessments are a neat way to raise self-awareness, but nothing quite hits home the way feedback does from your colleagues, direct reports and boss.
There is a fascinating article in “Non profit quarterly” on Peak Performance: Nonprofit Leaders Rate Highest in 360-Degree Reviews
The article looks at scores for leaders in non-profit organisations and compares them with scores from leaders in profit organisations.
My instinct is that they have found something that is correct but their methodology disturbs me. First, they have averaged scores over what I assume is categorical data from a 360 degree appraisal. This is fraught with challenges that I have written on separately.
More importantly they have assumed that the people rating the leaders are rating them in the same way. Bearing in mind the nature of the article is to suggest differences between leaders in profit and non-profit organisations they have assumed that the direct reports and peers hold their leaders to exactly the same benchmarks.
When you delve into the article you find that the self-assessments of both sets of leaders are very similar. The article’s authors suggest this is because the leaders are harder on themselves in non-profit organisations. An alternative explanation is that the self-appraisal in both sides is the accurate one and it is the raters who are rating ‘inaccurately’.
The article is extremely interesting – and I do suspect that the conclusions have some merit – but using 360 data in this manner is not something Bowland Solutions would advocate without some health warnings.
I read this blog post and it has some good points – the timing section is something I generally agree with.
I would though emphasise the narrative element of the 360 degree feedback. The behavioural rating scales are useful for giving us a simple view of how people perceive our behaviours but life is more complex that a 5 point rating scale can ever hope to reflect.
The narrative element of 360 degree appraisals gives your colleagues the opportunity to explain their responses and give evidence that allows you to review their feedback in an objective manner. Bowland Solutions‘ most common question is “Please provide comments, evidence, examples that support your responses above”. (Originally provided to us through a partner, Peter Hyde ).
The narrative element is used differently by direct reports, bosses, and peers. The language used be each rating grouping can be quite different. But that is what we do experience in the work place – and the narrative element of the 360 feedback gives the recipient rich information that supports the indications provided by the rating scores.
One of the reasons to keep the 360 questionnaire tight is to offer time within it for raters to give their narrative feedback – including a final set of questions that allows them to give additional feedback.
I was reading a NY times article on line which appears to come from www.allbusiness.com. The article considers self reviews as part of annual performance reviews.
The key thrust of the argument is that self reviews place the individual in the driving seat of their review and in doing so a more honest appraisal is achieved. I wouldn’t go along with some of the issues identified with the manager appraising, but I would support the hypothesis that the individual themselves is best placed to assess their own performance.
One key benefit not highlighted in the article and one that is pertinent to both annual appraisals and 360 degree feedback is that a person’s self awareness is a critical determinant of their abilities at work. In John Whitmore’s Coaching for Performance book he notes that the first key element of coaching is raising Awareness. Awareness being what empowers the individual to follow the classic GROW coaching model.
By looking at a self review, or considering the relationship between a self appraisal and other feedback in 360 degree appraisals, a coach or line manager gains a great insight into a person’s self-awareness.
I only want to touch on one element of anonymity today. The anonymity of the manager.
In most 360 degree appraisal implementations the manager is identifiable. They have a separately identified line in the behavioural feedback (ratings) and they have a separately identified line in any narrative. A recent client of ours asked – and we obliged – that the manager’s responses were merged with the peers.
I am uncertain about this approach. It works for this client and is appropriate for a variety of reasons, but in general the relationship your manager has with you is a distinct relationship and bundling their scoring/commentary in with others’ is likely to lose valuable information.
Bowland Solutions has to be flexible to client needs but we will retain as best practice that the manager rating is kept separate.
A recent project had me very closely involved in not only the design and introduction of an online 360 degree feedback solution, but also in advising the client as to how such a system should be talked about with their employees.
We are very passionate about the fact that introducing 360 degree feedback as a process or even migrating a performance review system on-line will only succeed if you manage to communicate the benefits and allay the concerns of your staff.
Implementing these new processes constitutes a significant change for many people, and as with any change in an organisation, it has to be well managed.
That means you need to consistently, clearly and regularly communicate the change; why it is happening, how it will happen, and what the benefits are to both the individual, the line manager and the company as a whole.
As soon as you look at introducing on-line 360 degree feedback and performance appraisals in this way, you are already well on your way to having a successful launch that will ensure the organisation reaps the most from the practice.
I saw this interesting note within a wikipedia link on 360 degree feedback.
‘A study on the patterns of rater accuracy shows that how long the raterhas known the person has the most effect on the accuracy of a360-degree review. The study shows that subjects in the group “knownfor one to three years” are the most accurate, followed by “known forless than one year,” followed by “known for three to five years” andthe least accurate being “known for more than five years.” The studyconcludes that the most accurate ratings come from knowing the personlong enough to get past first impressions, but not so long as to beginto generalize favorably’
The original citation is shown on the wikipedia article. We’ll be looking at this ourselves and incorporating it in our own 360 degree appraisal recommendations at Bowland Solutions if it has a strong basis.
Sometimes when we are asked to participate in a tender process for an on-line performance appraisal or 360 degree feedback solution, we usually have a list of ‘essential requirements’ and ‘desirable requirements’.
Recently, I was responding to one of these and saw to my dismay that on the list of ‘essentials’ was the need to provide a ‘Profanity Filter’ – I understand that no organisation wishes to have a 360 degree appraisal process undermined by people using bad language or writing insulting personal statements of dubious nature, but to try and have the system police that is the proverbial sledghammer to a nut.
In our experience, the use of bad language is all but non-existent, and by the time you have successfully communicated the fact that a respondents comments are going to be displayed ‘verbatim’ to the intended recipient, any last chance that someone will swear or label someone inappropriately, disappears.
If there really is a fear that users will use bad language in this way, there is surely a bigger issue at hand; one that no online appraisal system can remedy.
A large client of ours uses our 360 degree appraisal system to support a large-scale leadership development programme. The roll-out of that programme is coming to an end and they are looking to use 360 degree feedback on an ongoing basis.
They wish, first, to ensure that the 360 allows them to measure the effectiveness of the training initiative and let the managers involved compare their current 360 feedback against their prior feedback.
Second, they wish to use the 360 as an element of their performance appraisal – linked indirectly to pay.
This latter move has led us to recommend that they stop and immediately review the purpose and principles behind the 360. While there are well document reservations around linking a 360 degree appraisal with pay it is our role to assist the client in effectively using the 360 and I do not believe a link with pay has to be an impediment to good feedback. However, a developmental 360 degree appraisal is different from an evaluative one – at least in the eyes of the people giving that feedback.
We are going to host a review session with the client and I am looking forward to reviewing the impact on reporting, communication and process. As ever, we will start with “what is the purpose of obtaining the 360 degree feedback”.