Building on strengths within 360 degree feedback

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We recently conducted a number of face-to-face 360 feedback debriefs and was mindful of the growing interest in ‘Applied Positive Psychology‘ and how it promotes a different way of thinking about ourselves and others in the workplace.

In essence, it is concerned with the strengths a person displays and how they can be best deployed within their role, and potentially capitalised on beyond their current position.

The feedback people receive is always full of strengths and these can often be forgotten as the ‘development areas’ are sought out, with an overwhelming desire to ‘fix things’.

It is important to dwell on the strengths, understand them, explore them, celebrate them and consider how they can best put to use.

We will often add these strengths into any personal development plan and encourage the recipient to consider actions which will bring these to the fore as well as address any developmental needs.

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360 degree appraisal completion rates

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For whatever reason we have a number of our clients all coming to the end of a 360 degree appraisal process at the same time.  We are therefore looking at completion rates, deciding on what makes a quorum, deciding how hard to chase respondents all at the same time.  I happened yesterday to be reviewing our website copy with John and one of the phrases we were looking at was “improved completion rates”.

What is a good completion rate?  The answer is simple but not always helpful!  You need enough feedback to give the recipient a rounded set of responses.  I believe the minimum you need is 7 responses.  1 manager, 1 self, and 5 from others.  So – if you have asked for 8 people to respond then you need to get near the 90% mark.  As I mentioned in a previous post, we are seeing increasing numbers of respondents and so 75% may be fine.  These numbers answer “what is enough” – they do not answer “what is great”.

Our clients regularly hit 95% completion rates.  I believe this has great benefits to the process.  It indicates value, it suggests the correct people have been selected and those respondents value the feedback they are giving.  It demonstrates commitment and sets the standard for another year.  Last year, a client achieved 97% completion for 1,200 360 degree appraisal recipients.  That’s over 10,000 appraisal forms completed.  It is the second year they’ve hit those sort of numbers.

As well as Bowland Solutions ensuring that we provide a very easy-to-use system, I believe the high completion rate is because the 360 feedback is used as part of an overall HR process which is valued by all concerned.  And, in particular, it leads to a set of training outcomes that are rigorously followed up on.

Brendan

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Sharing your 360 degree appraisal

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360 degree feedback can be very personal – often our clients are very concerned with anonymity and security of access.  That can make sense – feedback feels something that should be confidential.

What also makes sense is that we need to share the 360 feedback with someone if we want to learn from it, debate it, and get context for it.

Often the feedback is shared with the manager – organisations often enforce this.  We regularly see clients that are looking for an external person (either from outside of the organisation or outside of the line) to debrief the feedback.

Strong managers will share their feedback with their team.  An open approach to reviewing the report encourages the team to see the manager as capable of taking feedback and discussing it positively and constructively.

Paper reports are excellent for this (as a person with a foot in the IT camp I am forever amazed by what paper can do!).  The standard IT way of handling portability is to use a PDF format and we recently enhanced our 360 degree appraisal software to allow the reports to be produced and saved in PDF formats.  Our recipients can now email their feedback to others and be confident in how the report will be presented to them.  As ever, we didn’t do this because we could, we did it because sharing 360 feedback is a positive, useful exercise and our software should support it.

Brendan

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It’s Performance Review time again…..and again…and again…

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There are many articles around at the moment referring to the fact that it is traditionally this time of year when many organisations conduct their annual performance reviews – a process which can leave many managers and employees feeling that it is all a ‘tick box’ exercise that must be endured.

This recent article in the Wall Street Journal cites a company conducting reviews once a week; now whilst this might be too much for many companies, it does highlight a very different approach to annual appraisals, and one that we are being increasingly asked to accomodate with our online performance appraisal systems.

Aside to having the annual review forms and Personal Development Plans (PDPs) within the system, there is a growing desire to have open performance journals or logs which can capture ongoing activity and performance issues.

This can be used for interim reviews, continual assessment or simply to help act as an ‘aide memoir’ for an individual when they come to complete their self-evaluation.

Whatever the purpose, it no doubt put performance at the forefront of an employee’s mind but also serves to improve the dialogue between line managers and their team members, having meaningful conversations more often then just with the once-a-year ritual so often followed.

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Getting feedback on the 360 process

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An Indiana based client of ours has asked us to put in place a survey following the 360 degree appraisal process with them that gains feedback from participants in how things have gone.

Bowland Solutions always recommend that this task is completed but it has taken a client of ours to actually get us to make it a part of the appraisal software. 

The inclusion of a simple questionnaire at the end of the process offers you the opportunity to review procedure, questions, and the value people found in both giving and receiving the feedback.

Not for the first time, we will be improving our software based on a client’s idea!

Brendan

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360 degree appraisal for large teams

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I wrote a post yesterday on 360 degree feedback for very large teams.  I was discussing a law firm client today with a colleague and it struck me that law firms are a perfect example of this phenomenon.  Often working in virtual teams and in very flat structures there are real opportunities for garnering feedback from a variety of sources on a more regular basis.

Sounds like this will be a topic at the next Bowland Solutions get together!

Brendan

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360 degree appraisals for very large teams

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I attended an ICT conference this morning.  The first two speakers were from CISCO and IBM respectively.  Sometimes it amazes me that IBM still exists but that is another story.  Anyway, the talks given were fairly unspectacular.  But, during both of the talks reference was made to how these organisations were having to build internal work infrastructures to support collaboration.

Cisco in particular emphasised how they had moved from ‘hierarchical management’ to ‘command and control’ and finally to collobarative team working over the last 10 years.  This chimed with some of the changes we have been seeing in 360 degree feedback over the years.  When we first started, you would find people wanted their direct reports to give feedback and “a couple of peers”.  Over time the peer group has become larger but generally 4-5 is normal.  In the last year though we have had a number of clients looking for over 20 peers to give their responses.  This matches a move to collaborative working.

Indeed one of our most recent clients – a very large healthcare provider in the US – is looking to categorise people very differently in the 360 degree appraisals that they are conducting.  Rather than categorising by relationship they are categorising by department.  From Bowland Solutions’ perspective we are having to review our reports to ensure that they give good analysis from such a wide source of people.

One thought – and used by one of our clients – is that we should source our feedback on a regular basis from the teams we have become part of rather than on an annual basis.

Brendan

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Going beyond the 360 Degree Feedback PDP

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Often when working with our clients, particularly with senior management, we help them with the one-to-one debriefs; the session where you share the feedback with the recipient for the first time.

During this session, as well as getting a balanced view of the 360 feedback, the hope is that they will begin the process of creating a ‘Personal Development Plan’ or PDP.

This will highlight any strengths that could be better deployed, and naturally any development areas they wish to work on.

Whilst this is an invaluable exercise for the individual leader, there is an opportunity beyond this to work with the whole leadership team in unison and create a ‘Team Development Plan’ as well.

By aggregating the results of all the senior managers in the leadership team, we can see the wider picture of development needs; ideally this report, should be shared just as one would share an individual’s report i.e. Face-to-face with the group.

In this way, you conduct a ‘group debrief’ and together they can see their collective strengths and development areas, before collectively agreeing how to tackle their development areas.

This is an important step, because whilst individually they could simply attend to their own development, it wouldn’t necessarily address issues that exist between people.

The use of aggregated reporting with 360 degree feeback helps raise levels of awareness beyond the individual and highlight issues that run company wide.

John

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Managed service for 360 degree feedback

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In a previous career I ran an outsourcing facility for HSBC.  We handled the administration of motor and household insurance policies for a variety of organisations including BMW, First Direct, and Fiat.  The argument for outsourcing has always been that you should concentrate on your core strengths and outsource the non-core work.  If I recall my MBA correctly the starting point for this was a Harvard Business Review article by Hamel and Pralahad.

Anyway, when Bowland was first created I was careful to avoid a suggestion that we were an outsourcer.  By then outsourcers had a poor reputation and I would have fought to the death any suggestion that a company should outsource HR.  If managing and developing your own people isn’t a core strength then you have problems!

Recently though a number of companies have approached us to manage the 360 degree appraisal process for them.  They are not looking to hand over the appraisal exercise  – they just want to hand off the administration.  In continuing my theme on how Bowland Solutions‘ handle the 360 process I want to draw out the possibility of handing over the administration to a 3rd party.

The benefits of using a managed service are

  • the provider should be skilled at driving completion rates
  • you should be free to support the initiative rather than administer it
  • for some organisational cultures a 3rd party provides comfort around anonymity and confidentiality
  • you should save costs compared with doing it yourself

360 degree feedback can be a highly bureaucratic process.  The introduction of a system is a good start in reducing that burden.  But a further step to a managed service can provide a highly efficient method of ensuring an annual process is seen as worthwhile and not a chore.

Brendan

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Performance Management and Generation Y

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A recent series of articles in Personnel Today focussed on the new generation of graduates and school leavers entering work, often termed ‘Generation Y’ employees.

Despite making me feel very old, although falling somewhere just within the ‘Gen X’ bracket, the article did make some interesting points that highlight how a convergence of familiarity with technology coupled with a desire to have regular feedback, means that ‘Gen-Y’ers’ will expect a very different kind of management in the future.

It will become less and less acceptable to sit down at the end of the year and conduct a single  ‘Annual Appraisal’; already we are seeing our clients implementing ‘Interim Reviews’, ‘Project Reviews’ and alike, which happen throughout the year.

The transition to online performance review systems will make this process infinitely more easy than a paper-based process, and employees will expect this to become the norm, especially when technology is so prevalent in other areas of their life.

Taking this further, the ability to have web-based applications accessible from anywhere, is leading our performance appraisal solutions to now offer a ‘Performance Journal’ or ‘Activity Log’ which acts as a simple open document which both an individual and their line manager can complete throughout the year.

They add activities, acheivements, thoughts, apsirations, so that when they come to complete the necessary annual appraisal form, it is no longer a chore but simply an opportunity to reflect and easily consolidate into a better representation of their work during the year.

Gen-Y’ers will help line managers re-evaluate how they should properly performance manage for organisational success.

John

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