Pictures, numbers, statistics in 360 feedback

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A recent trend in client requests to us is for a variety of report formats within the 360 degree appraisal report.

Within one report we are being asked more often to include tabulations, statistical analysis, bar charts, and pie charts.

It strikes me that some reports are becoming committee driven.  In our recommended process for 360 feedback we often recommend starting with the report as working backwards.  What is it that we want to show to the recipient of feedback – what is it that will offer them the best chance of understanding the feedback they have been given.

The danger is that we try and offer very route for the feedback – a graph for those who like pictures, percentages for the statisticians, and a composite report for those who like to see the whole picture.

As ever, each individual client request has sensible merits and we deliver to that request.  But as a trend for all of our clients we would encourage that "less is more" in 360 feedback reports.


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Asking too much of the annual appraisal

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I’ve been doing some research for a white paper we are writing on Best Practice in Performance Appraisals.  I came across an article written for a 2004 conference on performance appraisals.

The authors suggest that performance appraisals are often asked to fulfill the following goals

  • feedback
  • coaching
  • goal setting
  • skill development
  • pay determination
  • legal documentation
  • employee comparison
  • layoff selection

We often see these composite forms.  If this is all part of a one-off process then I would agree with the authors that the annual performance review is going to struggle to cope.  That said, all of these items look valid to me.  So, we need to tackle them but not in one go.

We often advocate separating forms out and having different sections stand on their own.  Skill development (or training needs) can stand alone and be completed perhaps initially as a follow on from an annual review but then updated throughout the year.  Development / feedback can be handled as part of a 360 degree appraisal process outside of the main annual performance appraisal.

As with our 360 degree appraisal white paper which you can register for from our website, we will make our performance appraisal white paper available to all of our newsletter subscribers.  More research to be done before I’m at that stage though!


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Anonymity and confidentiality in 360 degree appraisal

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I was reading a book "Leveraging the Impact of 360 degree feedback" and was interested in the author’s focus on anonymity.  For them 360 degree feedback required anonymity even to the extent that they saw a downside of narrative feedback being the potential for identifying raters.

One of our largest clients has just run 360 feedback where the raters were named.  I have not heard of any issues at all nor is it obvious that the ratings were effected by the lack of anonymity.

Our experience is that anonymity is more worried about than it is an issue in reality.  But confidentiality is crucial.  My report is confidential to me – how I rated someone else is something I’m usually more than happy to be exposed.

I believe this distinction is important.  If a rater needs to hide behind anonymity it implies they would be uncomfortable giving this feedback to the person directly.  We see 360 feedback’s potential in its ability to give rounded feedback in a straight-forward manner – we don’t see it as a route for people to say things they wouldn’t otherwise say.  We know that this happens and sometimes it is a good thing but generally anonymity is overplayed.

Keeping data and reports confidential is another story and crucial to the success of the process.


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Performance Reviews and Performance Management in todays climate

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 A recent survey published in Personnel Today highlighted how HR strategy is changing in the current climate with 72% prioritising performance management in businesses where changes were being implemented.

Those organisations that were adapting to the new environment, had shifted their emphasis from recruitment to retention – despite the overwhelming talk of organisations shedding jobs, there is a real effort for many companies to ensure they manage their existing employee base to best effect whilst imposing a recruitment freeze.

This means effective performance management, performance reviews, regular feedback and a need to fully engage employees in order to maximise their contribution and retain them.

The need to identify talent within an organisation, and then to successfully manage, develop & retain that talent should always be a priority; the current situation has simply brought this more sharply into focus.

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Performance appraisal and performance related pay

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Earlier, I was being interviewed by HR Zone as part of an item they are writing on performance appraisal best practice.  The results of that interview and the article will appear in their weekly note that comes out on Thursday.

One item in particular struck me during our discussion.  Performance appraisal is often inextricably linked to a pay review.  The grade drives the discussion or is "the elephant in the corner" during the review if it is held back.  But, if I wrote down what we were looking to achieve from the performance management process I’m not sure that we would want this distraction.  I’ll let the article come out before I expand in detail on my thoughts.

In the meantime, here is a thought for the day : "Do we need to link performance appraisals with pay?".


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White paper on 360 degree appraisal

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I recently brought together a number of 360 degree appraisal focused postings into a white paper "How to successfully implement a 360 Degree Feedback
process in your organisation" which we are making available to our email subscribers.

If you are interested in receiving the white paper, then please visit our website and register for the newsletter (a simple email sign up is on the front page).

Alternative email us on and say you’d like the white paper!


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360 Degree Feedback – Ah Ha Moments, and how to have more of them…

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With our eye firmly on how 360 degree feedback precipitates changed behaviours, the following article is a great insight into the neuroscience of change.

We are delighted to have our guest contributor, Lilliana Gibbs of Enthum Coaching, provide a very interesting article that illuminates how coaching and 360 degree feedback effectively support an individual to affect lasting change.

Ah Ha Moments, and how to have more of them

Changing behaviour within organisations is much more difficult that we like to think it is. Now thanks to the integration of psychology and neuroscience, we can see how the physiological nature of the brain predisposes people to resist some forms of leadership, and accept others.


The Neuroscience of Leadership by David Rock and Jeffrey Schwartz describes why persuasion doesn’t really work, and that despite the evidence of its ineffectiveness, the ‘carrot and stick’ approach remains as popular as ever. What has been discovered is that change is pain; it genuinely provokes discomfort and zaps our energy.

Our brains have developed a useful capacity to detect ‘errors’, those perceived differences between expectations and actuality. At the traffic lights we expect a green/orange/red sequence. So familiar, it requires minimal brain power. However, if the sequence skips orange, it jars with our expectation, and shows up on an MRI scan as increased activity in our amygdala or ‘old brain’, a spot closely connected to our fear circuitry. When activated, the amygdala draws metabolic energy away from the prefrontal lobe where our higher intellectual functioning is generated. This means that the unfamiliar and the new not only increase our discomfort and stress, but also decrease logical or higher thinking.

So what is the right way to go about facilitating organisational change?

The answer is to spend quality time and attention on new ideas, and sustain reminders and reinforcement until the mental circuitry changes, and the ideas are adopted.

The authors describe how the act of paying attention creates physical changes in the brain, and how our expectations shape reality. Repeated, purposeful and focussed attention can lead to self-awareness and ‘long lasting personal evolution’ or change.

The first step is to get people’s undivided attention. The brain’s prefrontal cortex requires concentration to process new information, so removing everyday routines to focus on something —such as an off-site workshop —provides an ideal environment. Once leaders have achieved attention, give people the big picture, the broad vision. Scientists are finding that our expectations and attitudes —our mental maps— actually define our experience. When allowed to focus, and given a vision, our brains are encouraged to contribute —to imagine opportunities and solutions. We are inspired to co-create the picture –—conditions ripe for moments of insight.

Brain scans show sudden bursts of high-frequency gamma waves just prior to moments of new understanding. This suggests a complex set of new connections is being created in the brain. With it comes a rush of adrenaline like neurotransmitters, providing a turbo charged feel-good energy. These ‘moments of insight’ are powerful motivators that counter resistance, and propel change.

One of the most effective ways of increasing these moments of insight is through one-on-one coaching that supports people to find their own answers and encourages self-awareness. Most people find it hard to hold onto new learning, and one study found that training alone increased productivity by 28%, but when follow-up coaching was added to the mix, increased productivity went up to 88%.

Positive feedback when managed skilfully is also a powerful reinforcer of behaviour, and a well-designed 360-feedback process is an effective tool for encouraging self-awareness. The brain recognises positive strokes as a reason to ‘do more of something’, and the act of focusing attention, supports an individual’s efforts on specific developmental issues.

Clearly, the more we learn about the phenomenon of change, the more effectively we can manage it and benefit, both personally and organisationally.

Lilliana Gibbs is a director of Enthum Coaching

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Employee performance review in a downturn

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I recently attended an HR event where the topic was ‘Leading HR in a recession’; a key point for me was that accurate employee performance appraisal information was critical in helping organisations through the downturn.

Hard choices will have to be made and priorities decided upon, but they should not be to the detriment of the organisation in the long term.

A way to ensure this is to base decisions upon good objective feedback (360 feedback or otherwise) and objective performance data…or as near to that nirvana as you can get.

Taking a more robust approach to performance management has never been more important as companies may have to face doing more with less.

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Effective Performance Management – A committment on both sides

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I recently posted a series of comments on other HR forums which had a common theme regarding what we believed underpinned effective performance management; consequently, it seemed appropriate to post a summary here.

It centered on the ability of an organisation to be able to motivate people to perform – not unsurprisingly, within a sales environment (as one post had realted to), the comments quickly turned to using well thought through commission structures that rewarded ‘good’ performance.

‘Good’ performance was seen as being that which resulted in sales and appropriate behaviour that was aligned with the company strategy long-term, rather than sales at any cost.

There is no doubt that reward plays a key factor within motivation of individuals, but as most commentators now conclude, it is but one element.

We suggested a methodical approach to performance management and performance review which tackled performance inhibiting factors from a simpler base level.

We believe that there are a series of ‘Enablers’ which an organisation must have in place that enable employees to perform to the best of their ability; these would include:

Clarity of job role, responsibilities and expectations – WHAT?
Knowledge and Skills to fufil their job role- HOW?
Clarity of how their job role fits into the ‘bigger picture’ – WHY?

It is suprising how often we see these 3 factors alone being responsible for underperformance – a lack of clarity and training can leave employees underperforming, despite being well rewarded and keen to do well.

Beyond these, we have a series of key questions that should be asked to determine if other ‘Enablers’ are in place – such as career development opportunities, line manager feedback, etc.

It is only when many other factors are exhausted, can motivation be truly looked at as something which is down to a level of ‘engagement’ on the part of the employee, and even then, the dreaded ‘He has a poor attitude’ factor appears way down the list of contributing factors!

Such questions can be extended beyond just performance reviews, to provide a powerful ‘Performance Engagement Survey‘, which we design for clients to offer a 360 degree appraisal of their whole companys performance capability.

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