A very thorough article on the origins, benefits, and process of 360 feedback can be found on Armando Justo’s blog.
If you are a little short of time, I have drawn forward the four findings of what makes 360 feedback successful:
1) Increase alignment with the organizational priorities and objectives: Competencies and behaviors measured with multi-source feedback processes must be linked to business objectives, facilitate organizational strategy, and/or cultivate leadership characteristics
2) Eliminate biases by selecting raters that are familiar with the employee
3) Ensure a shared understanding of rating standards and criteria to prevent confusion among raters and prevent error. Raters should receive preparatory training to ensure a proper understanding of competencies, rating criteria and typical rating errors
4) Support employees during and after the process with coaching or mentoring activities to facilitate full understanding of the process, deal with strong emotions that may occur, and prioritize learning actions.
1,2, and 4 are part of our standard 360 degree feedback process.
Item 3 is something that we handle partly through communication but this article has highlighted a personal concern that too often the rating standards of participants are not consistent. We don’t use averages too often (partly for this reason) but even so we will be looking at our processes, reporting structures, and communications to pick this item up more thoroughly and increase the accuracy of our feedback processes. Great blog post – useful learning points.
One of the key benefits in using an electronic performance review system is the ability to monitor progress quickly and accurately. As the information is all in a central database, a manager or adminstrator can run reports and see how things are going. This knowledge is vital in driving the process through to conclusion.
With this in mind, we have recently been taking steps to ensure that this information is as easy to access and relevant as possible. Rather than having to run a report on progress, we now offer the option of showing a ‘tree view’ of the organisation’s staff on the manager’s homepage.
Using the tree view, a manager can log in and see each member of staff who directly reports to them. Selecting a member of staff in the tree ‘expands’ their section to reveal the appraisal forms they have completed, and any subordinate staff who they have to appraise in turn. If a member of staff, and all of their reports, have completed the performance appraisal, the whole folder is highlighted in green.
This at-a-glance approach to progress monitoring means that your managers don’t have to dig through a report to see what the state of play is; the simple colour coding makes sure that nobody gets missed out. It also makes it easy to see the status of a large amount of staff very quickly.
Bowland Vanilla offers our clients the chance to run a non-branded 360 degree process for any number of recipients, being a fully managed on-line 360 feedback service it takes away the administrative burden from our clients.
Clients pick from a selection of competencies and behaviour questions (we’re happy to look over these if required), provide us with the recipient and respondent details and we do the rest. We send the invites, reminders, monitor the completion rate and let the client know how it’s all going at key stages of the process. When the 360 is over PDF reports are available on the same day that the final feedback is completed.
Feedback from clients has indicated that they have found the Bowland Vanilla process
- stress free
So as the Walker Brothers once sang ‘Make it easy on yourself…’
I just read this blog post on 360 feedback that broadly concludes that it is a waste of time.
I generally like posts like these because they make me challenge my own thinking. But then, the first part says that 360 only confirms the manager’s original prejudices. Frankly that is simplistic nonsense. First, 360 is for the recipient, not the manager. Second, 360 normally challenges all readers of the report : the recipient, the debriefer, and of course the manager. Finally, if a manager does have incorrect prejudices what do we advocate – ignore them and hope they go away.
The second point is worse. It suggests that people should just be left be – hoping that their moment will arrive. 360 feedback isn’t about driving people against hard targets and trying to get star performance every minute of the day – it is about looking at how people work and encouraging them to reflect on their behaviours. Talking to people about how things are going, looking at the impact their behaviour has on others and developing them is a good thing surely?
And, why it challenges diversity is beyond me. I can see a theoretical problem: we generate identikit employees by reviewing all the same behaviours, but really in practice I can’t think of any instance because people are not identikits. How they interpret a particular behaviour, respond to it, and look to deliver it is very different.
I’ll assume that this was just a controversial post to illicit interest – if so, then it worked on me. If not, then I’ll just move on.
An interest online article shows research that women underestimate their bosses opinion of their performance (it later confirms that this underestimation is not limited to their boss relationship). This is not a stereotypical article – there is some very interesting insights which are certainly new to me. I can’t confirm the merit of this research but what does interest me is that 360 feedback was used to determine the issue.
360 feedback could of course have been used to counter the problem. As well as raising self-awareness, 360 degree feedback also improves your awareness of how others see you. This can often be very revealing in the positive impact you are having and give confidence in your interaction with those around you.
The article is well worth a glance.
Interesting article in Personnel Today – which describes the behaviours that we want from our managers. 80% of people want their managers to use 360 degree feedback to evaluate their talents.
How interesting! Now, as we supply 360 degree feedback services we like the look of that statistic for our own purposes – but what drives it, I wonder. Let me come up with my ideas.
- More than ever, people believe their manager does not have a full view of them
- 360 degree feedback is viewed as fair and accurate (historic worries about it being used in a negative way have gone)
- More people have had 360 feedback in previous jobs and want it again in thier new role
- People want to give feedback on their manager – not negatively, they just want the opportunity.
The statistic reminds me of the Centre for Creative Leadership statistic research that says that most people are "feedback poor". If this rings a bell with you – then get in touch via the blog or website or email on email@example.com; we would love to have the opportunity to support you in getting 360 feedback going in your organisation.
I was presenting at a forum yesterday and I got one of those great insightful questions – "why are we doing this?". The questioner raised this perfectly – I had been advising on how to use 360 feedback and he wanted to first know why do we do 360 degree appraisals in the first place.
Here was my answer (I know the text book answer – here is why I think you should do it for real)
- Being self aware is a great starting point for most training / coaching / other personal development. 360 feedback is brilliant and giving people the information to increase self awareness.
- 360 feedback identifies blind spots that build up for people and stops them progressing.
- 360 degree appraisal shows people their strengths so it gives them the correct base from which to tackle development
- A well trained person can have a great conversation with you if they have a great 360 degree feedback report in front of them. This is incredibly powerful.
- For an organisation, a series of 360 degree feedback reports gives them a deep insight into where people need support to grow and improve performance.
(For anyone who attended – I’ve added the last one to the list now that I’ve had time to think it through!).
We have recently worked with a law firm for whom we have provided a full 360 service together with a HR consultant. That process has been a wonderful initiative to be a part of and has reminded me how powerful a tool 360 degree feedback really is. But, I hope I never forget to ask myself "why are we doing this?".
Performance related pay is an emotive topic. It is sometimes argued that if you want to make performance appraisals really difficult then you should link them to pay. But many people feel that linking pay to performance is just plain fair. We often contribute to our client’s discussion on these topics but we have to be very pragmatic here and work with our clients on their goals.
So, I started to draw up 4 outcomes that we could judge a performance related pay (PRP) implementation against. That way, when we are working on a performance review implementation with a client – we at least have some objective measure. This is what we came up with
- The PRP should lead to individuals motivated to achieve targets that will improve the organisation and meet the organisation strategy (it should deliver)
- The correct people should get the correct rewards (it should be fair)
- The PRP process should be efficient and deliver the benefits without using up those benefits in increased administrative burdern (it should be cost effective)
- The process should be robust and stand scrutiny from external parties particularly on equality (it should be legally sound)
I believe this is a great checklist for anyone looking at PRP. It has become part of soon-to-be-published performance appraisal white paper. If you want to receive a copy of that white paper please contact us via the blog our our website and simply subscribe to the newsletter.
Please forgive the lack of humility in this post – I want to illustrate a point and this is the best way!
Yesterday I was recommended on linkedIn. The person; Bob Bell, is someone who I have known for some time and I had previously recommended his work. Bob wrote
"Brendan has a pragmatic approach to providing HR systems solutions which really impact a business. His previous experience of a being a Senior Operations Director enables him to have the appropriate level of insight ensuring that the software solutions delivered provide true added value"
It is an odd thing reading positive feedback about yourself. I found it had a number of effects.
- It reminded me of what I was good at
- It made me want to live up to that feedback
- It gave me a general lift
In 360 degree feedback you see a good amount of positive feedback and when debriefing the feedback we often take a lot of time to ensure that the recipient picks up the positive feedback rather than just hunting down the negative. It is also a great reminder that in performance appraisal processes in general there should be a balance of feedback. Not just because it is soft and fluffy but because it has real positive benefits for the recipient.
I’m now hosting a discussiong group on www.hrzone.co.uk . The discussion group is concentrated on Performance Appraisals and 360 degree feedback. Together with other avenues, we are using the discussion group as a method to of listening to the issues that people are facing and to continue to generate best practice.
Feel free to join the group (you have to join hrzone first – its free, useful and worthwhile) at www.hrzone.co.uk/group/performance-appraisals-and-360-degree-feedback
I confess – this is a note to myself. We’re always asked for suggested rating scales. The answer is often "it depends". But here are 5 to get you going.
- Role mode based
- Role Model
- Strong Peformer
- Development area
- Priority development area
- Strength based
- Development Need
- Strength 2
- Highly effective
- Highly ineffective
- Area of strength
- Fulfils requirements
- Area for development
There are of course many – in particular there are frequency based which I have not included here. I generally don’t believe the quality of performance appraisal or 360 degree feedback is affected by the rating scale. I favour a mid-point (i.e. an odd numbered scale) but it’s not something we’d fall out about. And I like to have a not applicable/no evidence for any rating scale as I’d rather someone didn’t know than they guessed.
Hope this helps you – its going to save me some digging next time I’m trying to consider options.
We often speak about the need to complete any 360 degree feedback process with a face-to-face debrief; firmly believing that the benefit to the individual comes through a facilitated discussion around their report that helps them come away with a balanced understanding and clarity as to what they should do next.
With this in mind, we are beginning a series of one-day open programmes that cover this topic in much more detail; from understanding the purpose of the debrief and your role as a debriefer, through to how to structure the session itself.
It has proved successful with all of our clients as an internal programme and has prompted us to make it more widely available to independent coaches, trainers and internal HR staff who wish to come along for their own development.
Our first programme is taking place on Friday 18th September and is now full, but we will be announcing more dates for later in the year subject to growing demand.
If you are interested then just drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
I will be facilitating a session on Friday 11th September for the ‘TJ Forum South Group’ also known as the ‘Challenge Yourself’ network ,entitled ‘The trials and tribulations of implementing 360 Degree Feedback’.
This event is now full, but the network is growing, thriving and very active, so if you would be interested in joining and attending future events, then just drop a note to Sam Swinstead of Challege Manager.
Sam does a tremendous job of creating and organising events that cover a range of topics throughout the year, so bias aside, if you are based in the South and want to learn & network with a diverse group of people, then I think you should get stuck in!
About 1 in 10 people that I debrief for 360 degree feedback don’t give themselves a rating of excellent anywhere in the report.
They then fall into a few categories.
- Lacking in confidence
- Perfectionists who see excellence as ultimately unachievable for everyone including themelves
As a debriefer, the lack of scoring in "excellent" or its equivalent isn’t a big deal but it is almost always a good conversation piece and worth exploring. Does the perfectionist set goals that the direct reports can’t or won’t follow? Is the person lacking in confidence affected by that, and does the rest of the 360 degree feedback point to where they should draw confidence?
I am often struck in delivering 360 feedback sessions on how rich the information is and how unexpectedly the source of conversation can arise.
My view – if you have a 5 point scale then you should try to judge people across all 5 points. No need to get too worried about the words and "excellent" doesn’t mean perfect it just means better than good.
I’m talking here about the "comments" part of a 360 degree appraisal. The bit where you have to explain yourself!
So, here goes
- If you are short of time, then confine your comments to the areas that are development needs. Not ideal, but the recipient would rather have a clue as to why you rated low, then reassurance of why you rated high
- Describe the impact of behaviour. If Fred doesn’t delegate – what is the impact on his direct reports?
- Succinct please. Neither the recipient, nor the debriefer, need oodles of detail. The recipient will recognise what you are describing without describing how, why, when, where
- If you are struggling, fall back on "When you do [fill this in] then I feel/find/imagine(delete as appropriate) that [say what happens]. It is simple and works
- Use "you" rather than naming the person. It is much more personal and open and makes you think about what you are saying more than when you talk about them as if they are not there (because they will be when they read what you have said)
I’m sure there are more … if there are, expect a "5 more tips for giving 360 degree feedback" soon.
Just a warning – keep averages in their place. 360 degree feedback reports often have averages in them; we use them ourselves for broad overview purposes.
If you do have averages in your report (e.g. you’ve averaged out how all of the direct reports have scored) then please keep the following in mind
- They are not a precise score. You can’t ask 5 people a question and then say a manager is 3.75 on "Delegating effectively".
- Feedback recipients are going to grab numbers and run away with them if you don’t place them in context. Don’t let them – help them put the averages in context
- Do what you can to watch out for the loss of nuance due to averaging. If 2 people score excellent and 2 people score poor, then it is not useful to know that on average they scored in the middle. Consider having supplementary reporting that supports this detail
- Don’t put the resulting competencies in score order. If you do, then you will spend a lot of time on a league table and discussing relative strengths when actually the order was based on a very limited amount of data
- Use narrative questions in the questionnaire and then in the report to counterbalance the tendency to numerical analysis
360 degree feedback reports are powerful. Ones produced through a system can carry greater initial weight with a recipient as they carry some sort of validity because a computer generated the output. It is your role as debriefer, manager, or coach to ensure that the recipient gets the real story.