Friday, September 18, 2015

The Pros and Cons of 360-Degree Feedback systems

The low effects of 360 feedback are not due to bad instruments, but bad applications of the instruments.
360 feedback is a widely adopted HR tool to accept feedback from varying sources, either for leadership development or employee performance management. However, there are both positive and negative feedbacks about the tool itself. What is the organization trying to accomplish, and how will a 360 process help achieve that? Do you think that multi-raters assessment methods are more likely to give accurate and easily-acceptable results from the employee's point of view?



The low effects of 360 feedback are not due to bad instruments, but bad applications of the instruments. Mandating that everyone gets a 360 is rarely a good idea. 360 feedback best works in an environment where there is trust and respect and absence of bias. However, most organizations use 360 to fix the person, not the objective. There are situations where the process has been implemented in ways that have caused employees to become burned out from completing too many surveys, employees being left largely on their own to interpret or misinterpret the results, and companies actually linking the results to the employee's performance appraisal. If used properly, a 360 feedback and development process can be highly motivational for many of the participants. But like many tools or opportunities for learning and development, the people who seem to really need it the least, such as adaptable learners and high potentials, use it the most; and the people who need it the most, such as the people who have huge blind spots, use it the least. The crucial issue, is that the content of the feedbacks is oriented towards behavior, and if we agree that behavior is an extension of the individual's mindset and personality, therefore, the topic becomes really touchy to cope with.


Accept input from any source but weigh it accordingly. Peers, subordinates, co-workers, clients, and vendors all have their various observations. Their respective viewpoints can indicate useful areas for further exploration and confirmation. But they rarely know the mandates imposed by management, nor do they understand the constraints and circumstances under which the subject must operate. Finally and most importantly, they typically lack the formal training, don't have knowledge of the person's assigned work priorities and don't hold the official responsibility for that assessment duty. In even worse case scenario, group 360 assessments tend to devolve into popularity contests and frequently feature political posturing. They offer a forum where gossip, bias, the halo effect, animosity, brown-nosing, "log-rolling" trade-offs and competitive maneuvering can be applied confidentially against defenseless innocent performers. Making the feedback group happy with you can become far more important for your success and advancement than properly doing your actual job.


Don't create survey fatigue. If you decide to put in a broad process involving many employees, stagger or stage 360 surveys or participation over time so people have the time and motivation to provide more thoughtful feedback. Address confidentiality issues. Employees, including very senior executives, are often suspicious of how the results of the 360 will be used and how much of this is truly confidential feedback for their development purposes. Assess individuals' coachability objectively - not everybody wants to develop and some people are just not coachable for a variety of reasons. Just because someone knows there is a performance or development gap doesn't mean they are motivated to change in order to close the gap. Sometimes this is due to the target person's overall ability to adapt to change or to go beyond easy changes to the outside of their comfort zones. Some people find out they are actually poor fits for their job and nobody had the courage to tell them. The 360 exercise is often a source of irritation or embarrassment for them.


The 360-degree feedback system is just the tool to collect input. Input is input, some is useful; some is not. and we use tools to accomplish other things. The "interpretation" and "language" barriers affect perception and comprehension in such a way that overreaction will occur. Like any type of assessment, these can never compete with voluntary human interaction. 360-feedback systems are more useful for development hints and potential remedial applications than anything else. It's a good instrument to help set goals for leadership coaching programs to develop and strengthen leaders in specific areas. A 360-degree feedback is not a goal, it's a method. In other words, when a 360-degree feedback can be to totally integrated into an ongoing performance management system that is employee-driven with management's participation, you've got something!





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