What is a 360 feedback and how exactly it is done?

A 360 degree feedback is a formal process whereby an employee receives feedback on his behavior or outcomes from various individuals she/he regularly interacts with. Usually in this type of evaluation there are involved 8 to12 people including peers, subordinates and superiors. Sometimes in the evaluation there are also involved external customers and most of times the employee is asked to perform a self-evaluation form too. The 360 performance evaluation is the best to use method when you need to assess the leadership abilities and the management style of managers or when you need to assess employees' behavior.

A 360 degree feedback is not only a tool to evaluate and provide input to individuals but a great way to evaluate departments or teams. Any support department in the company should regularly ask for input for improvement from the other departments in the organization.

The 360 degree feedback focuses more on competencies and behaviors of the employees than on the skills, objectives or job requirements. This type of assessment system is not meant to determine if the employee is meeting the job requirements or the set objectives. It is a great tool especially for the managers interested to keep track of changes in what others perceive about him/her.

Who needs to implement a 360 feedback process?

Any organization that wants to establish a culture for continuous development needs a performance management program. An important part of this performance management program is the periodical assessment of employees' performance and behavior. As the 360 degree feedback is a tool especially designed for assessing employees' behavior, any performance management program should include it.

No matter the area of the business you're in, a 360 performance evaluation process is a great way to get valuable insight into performance and can be the perfect foundation for a strategic development plan. Judgment, ethics, teamwork, leadership or communication, are just a few examples of areas that can be very well assessed with a 360 degree feedback.

Why implementing a 360 evaluation process instead of a traditional one?

First of all the 360 degrees feedback is anonymous. And an anonymous evaluation has the advantage of disclosing information not revealed by other methods of evaluation. People's hesitation and fear to provide negative feedback to their leaders is normal and usually an important barrier to honest feedback. The 360 degrees feedback method is a great way to overcome this barrier. For a Top Level Manager the 360 degrees feedback is probably the most reliable source of valuable feedback.

Another great advantage of a 360 degrees feedback is that the employee is getting an unbiased view of his/her performance. Very often a feedback received from a single person could be dismissed as being a subjective personal opinion. When several people provide a similar feedback, ignoring the message is harder.

A third great advantage of a 360 performance evaluation is that people from different hierarchic levels evaluate the employee. Superiors, peers, subordinates or customers, each bring in a different angle, making the final picture very insightful. When implementing a 360 degrees feedback process is a good idea to involve both the internal and the external customers. Combining the feedback from external customers with that from peers, subordinates and superiors the employee is provided the best possible opportunity for understanding what is to be improved.

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How do the employees benefit from a 360 feedback system?

The 360 evaluation is one of the most effective tools for managing employees' development. In their effort to improve performance and behavior, being aware on how the individuals around them perceive their actions is key. The multisource feedback provided by the 360 evaluation helps the employees to keep track of the changes in the perception of their peers, subordinates or superiors about them.

A 360 performance evaluation is a great way to improve your understanding of what the others expect from you. Many people don't perform at the expected level simply because they don't have a good enough understanding of what is expected from them.

The feedback received through a properly conducted 360 evaluation allows the employee to set the right goals for her/his professional development.

The 360 evaluation is also a very useful tool for the many managers that fail to recognize what effect produces their behavior on their subordinates and provides an opportunity to identify and take steps to rectify any issues in the areas of communication, teamwork, interpersonal relationships or management style.

How to prepare the questionnaire/form for a 360 feedback?

The 360 performance evaluation questionnaire (form) consists in a set of questions. Some of the questions are open allowing evaluators to freely express their opinions, while others provide a rating scale or a choice from a set of pre-defined answers.

One of the first steps in preparing a 360 assessment form is determining all the aspects of behavior you want to assess. Fairness, integrity, accountability for own actions, pro-activeness, loyalty, commitment, responsibility in conducting a job, honesty, team spirit, attitude (positive, constructive), flexibility, habits, personality (tone, language),skills of knowledge transfer, way of expressing opinions, the ability to motivate employees, management styles (constructive, competitive), pride about work, level of passion or belief in the company strategy and goals, are the most common areas to cover in a 360 evaluation.

When preparing the questionnaire for a 360 performance appraisal, take also into consideration your organization's values, as generally you want to check how well your managers are behaving according to these values.

Another important thing when preparing the questionnaire for a 360 feedback is to make sure it is not too general and the information that will be provided is not actionable.

How to successfully implement a 360 feedback process?

The way a 360 degree evaluation process is implemented is key. One of the first things to be done before implementing such a process, is to identify if the organization's culture offers an appropriate frame for implementing a 360 degree evaluation process or not. Implementing a 360 degree evaluation process might not be of much help in an organization where there is no orientation toward learning, professional development, transparency or candidness. On the other hand if an organization fosters individual development and continuous improvement the tool for 360 degree evaluation can offer another dimension to the performance management framework.

Before implementing a 360 assessment process, is of great importance to clearly present to all the employees involved in the process, the goals, the benefits and how exactly the collected feedback shall be used.

Make sure from the very beginning that the top level of management gets involved and doesn't discount the program importance. If this doesn't happen and the 360 assessment program is only driven by HR there is not going to be an effective program.

Another important thing is to make sure that all the employees involved in evaluations understand on one hand the importance of keeping the evaluations anonymous and on the other how exactly is the process organized so the anonymity is guaranteed.

Implementing a 360 performance appraisal process is only a step on the way to improving the organization's culture and employees' behavior. Changing employees' behavior doesn't happen over night. This is why the feedback session should not happen only once. In the first two years, feedback must be collected quarterly and progress carefully analyzed.

People have a natural tendency to provide feedback that is rather personal and because of this some people can have a really bad experience with the process. You have to make sure that everyone understands that the purpose of this effort is to be constructive, not personal when providing feedback.

Focusing too much on the weaknesses is another natural tendency of people, when providing feedback. Making people aware of the importance of focusing on both strengths and weaknesses and providing a balanced feedback is also crucial.

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