The Top Three 360 Degree Feedback Concerns and How to Overcome Them

360 degree assessments were initiated as a way to evaluate an employee’s performance from multiple perspectives. Once a function of paper-backed surveys, these multi-rater surveys became so popular in the early 2000’s with the rise of the internet that as many as 90% of Fortune 500 companies began using them.

But then some companies lost faith in their value. Hewlett-Packard practitioners found there was no new or surprise information to be learned. And IBM switched to a different kind of all-employee survey. What caused these high-profile companies to back away from the once popular tool? Three big reasons:

  1. Confidentiality Concerns: Even though most surveys were set up to be anonymous, many raters felt that the people being reviewed could decipher who said what. This caused them to hedge their feedback to not harm relationships or their own 360 scores.
  1. Compensation Concerns: While getting feedback from key stakeholders certainly makes developmental sense, the direct link to compensation and annual performance reviews created increased gamesmanship, discomfort and politics.
  1. Reliability Concerns: Measuring people’s performance at the wrong time, or in the wrong way, can lead to incorrect decisions and unintended consequences. Imagine doing 360 degree assessments during a major change initiative, bankruptcy, layoff or merger.
Training needs assessment professionals caution that the keys to success are being clear about the purpose of the feedback and ensuring that the mood of the organization, its leaders and the employee population is supportive and aligned with the company’s business strategy. Used correctly, 360s can provide valuable feedback, improve performance and benefit the whole organization. Here is how to set up your 360s to succeed:
  • Ensure that feedback is confidential
  • Be clear that the purpose of the tool is individual growth and development
  • Link survey questions directly to the organization’s true values, beliefs and goals
  • Deliver and receive criticism constructively
  • Allows for open-ended comments
  • Provide training on how to give feedback and coach going forward
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