Best practices for 360 degree feedback

How can you use 360 degree feedback best practices to inform and motivate the people in your business? Here’s some guidelines that will get you on track to develop your workforce, empower your employees and bring about a step change in the culture of your organisation.

 The work environment has altered dramatically in recent decades, as have the kinds of jobs many people do, the way they work, and even their concept of career. This evolution of the workplace has prompted companies to actively change traditional approaches to performance management. The result of this is that 360 degree feedback has become a critical element for enhancing individual and team performance.

How has work changed?

Here’s four distinct ways that the work environment has changed:

  1. Higher Staff Churn

Workplaces face rapid churn as ambitious staff engineer their own career progression.

  1. Continual Change

Critical decisions around change are being made at every level.

  1. Increased Requirements

More jobs require a deeper level of expertise and a greater range of soft skills such as independent judgement, emotionally intelligent communication and problem solving.

  1. Globalised Business

The globalised nature of many enterprises adds further communication challenges and cognitive biases into this heady cocktail.

Traditional processes such as the annual appraisal are time-consuming and often demotivating, leading to organisations looking to adopt continual coaching and 360 degree feedback models.  If well run, these can meet the need for more regular, timely review, whilst also being easier to administer.

We’ve used our knowledge and wide experience of real-world performance management scenarios and 360 degree feedback, along with a review of some recent industry research, to recommend key best practices for organisations seeking to drive improved outcomes – including performance improvement, skills development, loyalty and retention – from their 360 degree feedback programmes.

Create the culture for feedback

 A good feedback culture is motivational and builds employee satisfaction and loyalty. It can lead to employees becoming more analytical, self-critical and self-regulating, and more engaged – in effect, more aware of their responsibilities and their role within the organisation[1]. But where do you begin with creating the culture within which a 360 degree feedback programme delivers those outcomes?

Our four pillars of good 360 degree feedback culture are:

Trust: If the organisation is serious about continual behavioural improvement, their 360 degree feedback programme should be positioned as part of the organisation’s overall people strategy, an ongoing process, not a one-off gimmick or management ‘fad’. In that way, employees will begin to develop trust in the process, and the output will be more candid and more valuable.

Transparency: Confidentiality (i.e. being able to give feedback that is anonymised and will be aggregated when reported) together with transparency (i.e. what it’s for and how it will be used) are critical. Clear messages that promotes an environment which encourages balanced and constructive feedback at every level are critical. Employees should not feel pressured into giving feedback, nor into receiving it, at any given moment. They should feel in control of the process, in order to feel empowered by it.

Training: Managers and business leaders need to be coached in how to deliver constructive and relevant feedback which supports behavioural improvements. Employees in turn should receive guidance on how to give (and receive) feedback from their colleagues. Not only will this help to avoid the feedback process being a cause of anxiety but it will demonstrate the commitment of the organisation to creating the most productive 360 degree feedback environment.

Timeliness: The traditional annual appraisal approach no longer suits many of today’s more dynamic workplaces. In the faster-moving enterprise culture, feedback opportunities should occur at least quarterly in general terms, but ideally more frequently, following, for example, completion of specific activities, events and projects.

Crowdsource your feedback

To work effectively, feedback should come from every area – the full 360 degrees; from management, from peers and co-workers, and from customers and clients. There must be enough raters for the feedback to be valid and rounded. Apart from direct line management, it should not generally be possible for the employee to deduce which rater said what. Raters should be the people best able to give meaningful observation-based feedback.

Automate the feedback process

Automating the 360 degree feedback process is easier today than ever. Automation frees up both management and employee time and it delivers better quality data, more instantaneously.

Utilise mobile technologies for ‘feedback-on-the-move’. This is particularly useful in scenarios where employees spend less time at desks, for example in retail and certain service industries. It also allows feedback to be generated as it’s needed, not many months afterwards.

Make it relevant to your company and your people

360 degree feedback allows people to give feedback using a structured question set, which are rated, and free text.

Whilst a standardised approach to feedback statements is effective, research has shown that the more relevant the questions are to the individuals concerned (their roles, jobs and values), the more effective the feedback will be in bringing about performance and behaviour changes. Being able to adapt the 360 to speak the language of the organisation is key.

Best practice delivers results

When 360 degree feedback is implemented effectively, the rewards to the organisation and the individual employees can be significant. For example, employees will feel empowered which will lead to deeper engagement with an organisation and they will more willingly enhance and improve their skills and behaviours.

 What’s more, the organisation itself stands to gain valuable insight into gaps in skills and behaviours. This knowledge can then be applied to target the relevant training and development that is needed and to make talent management programmes more effective.

 Line managers and team leaders will be better supported in developing and managing their teams, with relevant data on individual performances.

Finally, with feedback programmes customised around the organisation’s specific values, goals and objectives, those employees with a best-fit to the business can more readily be identified and nurtured.

When best practices are applied with this powerful appraisal tool, the benefits to company development and culture are enormous and wide ranging. For more information on how to begin using 360 degree development, either drop us a line here or call +44(0)20 8360 4455 and we’ll be happy to share more about our best in class software.