360 Degree Feedback: Pros and Cons

Organizations aim to assess and develop their employees toward continuous improvement, but often times the performance review process is overlooked or poorly executed. While a growing number of companies are looking into 360 degree feedback as a new technique for their employees’ developing process, some are finding it hard to integrate, and not showing the results they had hoped. In this article we’ll give you some pointers to understand 360 degree feedback, its pros and cons.

What is 360 Degree Feedback?

360 degree feedback is a method or process that provides employees with the opportunity to receive anonymous feedback from the people who work around them. This normally includes the employee’s manager, peers, subordinates, internal and external customers.

The feedback should provide insight into the skills and behaviors desired in the organization to accomplish its mission, vision and values.

How is it processed?

A mix of people will fill out an anonymous survey form with questions covering a broad range of workplace competencies. This form should include questions that are measured on a rating scale and also ask to provide written comments. The person receiving feedback should also fill a self-rating survey that includes the same questions that others received.

The respondents are chosen by the employee and his/her line manager in a shared process between the organization and the employee. These should always be people who interact routinely with the employee who is receiving feedback.

The goal of using it

Organizations use 360 Degree Feedback to assist each individual to understand their strengths and weaknesses and to get insights into parts of their work that need professional development.

Since its focus is in behaviors and competencies, it serves only as a part of the overall development and evaluation process.

Now, a lot of debates have been held about how effective can this method be and to whom is more suitable. Taking a look at 360 degree feedback pros and cons can help you decide. So let’s do it!

360 Degree Feedback: Pros

There are, of course, many positive attributes of 360 Feedback and many supporters. See for yourself:

More insights on career development

Many employees feel that 360 degree feedback is more reflective of one’s experience and impact because it includes more interactions than usual. This makes the feedback more useful for both career and personal development.

Team engagement

This feedback approach makes team members more accountable to each other. A well-planned process can definitely improve communication and team engagement.

Organizational performance assessment

360 degree feedback is one of the best tools for understanding personal and organizational development needs in your organization. You might discover what keeps getting in the way of employees from working successfully together and how your policies and processes affect employee success.

Improvement feedback from different sources

This method provides feedback from peers, reporting staff, co-workers, managers and even customers. That is clearly a step beyond getting feedback from just your manager giving you a better overall picture of where you stand.

Opportunities for growth

The assessment provides an employee with more insights into areas of strength they may or may not be aware of. Then, this could be further developed into newer areas of skill and enhance their career goals.

360 Degree Feedback: Cons

Besides all the great pros about 360 degree feedback, there are also cons. Being aware of that is important because it gives you an understanding of what to avoid when you implement this method.

Check the following potential problems with 360 degree feedback to get the full picture:

Unreasonable expectations

360 degree feedback is not the same as a performance management system. It is just a part of the feedback and development that a performance management process can offer. Understand the expectations of the method and make sure that it is integrated into a complete performance management process.

Implementation failures

Frequently, a 360 degree feedback process arrives as a recommendation from the HR department or from a senior manager who learned about it at a seminar, in a book or from a 3rd party vendor they worked with in the past. Just as any process, the implementation of 360 degree feedback should be discussed and developed with all its integral parts within the organization.

Lack of connection with the organization

For this method to work, it must be connected with the overall strategic goals of your organization. It will fail if it is just a complement instead of a supporter of your organization’s vision and requirements.

Lack of feedback training

360 degree feedback processes are anonymous, therefore people receiving it have no one to ask for clarification about unclear comments. Consequently, identifying a coach to partner with you to create your 360 feedback action plan is very important. Supervisors, HR people and managers should be able assist people to understand their feedback and trained to help people develop action plans based on the feedback.

Too much focus on weaknesses

Great managers focus on employee strengths, not weaknesses. When you consider a 360 degree feedback methodology, train yourself to focus on strengths for best success.

Respondents inexperience

In addition to the insufficient training organizations provide to people receiving feedback and people providing feedback, there are other dangers. Respondents may exaggerate ratings to make an employee look good and vice-versa. They even can informally band together to rig the process and boost everyone’s performance. Checks and balances must be in place to prevent these dangers as well as training for the people who are providing the ratings.

Should you go for it?

Should you implement 360 Degree Feedback or not? A definite answer is hard to give. Think carefully before you move forward, evaluate the pros and cons and assess your organization’s maturity. Define your strategy, and plan its implementation involving all relevant stakeholders.

If you do it the right way, then you will add a powerful method to employees’ development process toolbox.

Would you like to build your 360 degree feedback questionnaire? Then reach out to us and explore the possibilities that our Performance Management Web App has to offer!

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