Is this the year for a 360-degree performance feedback program?

Is this the year for a 360-degree performance feedback program?

Robert Tighe

Posted By: Robert Tighe

More and more employers have established 360-degree performance feedback programs to give themselves a broader perspective on how well employees are performing and interacting. Under this model, an employee is evaluated by not only his or her supervisor, but also direct reports (if applicable), peers — and sometimes even vendors or customers.

If you think this might be the year for your organization to establish a 360-degree feedback program, or you just want to fine-tune the one you have in place, here are some best practices to consider.

Target questions carefully

A critical element of such a program is the written survey that you distribute to participants when gathering feedback. You can inadvertently sabotage the entire effort early on if these surveys are difficult to complete.

For starters, keep the questionnaire as brief as possible. Generally, a participant should be able to do a review in 15 to 20 minutes. Ask concise questions that have a clear point. Be sure the language is unbiased; avoid words such as “excellent” or “always.” Ensure the questions, and performance criteria as a whole, are job-related and not personal in nature.

If using a rating scale, offer seven to 10 points that ask to what extent the person being rated exhibits a given behavior, rather than how often. It’s a good idea to use a dual-rating scale that includes both quantitative and qualitative performance questions. For example, you could ask:

  • To what extent does this person exhibit a behavior?
  • Given his or her role, to what extent should the person exhibit the behavior?

By comparing the answers, you basically perform a gap analysis that helps interpret the results and reduces a rater’s bias to score consistently high or low.

Ensure adequate participation

To optimize the statistical validity of 360-degree feedback results, you need the largest sample size possible. Tell feedback providers how you’ll use their input, assuring them that their time will be well spent. Also, emphasize the importance of being objective and avoiding invalid observations that might arise from their own prejudices. Ask providers to comment only on aspects of the subject employee’s performance that they’ve been able to observe.

Even with anonymous feedback, require some accountability. Incorporate a mechanism that would enable someone other than the subject of the evaluation — for instance, a senior HR manager — to address any abuse of the program. And, of course, make sure you can help subjects of the feedback process act on the input they receive.

Earn some dividends

When implemented and managed carefully, a 360-degree feedback program can pay dividends in improved retention, morale and productivity. Contact us for help measuring and managing the costs of maintaining an effective workforce.

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