“Julia, we are a small company, why should I waste time doing employee appraisals – that’s for big companies!”
In part 1 we examined various appraisal techniques and highlighted two of the main areas where 360 Degree Feedback will benefit the company. If you missed it, you can see it here.
Now let’s look at the 10 steps to introduce 360 Feedback in the company. Focus on one step at a time.
Step 1: Define the Purpose
The first step is to define the process and as indicated previously, there are two main applications within the company.
- Employee Development
- Performance Evaluation
It is necessary to communicate the purpose of the process to all that will be involved or impacted by the 360 Degree Feedback process.
Step 2: Choose the Collection Method
The two most frequently used methods are questionnaires and interviews. For many companies a combination of the two are used.
Step 3: Decide on the Data to be Collected
When you begin to use 360 Degree Feedback it is essential that you decide the data to be collected and the collection method you will use. This will assist you to:
- Focus on actual behavior in the company rather than general traits
- Base ratings on particular work contexts to reduce rating error
- Ensure that rated behaviors are tied closely to the company’s strategy and vision
Step 4: Identify the Feedback Recipients
The next stage involves
- Selecting employees who will receive the feedback
- Remember self-selected employees are always more conducive to the process
- Always ensure that all recipients are aware of their involvement within the process
Step 5: Train the Participants
For many companies, 360 Degree Feedback is a new event within the company and as a result it is important that both the employees who are doing the rating and the employees who are being rated receive adequate training. Some important rules of thumb always prevail:
- Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
- Train employees and managers in accepting negative feedback and on rating errors
- Constantly update employees on progress to ensure necessary buy-in
Step 6: Recipient Chooses who will Rate Them
Within an effective 360 Degree Feedback process it is important, where practical, that the recipient of the feedback chooses an average of 10 co-workers to rate them. These on the whole tend to include but are not limited to:
Caution: Recipients may choose more lenient people to do the rating. A properly planned process will help to avoid this situation. The purpose is to find areas the people can improve upon and prepare for promotions.
Step 7: Questionnaire Distribution
Should you decide to use questionnaires, you should include either
- Paper & Pencil
Raters should be allowed the opportunity to forward the completed questionnaires to a pre- identified manager or supervisor to protect confidentiality.
Step 8: Analyze the Feedback Data
Within many 360 Degree Feedback systems not enough care is taken in the analysis of the feedback. This needs to be carefully planned at the beginning of the process. Without this planning either too much or too little feedback data can be collected.
Step 9: Feeding Back the Feedback
This is one of the major steps where the process can completely fail. It is essential that adequate time is provided for staff to take-in the feedback and that the whole process is transparent. There is nothing more dangerous within a company where staff is asked for feedback and it is then omitted or ignored. Staff will know what has been said so don’t ever hide information! Again this step may be best facilitated by upper management.
Step 10: Follow Through
Another extremely important stage in the process that is often overlooked is the follow-through on the feedback received. After all the feedback is what you were looking for in the first place. Three important steps are involved:
- Establish Improvement Areas
- Design Action Plans
- Identify coaches or mentors to assist employees in their future development
Repeat the Process
360-Degree Feedback is a continuous improvement process that will greatly benefit the company. The process should be repeated following an agreed period to review progress and identify future action plans.
Are You Ready For 360 Degree Feedback?
Now that you know how to introduce a 360 Degree Feedback Process it is essential that you decide are you ready to introduce this process. Research and experience has demonstrated that you will need to consider:
- Top Management Buy-in
- Past History of your company’s review process
- Coaching & Management Skills
- Trust & Interdependence
- Organizational Stability
- Clear Performance Plans
Top Management Buy-in
As with any change process, top managerial staff need to be fully engaged in supporting the process, understand the advantages of 360 Degree Feedback, and ensure that all participate fully in the process.
To determine whether past history may impact the introduction of 360 Degree Feedback you will need to ask yourself the following questions. Please try to answer them as honestly as possible:
- Has 360 Degree Feedback been used previously within the company?
- What were the results?
- Where was the process a success and why?
- Where did the process encounter difficulties and why?
Coaching & Management Skills
As with past history, you will need to ask yourself the following questions. Please try to answer them as honestly as possible:
- Does management have the required skills and knowledge to implement the process fully?
- Have the necessary mentors and coaches been introduced across the organization to ensure the smooth application of 360 Degree Feedback?
Trust & Interdependence
Given the often sensitive nature that can be discussed, 360 Degree Feedback requires trust and confidentiality. Ask yourself:
- What are the trust levels within your company?
- How can trust levels be increased?
The introduction of an effective 360 Degree Feedback Process can often be impacted when there is a level of un-stability within the company. You will need to determine:
- What is the current position of the company? Please provide as much detail as you think necessary.
- Are changes foreseen that may affect the implementation of an effective 360 Degree Feedback Process? Can they be avoided and/or integrated within the purpose of the 360 Degree Feedback Process.
Clear Performance Plans
The last area that will determine whether your company is ready for 360 Degree Feedback refers to the performance metrics of the company. Ask yourself:
- What are the performance metrics within your company?
- Are they clear to all employees?
- If not how can they be made clear?
Why 360 Degree Feedback Programs Fail
It should be clear that the introduction of a 360 Degree Feedback Process is not as difficult as it first may have seemed. In fact with appropriate planning and the sequencing of activities as presented earlier it should be easily introduced within your company. This is presuming that you have identified that you are ready for 360 Degree Feedback!
We want to briefly highlight some of the reasons why 360 Degree Feedback programs have failed in other companies which we believe will help you avoid making the same mistakes. These include:
- No Clear Purpose
- Using 360 degree feedback as a substitute for managing poor performance
- Not conducting a pilot
- Not involving key employees
- Insufficient communication
- Compromising confidentiality
- Not making the feedback’s use clear
- Having scoring and administration not user friendly
- Making it an event rather than an ongoing process
- Not evaluating effectiveness
No Clear Purpose
360 Degree Feedback programs must be firmly rooted in a purpose for the company.
You will need to ensure that employees understand and share this purpose to ensure that the outcomes are relevant.
360 Degree Feedback Is Not A Substitute!
360 Degree Feedback should also not be viewed a substitute for managing poor performance. Instead it should be seen a methodology for discovering areas whereby performance can be increased.
Not Conducting a Pilot
360 Degree Feedback is not initially an easy process to introduce. For companies where 360 Degree Feedback has not been implemented previously; a pilot should be undertaken to familiarize both management and staff of the intricacies of the process.
Not Involving Key Employees
Not involving employees reduces ownership of the 360 Degree Feedback Results and Process and undermines the overall process. Making a conscious effort to involve key employees increases trust and confidence within the company and the potential success of the 360 Degree Feedback.
For 360 Degree Feedback to be effective; all employees need to be informed of the purpose of the feedback, how this process will work and be confident of the relevance and transparency of the exercise.
The most important facts concerning confidentiality:
- 360 Degree Feedback must always respect the confidentiality of all material collected.
- Validity of the process will be undermined along with the future reliability of data collected if confidentiality is broken.
- 360 Degree Feedback must not be used against staff as it will damage trust relationships within the company.
Not Making the Feedback’s Use Clear
Employees must be fully aware of what the feedback will be used for. Without clarity the relevance of the feedback obtained will be compromised.
User Friendly Scoring and Administration
All participants must find it easy to complete the 360 Degree Feedback Process. Any areas of confusion must be removed so you will continue this ongoing process and not just use as a one-time event!
360 Degree Feedback is not a once-off effort
360 Degree Feedback is a continuous process of improvement and must be always perceived as being so.
Not Evaluating Effectiveness
Evaluation is the cornerstone of successful 360 Degree Feedback Programs – make sure that you build in appropriate evaluation structures.
360 Degree Feedback offers particular implementation benefits in the areas of Employee Development and Performance Appraisal. Before starting a 360 Degree Feedback Program the company must ascertain whether it is ready for 360 Degree Feedback. If you are not prepared, the program will fail. However, planning, communication, and proper execution – you will find these tools invaluable and so will the employees!