Conducting 360 Feedback: Get Clear on Purpose and Context First

Global studies show that, if not deployed carefully, 360 feedback processes can end up not providing the desired results.

360 feedback survey is a wonderful tool to conduct structured assessment of employees, especially when the focus is on managerial behaviours and competencies. However, documented studies across the globe show that if not deployed carefully, the process can end up not providing the desired results or even making the situation worse.

Here are two questions about purpose and context you must consider before taking a decision on conducting 360 feedback process.

Is the organisation clear about the purpose of conducting 360 feedback?

Often, stakeholders in the organisation are not clear on the purpose for conducting 360 surveys and how the results will be used. For example, the manager may be looking to use the process to highlight poor performers and/or the leadership team may be expecting the process to be tied back to promotions or rewards. Before you decide to conduct the surveys, talk to all the stakeholders – leadership team, managers and employees and understand their expectations from the process. If you see significant mis-alignment in purpose, this may not be the right time to conduct the process.

Will employees be comfortable giving honest feedback to each other?

Before you conduct 360 feedback in your organisation, think about whether employees will be able and willing to give honest feedback to each other. For example, if you are looking to conduct 360 surveys to decide on promotions or rewards or the environment is charged because of poor financial results or a long-drawn change process, then the employees may not be able to provide honest and fair feedback to each other. Also, it may not be a good idea to conduct this process if the team is new or has too many new members.

Finally, 360 feedback surveys, at least in our experience, work best when they are used as instruments to support development of employees and do not work at all when they are used as instruments to decide rewards and recognition. Self-development is a journey which starts with self-awareness. 360 feedback surveys, if properly used, will always be a great source to start this journey.

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