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In Corporate America of days past, the entire feedback process consisted of a once-a-year conversation led by your boss. The goal was to keep it short and painless – like a shot at the doctor’s office. Since then, a series of bells and whistles were added to make it more frequent, more detailed, and more inclusive. One of those enhancements was the introduction of the 360-degree review. In short, this tool removed from the manager onus of owning all your feedback by requesting feedback from a wide swath of colleagues. Your peers, direct reports, and senior colleagues may have more daily contact with you and thus were able offer new insights.
Your company may benefit from a 360-review process. However, before rollout, set the tone for this process to avoid common user errors.
Focus on development. You review restaurants on Yelp or are asked to complete a short survey after calling customer service at your bank. Feedback has become mainstream in all parts of our lives. It is important to clarify how 360-degree feedback will be evaluated and used. Hesitant users may resist because they are not comfortable with their performance being “dinged” by a colleague. So, instead of integrating this as a part of performance reviews, introduce it as a tool that employees can use for development. The feedback is for their knowledge only – they choose how/if to integrate it into their new mode of operation and whether they would like to share with their manager. This provides a layer of security and empowers the employee to own their development!
Encourage face-to-face delivery. One of the rabbit holes some companies fall into is overreliance on technology for feedback. Similar to social media, some individuals will add comments in an anonymous forum that they would not dare say in person. Feedback is actually an exercise for both parties as it encourages participants to think and prepare to share comments. This is valuable in and of itself! Do not let in-person feedback die because of a fancy 360 system. Encourage people to identify themselves in their feedback and meet to discuss the feedback. This is a part of building a healthy work relationship.
Offer post-review coaching. So, now what? You have a good process in place, but employees are doing nothing with the information. As a result, the organization is getting sick of requests for feedback. The best laid plans – development comments and live conversations included – can go awry if employees do not feel it is adding value. The truth is many employees need support to implement a development plan. This is where performance coaching comes into play. A qualified coach can help employees interpret the feedback as a whole and aid in converting this into clear, developmental goals.
Employee development is part art and part science. The field will continue to change as employee expectations and business needs evolve. In response, companies need to be flexible to innovate, try new things and be open to rethinking when the plan doesn’t work. Setting the tone for future 360-degree reviews can help ensure that employees know what to expect and participate openly.