How To Use 360 Feedback Well

Posted on October 16, 2011.

I have a love/hate relationship with 360-feedback. There are times when it really does the job and improves work performance, but often it is just a waste of time. What is the difference, you ask? Here's my perspective:

For those who aren't acquainted with it, 360-feedback (aka 360 degree feedback or multi-rater feedback) is when those who work under, beside or above them provide feedback on an individual.  The information is gathered confidentially, most often by a standardized survey and then presented to the employee without identifying who is responsible for the specific ratings and comments.

I love 360-feedback when it helps someone realize that changing a specific behavior will improve his or her performance. For those who truly lack self-awareness it can provide a lot of insights on how their behavior impacts others. I also think it can be very useful for a manager to get a reality check on whether their employee manages down and sideways as well as they manage up.

I hate it when:

·      It becomes a lazy substitute for a boss's observations or feedback. As the manager, you need to fairly evaluate your employee's performance based on what you observe. That is your job; so don't delegate it to a survey.

·      It is overused. For instance, one year I was asked to fill out 30 different 360-feedback forms. Even if I knew them well enough, numbers 25 through 30 did not get a lot of thoughtful feedback due to my serious rating fatigue.

·      When there is no follow up. If it is going to have impact on performance then you need to reinforce the right behaviors. Check out the blog on the Feedback Loop for more insights on that.

·      It is based on numerical scales. Forcing people to rank each other on how they perform certain tasks doesn't give them the information they need to improve. Pointing to specific actions or behaviors that helped the person attain success, or sabotaged their success, is much more helpful to them.

Before you embark on a 360-feedback program, think about why you are doing it and what you want the outcomes to be. Hopefully, you will love the results.Image removed.