Lately, we have noticed debates on various blogs and forums centered on the question, “Should 360 Feedback be used for development purposes or for performance appraisals?”
While the topic is not new in nature, it still is an interesting debate and we would like to put our two cents in the mix.
The nature of 360 feedback is to collect perceptions about a person’s behavior and the impact of that behavior from the person’s boss, direct reports, and colleagues. It measures leadership effectiveness such as decision-making skills, collaborative planning, conflict management, performance standards, and many others. The feedback is used for action planning, and to set goals.
The 360 Feedback process is performed through anonymous feedback. Anonymity lends itself to more honest and open feedback from raters, and accurate feedback is key to a successful 360 process.
However, there is a growing trend to link appraisals to 360 data. As opposed to development programs, performance appraisals measure basic job requirements and are used for salary increases, promotions, bonuses, and even disciplinary action.
If this approach is required, we strongly suggest caution, full disclosure, and transparency for all involved before and after the project agreement. The process does lend itself to some negative unintended consequences, such as skewed data with the ‘halo’ or ‘horns’ effect, dips in participant morale, system gaming, etc.
A basic rule of thumb – if a company is not experienced with the 360 degree process, it should not use 360s for appraisal purposes.
When feedback is gathered and linked to development planning, goal setting, and organizational support, it can help improve individual performance. Contrasting self-evaluation results with feedback, enables individuals to integrate feedback into his or her self-image. Getting a clear picture can help identify weaknesses that can be improved, as well as strengths that can be leveraged.
Companies that turn to 360s must emphasize clear and frequent communication about the importance of development and implications for each member of the organization. The more people understand why 360 feedback is introduced to the organization and how the information is used, the more likely they are to support the effort.
In conclusion, utilizing 360 Feedback for development purposes creates an atmosphere of trust. People can truly believe the data will not be held against them but will be used to help them.