360-degree feedback is an effective tool for employee development and organizational growth and success. Having said that, it helps to be aware of the pros and cons involved in implementing the feedback process, so as to guard against them and eliminate their effect.
• Anonymous feedback helps to make it more acceptable and paves the ways to engagement, development and could reduce attrition.
• Helps to identify development areas, bridge skill gaps and encourages individual growth.
• It will reflect on the relationships being maintained among the employees.
• A higher level of transparency and mutual trust among employees improves performance.
• Helps with succession planning, to transition employees to new roles, by imparting new skills to them.
• The development opportunities help to improve overall productivity of employees.
• Helps align the goals of the employees with the goals of the organization.
• Enables employees access development opportunities to realize their potential.
• Could result in offending and alienating employees.
• Feedback offered may not be truly honest, for different reasons.
• Having some people, especially leaders, reject the feedback could lead to trust issues.
• The exercise could consume too much time in providing and collating relevant feedback.
• A lack of objectivity on the part of respondents could affect the quality of feedback.
360-degree feedback, as the name suggests, is provided by several stakeholders, like managers, colleagues and even clients, on the performance of an individual or a team. This feedback remains anonymous and confidential and is revealed only to a few stakeholders. The feedback is expected to throw a light on the capabilities of the person/team in question, and to identify any weak areas and training needs. Most importantly, it is expected to be objective and unbiased as it comes from diverse stakeholders who have interacted with the employee. It can be a very meaningful and useful tool for actionable development insights for organizations as well as the individuals involved. Done right, 360-degree feedback is a completely transparent process which improves the overall efficiency of the employee feedback process.
However, organizations need to make sure that it is done the right way so as to secure its benefits. Let’s look at the pros and cons on a 360-degree feedback, so we know where the advantages and pitfalls lie and ensure that we focus on the most positive outcomes.
Here are some advantages which accrue with the adoption of a 360-degree feedback process.
Improved Awareness: The anonymity with which employee feedback is provided in this process makes it easier to accept, especially when more than one person offers similar feedback. 360-degree feedback helps employees to be aware of their strengths and weaknesses and enables them to see themselves through their colleagues’ eyes to identify any improvement areas. This paves the way to development, acquisition of new skills, motivation and can even lower attrition across an organization.
Opportunity for Development: When the 360-degree feedback throws up areas of improvement for an employee. Depending on the number of respondents, the picture that emerges could cover more aspects, be fairer and offer better clarity. The organization can then put in the necessary efforts to plug the gaps by organizing training programs to encourage individual growth and bridge any skill gaps.
Better Relationships: 360-degree feedback helps to improve communication across people in the organization and encourages better relationships. It will also throw light on the relationships maintained by the employee with the others in their team or the organization as a whole.
Develop Trust: All the individuals in the organization develop a higher amount of trust with each other, and a level of transparency in their interactions which helps to improve performance across the organization.
Planned Transition: 360-degree feedback comes in especially useful to help employees transition to new roles. Employees can be prepared and equipped to takeover critical roles, and leadership positions, requiring some specific strengths and not many blind spots.
Improved Productivity: Teams start working together better, with an increase in overall performance and thereby, productivity.
Aligned Goals: The goals of the employee are aligned better with the goals of the organization, as 360-degree feedback provides clear development goals and sets direction for employees as well as teams.
Operational Improvement: When used right, 360-degree feedback can offer true insights into the areas of development for the organization’s processes too and help to realize the potential of employees.
When not handled right, 360-degree feedback can ruffle feathers and cause rifts, ruining the working relationship between employees and cause other issues.
Affects Engagement: Should the employee feedback be shared by a manager with higher focus on the negative aspects, it could make the employee feel offended and disengaged. It is important to share both positive and negative aspects of feedback in a balanced manner and used constructively to discuss avenues for development when sharing 360-degree feedback with someone.
Lack of honesty: If the respondents do not feel comfortable with providing honest feedback, out of fear or personal rapport, they could provide dishonest reviews which lack transparency and have little or no value for anyone. It is essential to establish an atmosphere of trust and openness before adopting the 360-degree feedback process. Some employees could mutually arrange to boost each other’s reviews and thereby, their prospects, or collectively decide to pull someone down and slowly, but surely push them out of the organization, using false feedback.
Trust Issues: Occasionally, leaders fail to set an example and accept the feedback provided by their subordinates and agree to a development plan. That would detract from not just the leader but the organization itself as people feel disengaged and lose their trust in the whole exercise and the improvements it offers.
Time-consuming: Thoughtful responses need time and providing feedback demands a lot of time and focus from the respondents. Others need to review it all, to collate and compile coherent and comprehensive feedback using common insights for each and everyone in the organization. Doing this manually is hard but there are software tools which can help to reduce the time spent managing this exercise.
Lack of Objectivity: The subjective opinions of respondents affect the overall rating process, whether they are fans or judges. Sometimes, the interpretation of the opinions expressed could be faulty and affect the overall employee feedback process due to that.
Done right, 360-degree feedback provides a holistic and balanced view of a person’s skills and behavior, helping them to become aware of their strengths as well as weaknesses. It is not about measuring performance. The real benefits of a 360-degree appraisal process accrue to an organization when it is aligned with the company’s Performance Management System. By making it a part of a larger development scheme, and to measure the desired behaviours to ensure performance, an organization can derive the most out of a 360-degree feedback process.
Read the following posts to understand how to implement and effective ways of giving employee feedback