In an episode of the Emmy Award-Winning Comedy Series, The Office, “office hottie” Pam Beesly speculates about her upcoming performance review: “It’s performance review day, company-wide. Last year, my performance review started with Michael asking me what my hopes and dreams were, and it ended with him telling me he could bench-press 190 pounds. So, I don’t really know what to expect.”
In the old days, an employee was accountable to his boss; if he did his job well, he kept it. If he didn’t do his job well, he was handed a pink slip. The employee’s boss assessed the performance of his direct reports by doing evaluations and sending the results to his boss. That has been the traditional approach to evaluating employee performance.
Enter the 360-Degree Performance Review
When an organization first launches a 360-degree feedback program, some employees are reluctant. This is a valid concern; getting straightforward feedback about our performance can be difficult. As executives rise through the ranks of their organizations, they often receive less and less sincere information about themselves and their performance. Subordinates are sometimes afraid of disappointing those in leadership roles and may give less than honest feedback on a manager’s performance when asked in person.
A 360-degree feedback survey offers others an opportunity to provide accurate and helpful feedback in an effective and confidential manner. In a 360-feedback survey, the employee and a group of other raters answers specific questions about performance. Raters are chosen from those with whom the employee works day-to-day and typically include managers, direct reports, peers, and subordinates. One notable advantage of a 360-degree assessment: it provides a depth of perspective that traditional performance reviews lack.
Asking the Right Questions
To be most effective, a 360-degree feedback survey needs to address the right questions. Questions should identify performance that links to overall team and organizational goals. If you are not asking the right questions, you can’t expect to capture good data. You need to consider organizational expectations as well as job-specific proficiencies. Moreover, questions need to be well written to collect the data you are looking for. Poorly written items will yield useless information—garbage in, garbage out. Asking the wrong questions can also confuse workers as to what behaviours are important and expected.
Feedback From Different Perspectives
As previously mentioned, a 360-degree employee evaluation may involve managers, colleagues, and direct reports. This is beneficial because people act differently with their co-workers. For instance, they may be more open with a colleague than they are with a manager. Also, a colleague can often give a better assessment of how an individual works because they are who the individual spends more time with on a daily basis. Getting feedback from different sources delivers a more balanced assessment. Seeing your performance from different viewpoints provides a more complete picture, and makes the review process less subjective, less hierarchical and more equal across the board.
Personal & Organizational Development Opportunities
Personal development and growth are vital to a successful career, and areas where employees need improvement can be addressed through a 360-degree feedback. Advocates say that since it also includes self-evaluation, management is made aware of the knowledge and skills that need to be acquired and improved on. Having more accurate performance data allows HR, managers, and employees to more easily identify strengths and skill gaps within teams. Consequently, essential training will be offered to employees that will not only enhance their skills, but also save the company from the expense of unnecessary training.
When people are overly confident in their abilities they may view feedback as a confirmation of what they already know; for others, the idea of being scrutinized can be extremely stressful. Going into a performance review with this mindset undermines the real value of feedback: an invaluable opportunity for improvement. 360-degree feedback allows you to focus on employee strengths and areas for improvement, enabling the organization to identify development needs and ensure the necessary training.
Are you ready to gain 360-degree insight into individual and team performance? Sign up for a Free trial account and take a look at our sample survey template to start gathering important feedback on your employees’ performance from their managers, co-workers, peers, and subordinates.