Thursday, March 22, 2012

Koliso Perspective: The Importance of a 360 Appraisal and Why It Shouldn’t Suck!

In various places around the world there are thousands of organizations using a 360-degree review today. We like multi-rater appraisals, but like the airline employee who hears everyone's travel woes, we all hear about 360-degree processes that suck.

Here’s the deal: they shouldn’t.

There is a good reason 360s are popular.  Between 40-80% of executives undergo some kind of 360 feedback depending on the industry and seniority of the individuals. Senior leaders and those in service and similar industries are more likely to participate than people in non-leadership roles or organizations focused less on multiple internal or external customer interactions.

There are sound psychological reasons for using 360s. While at work, there are two major ways we learn things. In the first way, we learn through social modeling. We are heavily influenced by the behavior and values of people around us. Secondly, we learn through feedback about what is working and what isn’t. The 360 process tells us what the people around us value and gives us feedback about how our performance is viewed. There is a wealth of literature on the effectiveness of 360s, as well as the pitfalls to avoid.

When we hear 360s aren’t going well, we know it’s one of two things: either there’s something flawed in the process, or the culture of the organization isn’t supportive of candid, constructive feedback.

Both of those things can be addressed in ways that are easy, affordable and linked to encouraging higher performance for everyone.

Part I: What is 360 feedback, and what kind of feedback do we want?

The 360 degree review is a process where someone gets structured feedback on their performance from a variety of sources all around their job…peers, internal and external customers, their managers, people they have worked with on projects, and their direct reports, just to name a few. 

Let’s call them the 3Cs: customers, colleagues and community. All of these have a vested interest in recognizing the person’s strengths and helping them improve their performance.

Ideally there are only two things you need to find out. “What does the person do well?” and “What are the person’s opportunities for improvement?”

That’s it. Why? Because the aim of the exercise is to find out what the person does well so we can recognize and reward good behavior, along with what the person could do better so we can help them improve to meet the reasonable expectations of the 3Cs.

Sometimes the raters find it hard to structure their feedback in a way that is specific and relevant. It can be useful to ask more guided questions to help the feedback be more useful and easy for the raters and person being evaluated. Sometimes an organization will have a leadership model, management competencies or specific promises that have been made (like a customer service pledge.) If that’s the case, it makes sense to ask specifically if the person is doing well in service of the pledge to customers, or if there are things the person can usefully improve.

You want it to come down to answering the two questions: “What does the person do well?” and “What are the person’s opportunities for improvement?”

Congratulations if your organization has a way of getting candid constructive feedback for everyone on these two points in a way that is easy, affordable and aligned with your organization goals. If not…stay tuned for part II, which will be featured on our blog later this month.

Do you want to discuss this topic in greater detail? Contact Koliso.

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