According to Bill Gates, “We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve.” Feedback is a development tool that’s an essential part of work-life. Without it, how can someone know when they’re doing a good job or what they need to work on? Feedback provides vital information about performance and shortcomings, but some types of feedback are better than others.
One way to provide excellent feedback is through the 360-degree feedback method. With this type of feedback, leaders, employees, clients, and other people who interact with the company assess team members. With all these varying perspectives, you get a well-rounded review of a person’s performance.
However, most people don’t know how to give great feedback. The biggest issue is an imbalance between positive and negative feedback. One survey found that 56 percent of leaders preferred providing negative feedback, while only 31 percent preferred staying positive.
When given ineffectively, 360 feedback can demotivate employees and make them feel targeted and victimized. Even if they are excellent performers, many team members feel like failures when confronted with a 360-degree job evaluation. Do it well, however, and you’ll likely see improvements in your employees, your business, and yourself.
In this article, learn about:
- What a 360 evaluation is
- How to give meaningful, constructive performance evaluations
- And the top ways to teach your team to provide fair and balanced feedback
What Is 360-Degree Feedback?
The 360-degree feedback process involves employees each receiving feedback from their colleagues, direct reports, and managers. Typically, the number of peers who provide feedback is from four to eight, though that depends on the organization. One important aspect of 360-degree feedback is that the feedback is kept anonymous. Each person fills out a performance appraisal or a confidential form that rates an individual on a scale in multiple categories while also providing further detailed comments. Individuals also fill out forms about themselves.
Once someone has received their feedback, they perform a self-assessment and identify where they need improvement. Based on the feedback and self-assessment, business leaders can understand current performance levels and see what skills people excel at. The main idea behind a 360-degree evaluation is to help all workers understand how their leaders and coworkers view them.
The Pros and Cons of 360-Degree Feedback
As with any process, a 360 assessment has its advantages and disadvantages. Identifying the drawbacks will help you pinpoint potential problems and improve the overall process.
Pros of 360-Degree Feedback
- Can reinforce accountability
- Provides an unfiltered look at how coworkers and leaders view a team member
- Shows where to focus future training efforts
- Identifies professional development opportunities
- Looks closely at behaviors and core competencies
- Offers feedback from a wide variety of people
- Allows honest opinions without fear of recriminations
Cons of 360-Degree Feedback
- Doesn’t allow for an accurate measurement of job performance
- Works when only part of a more substantial and wide-reaching performance management effort
- May lead to increased resentment among group members
- Makes it easy for people to remain anonymous while providing unhelpful, unconstructive feedback
- Doesn’t focus on essential or basic job requirements
- Doesn’t account for objective measurements
- Can focus too much on the negative and not the positive
- May result in company-wide mistrust and a decrease in employee retention
How to Adapt the 360-Degree Feedback Model for Better Results
As seen with the pros and cons above, a 360 survey can be a useful tool for evaluating individuals and how they fit on the team. However, if implemented poorly, it can end up causing more problems than it solves. The following best practices will help you enact a 360-degree feedback evaluation that gets the most out of the strategy.
1. Teach Your Team How to Give Great Feedback
Don’t forget that feedback is one of the essential elements of good communication.Anonymous
A 360-degree evaluation relies on employees giving good, effective feedback to their coworkers. The problem is that many workers don’t know how to give great feedback on employee performance. That might be why less than 30 percent of team members receive feedback regularly.
Feedback and performance reviews are helpful and necessary for improvement, but only when they’re constructive. That’s why workers need instruction on what effective feedback looks like. Simply criticizing someone for something they did doesn’t count. If team members did that all the time, the team dynamic would quickly break down. People would grow angry and impatient with each other, and communication would turn toxic.
Teach your team how to give constructive feedback that can be used to elevate others. Doing so gets great results from 360-degree feedback efforts while also helping people avoid poor communication within the organization. When this happens, everyone has each other’s backs, creating a mutually supportive environment where each worker feels comfortable.
How to give effective feedback:
- Give specifics: Saying “You’re great” or “You need to do better” doesn’t help anyone. Be precise about what someone has done well or needs to improve on. Feedback like “John should reply to his messages with more urgency” is specific about where John can improve. Without the specificity, people don’t know where to focus their efforts, leaving them confused and frustrated.
- Call out wins: 69 percent of workers say they would work harder if they received recognition for their work. This means feedback should be positive as well. If all you point out are shortcomings, people won’t listen for long. Call out someone’s wins (the things they’ve done well). As with the above point, the more specific, the better. For example, if Sally had an outstanding client call that got the client to renew their contract, recognize her during the next team meeting or announce it on the company Slack channel.
- Don’t wait: You shouldn’t wait to give feedback. Provide it at the earliest appropriate time. There’s no need to wait while a problem festers. And when someone does something well, you should tell them right away. At the same time, it does no one any good to call out a mistake someone made long ago. If the event is long past and nothing can be gained from bringing it up again, let it go.
- Check back in: Follow up and make sure people understand their feedback. Without checking back in, you’ll have no way of knowing if they’re doing what it takes to improve.
2. Give Your Team Time to Develop Meaningful Feedback
Feedback is the breakfast of champions.Ken Blanchard
People rarely put forth their best work when they’re in a rush. Why should we expect anything different when it comes to feedback? Most feedback can be sensitive and personal. Presenting that information after a hasty process may only lead to negative feelings and defensiveness. Some may even interpret the feedback as rude or hostile, and the issue could end up in the hands of human resources.
This idea holds true with 360-degree feedback. When presented with the evaluation, some people rush through the exercises. This isn’t because they don’t take the feedback seriously or dismiss it as unimportant. Instead, it’s because they don’t have enough time in their day to provide thoughtful feedback in addition to getting their typical tasks done. Remember that giving feedback is extra work for most people.
To get the best feedback, you should provide group members with time off to focus on the 360-degree evaluation. This might look like a full afternoon or even an entire day off so they can collect their thoughts and write them down in the way they want. Without the extra time to think and ponder, employees will often settle for surface-level feedback, which doesn’t get at the heart of potential problems.
Most people need more time to think about where someone excels and where they need a little more help. With that extra time, they can provide more constructive and useful feedback.
Also, don’t spring the 360-degree evaluation on them out of the blue. Let them think and plan ahead of time, so they’re ready to go when the right moment arrives.
3. Ask Better Questions
If nobody asked questions, then we would never learn anything.Brandon Sanderson
Just giving people a blank slate to write down their thoughts may work for some employees, but most workers will be left scratching their heads. Employees need further guidance when it comes to writing down their thoughts, and that all begins with the questions you ask.
To get the most out of 360 reviews, develop specific questions that help guide people in providing feedback in particular areas. Creating these questions for the evaluation isn’t always easy. Here are some questions you should ask yourself before starting the feedback process.
- What is it you really want to know from this exercise?
- How will this information be put to use in your organization?
- What’s the overall purpose of this evaluation?
- What is the specific goal you’re hoping to achieve with this person?
You shouldn’t have a standard form for people to fill out with every evaluation. Every employee is different, so if you ask generic questions for every person, you’re unlikely to get the specific answers you seek. Create a unique evaluation tailored to each worker and the job they do.
Most of all, think about how the feedback will help the person under the microscope. Each question should reflect the purpose of the feedback, otherwise, it’s just wasted time and space.
4. Stay Positive
Criticism, like rain, should be gentle enough to nourish a man’s growth without destroying his roots.Frank A. Clark
Too much negative feedback can destroy a person’s confidence and weaken their resolve to be better. It can also lower morale to a dangerous level. Just think what it would do to a team that received nothing but negative feedback. Spirits would drop, and team cohesion would suffer.
That’s not to say that you should avoid all types of negative feedback. Some feedback of that type can be helpful and constructive. But you have to stay positive to avoid coming off as too critical. Make sure you provide upfront positive feedback first. Then you can get into the nitty-gritty and where they need to improve. Finish the meeting off by reminding the employee that they’re still doing an excellent job when applicable.
But what if someone isn’t doing a good job? In such a case, you need to sit down with them to have a serious conversation about the areas that need improvement. Even then, you shouldn’t just list out what needs to be fixed. Develop a plan together to map out specific goals and timelines.
Through it all, offer your support, all the while encouraging them and staying positive. When you accompany this with honest communication about what needs to change, they’ll be more receptive to the feedback you give.
Give employees a real chance to succeed by keeping your communication lines open. Check in with them from time to time on their progress. Maintain your support and encouragement. If after all this you still have to let them go, they at least won’t feel blindsided.
5. Always Give Feedback in Person or on Video
To become more effective and fulfilled at work, people need a keen understanding of their impact on others and the extent to which they’re achieving their goals in their working relationships. Direct feedback is the most efficient way for them to gather this information and learn from it.Ed Batista
One potential serious flaw in the 360-degree feedback process is how leaders deliver the feedback. Usually, feedback recipients would be given the feedback as a document. This, however, creates problems due to the lack of human connection and communication. All feedback should be given in a forthright, meaningful, and constructive way, and doing so through an anonymous survey represents an enormous challenge.
Feedback should happen face-to-face as much as possible. It’s simply more meaningful that way. It also helps you deliver criticism more constructively. Choosing to only deliver a paper will fail to build close relationships with your team members.
Choosing to give feedback in person also allows you to have tough conversations with no chance at meanings getting lost in translation. You can deal out the tough news in a more supportive way. As Winston Churchill advises, “Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.”
Always give feedback face-to-face. If you have remote workers, do it over video chat. Show that you care about a person’s professional development. Taking the time to give feedback in this way shows that the matter is important to you, and the employee should take it seriously.
Opening Lines of Communication on Your Team
It doesn’t matter if you’re in sales, customer service, research and development, or part of the executive suite. Feedback is necessary to better yourself and improve in your role. There are many ways to give feedback, and just like any other one, 360-degree feedback has its pros and cons. To have the best chance at success with it, all lines of communication must be open.
While an anonymous survey may help team members be candid, it’s not the most effective way to give feedback. Where 360-degree feedback excels is having different perspectives on a single person. This can help you see someone’s strengths and weaknesses.
Open up lines of communication between team members for the best results. Encourage your team to give each other face-to-face feedback on a regular basis. In the end, you’ll build stronger bonds as a team. As feedback becomes normalized, you’ll see more innovation, improved performance, and increased profits at your organization.
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