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Learning and Development | 10 Min Read

The Feel and Future of 360 Degree Feedback Tool

360 Degree Feedback System: Normalizing Feedback

Times have changed; the Information era has begun. Now people know more than their bosses what needs to be done and how it is to be done. Hence to manage the knowledgeable workers, it is mandatory to listen, ask, and learn from everyone around.

Feedback is common sense. When people ask, listen, and then try to learn from others, it improves the relationship between them.

The 360-degree feedback tool has created an upheaval in the HR space, and people are all over it.

The people are integrating the system into their companies. The tool is about the pretty colors of help, where companies are making a shift from appraisals to continuous performance management.

What is the difference between a 360-degree review/appraisal and 360-degree feedback?

Most professionals confuse a 360-degree review/appraisal/evaluation with 360-degree feedback. 360-degree feedback is the process of reviewing individuals based on their performance levels (or other factors such as competencies, behaviors, and accomplishments). For this purpose, all those people who bear different working relationships with the person under review provide their feedback. They can be managers, peers, direct reports, and other customers. The main objective is to offer the reviewee an opportunity to improve his/her efficiency, and commonly, this feedback would not be used for some other purpose within the organization. A 360-degree review, on the contrary, has a similar mechanism, but its results are utilized in decision-making processes about employees’ promotions, compensations, and more. In such a review, ratings are averaged out to evaluate employees via ranks, and this ranking process is crucial in determining who to promote.

The mode of input for both cases can be either quantitative or qualitative, or both. Quantitative input takes into consideration ratings based on certain criteria such as competency and behavior. For instance, Google assesses employees on various behavioral aspects and categorizes them on a scale of “exceeds expectations” to “below expectations”. On the other side, Qualitative input includes forming a narrative that may or not be steered in a particular direction. Let’s take the example of Netflix, a leading media services provider and production company, that follows a reliable feedback process model every six months where employees give useful feedback to one another on the Stop, Start, Continue format.

A structured feedback system, where co-workers (can be subordinates, peers and managers) provides constructive feedback to employees, is known as a 360-degree feedback system.

What is a 360-Degree Feedback System?

A 360-degree feedback system is a multi-rater tool that gives each employee performance feedback from the people who work with them. These people are none other than the employee’s peers, manager, subordinates, and sometimes customers. At least four to eight people fill the feedback form, where the questions evaluate the employee by covering a landscape of competencies.

The employee for whom the feedback is being filled must fill a self-assessment form with the same questions. Once the process is over, the system automatically presents the report in a manner that is easily understandable by the recipient and helps him create a development plan.

The Essence of the Tool-

  • It gives a picture to the individual as to how others view his/her effectiveness in the organization.
  • It provides knowledge of the abilities and practices wanted in the company to achieve the mission, vision, and objectives.

Strictly speaking, the 360-degree feedback tool does justice to its name by measuring the feedback from a 360-degree angle of the employee, including all the people connected with him/her.

How do you get 360-Degree Feedback?

It’s obvious to consider 360-degree feedback as an optimal learning and development aid to acquaint individuals with their performance, skills, and team skills. Usually, the individual seeking feedback fills a self-perception questionnaire and gets responses from other people who provide feedback anonymously about that individual via an identical questionnaire. The respondents are divided into cohorts based on the relationship they share with the appraisee. This way, the appraisee gets a holistic (360) view of his/her performance. In the case of flexible organizations, this structured feedback is highly significant because the appraisee may be working across teams or autonomously, and the immediate manager may not be able to recognize the full contribution from the appraisee. That’s why a 360 feedback system is an imperative necessity for organizations.

A structured 360-degree feedback system includes the collective opinion of several different people through competency-based questionnaires. These questionnaires are structurally designed around a set of core competencies ( analytical skills, communication, teamwork, leadership, etc.) and open-ended questions, which are aimed at getting unconstrained responses that speak volumes about the appraisee’s personality. After the respondents and the reviewee have filled their questionnaires, the gathered inputs are compiled into a 360-degree feedback report. The feedback report highlights the crucial areas for self-development and becomes a ready reckoner for senior managers to implement professional development planning. The 360 feedback system must be well-thought-out, followed by adequate preparation beforehand and ample support afterward for participants. The feedback process should be objective, transparent, and be carried out with the utmost sincerity and sensitivity. The anonymity of all participants should be well taken care of, and the feedback should be delivered by only those supervisors who are well-trained in feedback techniques.

How Do You Conduct a 360-Degree Performance Appraisal?

A 360-degree feedback system will focus on these key areas: work ethics,  technical know-how, teamwork, customer focus, communications, leadership, etc. Noteworthy here is that we should not get consumed by the idea of using a 360 feedback system as an accurate tool to measure competencies because the feedback serves as a tool to provide a general perception of an individual’s performance. To this end, a structured feedback system should be used in tandem with the annual appraisal system between the manager and the subordinate, with the report outcomes being oriented towards the professional development and self-improvement of employees. Even though many HR departments carry out the task of 360 performance appraisal, various companies outsource the 360-degree feedback system to external companies.

Listed below are vital tips to conduct a 360-degree performance appraisal and evaluate its feedback :

  • Gather collective feedback from a cohort consisting of 15-20 people
  • Consider taking inputs from the appraisee's superiors and subordinates as well
  • Ensure the anonymity of respondents come what may
  • Sensitize all employees about the necessity of the 360-degree survey  and never single out anyone in the process
  • Ask the fellow employees to complete their review without any bias
  • Take only those respondents into consideration who have worked with the appraisee for at least six months.
  • Perform a thorough analysis of the feedback data and compile it into a comprehensive report to be used for future reference
  • Utilize this data to join the dots and identify perceptions and behavior of employees
  • Focus more on constructive criticism rather than zeroing in on negative findings
  • Ensure that the feedback process is mutually beneficial for both organization and the employee and sets the focus on achieving common objectives

What are the Qualities that a Useful 360 Feedback Tool Should Have?

A 360 feedback tool is a powerful medium to gather insights into employee performance and collect feedback in real-time from superiors, peers, and subordinates, etc. The best part is that the tool maintains the anonymity of the respondents with the utmost ease.

Here are some qualities that one should expect from an excellent 360-degree feedback software-

  • Perfectly-integrated Dashboard- A 360 evaluation tool should be multifaceted and contain essential factors such as appealing dashboard, insightful reports through line graphs, pie charts, bar graphs, and more.
  • Smart surveys- Some of the best 360 feedback tools available in the market come with the feature to automate surveys. A useful tool helps in configuring surveys once only, so it’s easy to set them in a recurring mode at regular intervals.
  • Wide range of templates-  A 360 assessment tool must comprise a broad variety of templates, enriching the experience of creating surveys. However, it should include relevant questions.
  • Customization-  A 360-degree feedback software makes it incredibly easy to customize various aspects of employees such as job titles.
  • Privacy- This is one of the most sought-after features of 360 assessment tools because everybody expects that the tool should offer complete anonymity.

Why Go for a 360-Degree Feedback Tool?

Genuine feedback is important to test one’s perception, perceive the hidden qualities, and understand the blindsides in self-recognitions.

360_degree_feedback_benefits_the_feel_and_future_of_360_degree_feedback

What are the Advantages of 360-Degree Feedback?

Some of the essential benefits of 360-degree feedback are:

  • Makes you Aware

Self-awareness is all about understanding one’s thoughts, interests, strengths, and vulnerabilities. A leader needs to be balanced in his ideas and approach. Leaders come in with a great start but sometimes lose track, and this feedback system could be one way to give them the right direction to improve.

  • Facilitates Communication

Dialogue is the initial step that paves the way for improvement. It creates an opportunity for fruitful discussion in which everyone wins. This step starts with a warm talk between the reviewee and the reviewer (manager, peers, or co-workers). This communication proceeds to form a plan where improvement goals are being discussed.

  • Provides Developmental Opportunities

A crucial part of continuous performance management is development opportunities. The 360-degree evaluation tool shows a reliable way of how teams could grow and become far better in their performance. It gives them space to build on current skills and create new ones. And allowing the individuals to take ownership of the development process increases their engagement.

  • Builds a Relationship of Reciprocity & Accountability

A continuous 360-degree feedback system is not a one-sided tool where the top administration directs the one below them. It removes the problem of ambiguity; the system defines certain competency needs. According to the needs, the person is required to perform. This way it is easy to convey the requirement, and if the person fails to perform, he can be held responsible.

But what makes the process efficient is that when the needs are pre-defined, there is no room for unclear thoughts. The employees understand where he lacks, takes ownership of his actions, and hence this makes it easier to identify development opportunities.

  • Improves performance

When appropriately implemented, an excellent 360-degree feedback system guarantees employee engagement. With the 360 feedback questionnaire, the employees unearth their strengths and weaknesses. Identifying the competencies allows the structuring of a customized development plan. When they are told about the abilities and the same are sharpened, they excel and contribute more to the company’s goals.

What are the Use Cases of a 360-Degree Feedback Tool?

  • As a Developmental Tool

The feedback mechanism provides feedback to the employees from all levels. This feedback is generally kept anonymous to avoid any discomfort during expression. This way the employee gets to know what other people think about his abilities and performance.

The recipients hence get a chance to understand what others feel, good or bad, and therefore have an opportunity to improve themselves and adjust their behavior.

That’s how employees move towards improvement and excelling in their jobs.

The performance of a company is directly related to the performance of an individual.  A traditional performance evaluation system assesses the employees and rates them annually.

Performance is nothing but the accomplishment of a task by a person. The use of 360-degree evaluation tools in this manner is gaining importance for its unbiased assessment. The 360-degree feedback questionnaire focuses on the abilities and aptitude of the workers and conveys them the feelings and perceptions of co-workers.

In this way, the tool calls attention to the critical performance dimensions that may otherwise get neglected by the company.

The 360-degree feedback tool is gaining popularity over the years. Once used for just the top level of the management, it has now come to include other worker groups as well. The multi-rater process begins with the senior team coming down to cover the various management levels.

What Expectations to Set?

More than 85% of all the Fortune 500 companies use the 360-degree feedback system as a cornerstone of their overall leadership development process. If you are not a user, we encourage you to take a fresh look.

But before using, understand the expectations to be set for your tool. 

  • What Not to Expect?

The tool is a part of the performance management system and not the system itself. Sometimes people start over expecting and that’s where things could go haywire. The system is a part and needs to be well integrated into the system to perform.

It is not about focusing on the downfalls, negatives, and weaknesses of a person. The system is about promoting good performance and making improvements wherever needed.

The tool does not focus on job-specific skills or technical expertise. It is not the tool to check whether the person is meeting the job requirements.

The feedback tool is not a standard questionnaire that can be used in all companies in the same way. Each company has different requirements, and the questions need to be adjusted according to the requirements.

  • What to Expect?

Whenever you want to look for a developmental tool for your employees, a tool that assesses the behavior and competencies of the employee, go for the 360-degree feedback questionnaire.

Expect to understand how you are seen in the eyes of others in your workplace, get to read what feedback they give.

It focuses on subjective areas such as teamwork, attitude, leadership, and management.

How Often Should 360 Feedback Be Used?

Most supervisors grapple with the question- How often should I consider implementing 360 feedback? While there is no surefire reply to this answer, there are some factors that give a fair idea about the frequency of performing 360s. Firstly, we should take note of the duration when a meaningful behavior change manifests and for that change to be also observed by others. Ideally, an interval between 12 to 24 months is advisable for going over the 360-degree feedback process again. This way, it allows sufficient time for employers to devise and work through development and action-oriented plans to instill that change. That being said, it’s also imperative that supervisors keep tabs on the appraisee’s goal setting and growth plan progress.

What Goes Wrong When Companies Introduce the 360-Degree Tool?

“Wrong expectations are the root cause of disappointment.”

Other times it is about how companies implement the tool in their system. The reasons for failure could be-

Companies_do_it_wrong_with_360_degree_feedback_the_feel_and_future_of_360_degree_feedback

  • Indifferent Superiors

If there is no involvement from superiors the program is bound to fail. Bosses are the believers without them; the programs may not succeed.

  • No Follow-Ups-

Just as Rome wasn’t built in a day, you cannot undergo change overnight; it’s a gradual process. Once the feedback has been made and provided to the respective person, the work doesn’t end there. A significant effort is required to shed old patterns.

  • No Strengths Only Weaknesses-

Solely focusing on the downsides and disregarding the good aspects of the reviewee’s feedback is the mistake that many companies make in the feedback process. The positives are what got the employees where they are, that’s what needs to be remembered.

Once companies understand these downfalls and make the 360-degree evaluation tool systematic and optimized, the experience will, then, positively impact everyone.

360-Degree Evaluation Tool in Action

Before the company starts to train its employees based on the feedback received, it is mandatory to include assessments in the process.

Pre and post-assessments are the best way to evaluate the skill gap analysis and keep a tab of the pre and post learnings as well.

Mettls’ bank of Pre-Built-Tests and assessments for cognitive, behavioral, technical, or aptitude abilities are a must.

Before taking up the learning initiatives, it is customary to know where the employee stands before the learnings in terms of skills and repeat the process post-assessments. And that is how we at Mettl help you make an informed decision and give one too to your employees. Based on the assessment analytics, it gets easier to tell the employees what areas to improve and monitor the change as well.

Promote a Culture of Feedback

Do you want to improve the performance of your employees?

The first step is to understand the purpose of a 360-degree feedback questionnaire. The 360-degree evaluation tool is a positive and powerful instrument that can build an organization’s support system.

What are the Pros and Cons of 360-Degree Feedback?

Pros of 360-Degree Feedback

Listed below are some pros and cons of 360-degree feedback tool

  • Broader Perspective 

Since the process is all about collecting feedback from many different sources, it serves as a potential tool for accurate evaluation. The tool paints a complete picture of the appraisee’s strengths and weaknesses because a holistic feedback system touches all the bases.

  • Strengthens Teamwork

In an ideal setting, coworkers will be more productive and satisfied in the workplace because the tool helps them identify their strengths and weaknesses. 

  • Unified Perception

The 360-degree feedback tool reflects the shared perceptions of people. It offers colleagues a chance to express their feelings about the coworkers, anonymously. If the reviewee handles feedback without being upset, he/she will get to know the perception of others. This approach paves the way for developing a growth mindset that considers every feedback as an opportunity to grow.

  • The more, the better 

Most organizations do not provide their employees with substantial feedback. Consequently, employees long for such a structured process, which gives them a chance to know more about themselves. Employees will never doubt the credibility of feedback that’s coming from multiple sources.

Cons of 360-Degree Feedback

  • Can lead to Negativity 

If the reviewee receives negative feedback, it may lead to emotions of fear and anger that could hamper the spirit of teamwork. 

  • May be subject to inaccuracy

It’s undeniable that there is always scope for errors in a system that entails feedback from so many different people. Many factors that affect the credibility of feedback are internal politics, personal bias, and more. Moreover, if the team is small in size and everybody shares the right equation, it becomes challenging to be critical of each other. On the contrary, if the group is significantly large, the chances are high that many people are not well-acquainted with each other, and that could affect the credibility of the data that’s been collected. That’s why one should be extremely cautious while collecting data.

  • Fault Finding 

Reviewers, more often than not, can use the 360 assessment tool to emphasize employees’ negative qualities rather than their positives, which can demoralize the reviewees. It’s understandable to underscore areas for improvement, but we can’t rule out the importance of focusing on strengths if we want to make the most of the 360 feedback system.

How Mercer | Mettl Can Help?

Mercer | Mettl has a one-stop solution for all your 360-degree evaluation needs. It offers three practical tools to evaluate employees’ potential and abilities. They are listed below:

Performance Appraisal

The evaluation tool provides you overall employees’ perspective in the form of a seamless platform, intuitive reports, and customizable surveys.

  • Seamless Platform: Eliminates operational hassles from the 360-degree evaluation and appraisal process by the quick set-up, effortless administration, and automated reminders.
  • Intuitive Reports: Mercer | Mettl helps in preparing beautiful reports and dashboards with clear and actionable information. It consists of comprehensive feedback reports, group reports, and easy-to-understand dashboards.
  • Customizable Survey: It helps you customize questions to competencies to reports. Mercer | Mettl will help you build custom questionnaires, an exhaustive competency library, and multiple question types.

You can visit the link for more details on Performance Appraisal.

Training Needs Identification

The assessment tool helps in identifying gaps in the behavioral traits of an employee as perceived by other stakeholders.

It Is Divided into 3 Pillars:

Why Train?

Mercer | Mettl identifies and develop key competencies in employees to achieve business goals

Who to Train?

It helps in identifying the skill gap for each employee based on the competency levels

What to Train for?

It helps in designing a customized training plan based on individual skill gaps and training needs

Apart from that, Mercer | Mettl helps you in curating the right training program for your organization. It is divided into three parts:

Skill-based: It helps in identifying employees’ unique skill sets required to succeed in every job role and function.

Behavior-based: It identifies behavioral gaps that need to be worked upon employees. They are the dominant predictor for most roles.

Future-Proofing: It augments the learning agility within the organization by identifying upcoming skills to develop in the workforce.

For more details on this, visit the link.

Succession Planning

This tool understands behavioral dynamics observed on-the-job and assists in the developmental steps.

Mercer | Mettl can help you plan Succession Planning in the following way:

  • Identify: It defines vital competencies required to succeed in critical roles and nominate candidates.
  • Assess: Valid and reliable tools such as Psychometric, Aptitude Assessment, Assessment and Development Centers, and 360 Degree Feedback System are used to assess candidate readiness on critical competencies.
  • Plan: Customized reports are used to shortlist suitable candidates for succession.
  • Act: There is a check on the growth of selected candidates.

Conclusion

Implementing a 360-degree feedback system in organizations is a smart investment and a business decision as it promotes self-awareness and creates transparency in communications. The feedback tool creates transparency among the internal team via trust, sharing, and increased clarity towards expected behaviors and goals. A well-crafted 360-degree feedback process can boost overall team performance.

You may also want to read: All you need to know about 360 Degree Feedback

About Mercer | Mettl

At Mercer I Mettl, our mission is to enable organizations to build winning teams by making credible people decisions across two key areas: Acquisition and Development. Since our inception in 2009, we have partnered with 2900+ corporates, 31 sector skill councils/government departments, and 15+ educational institutions across 90+ countries.

Mettl was acquired by Mercer in 2018, a global consulting leader in advancing health, wealth, and career, and a subsidiary of Marsh & McLennan Companies (NYSE: MMC), the leading global professional services firm in the areas of risk, strategy and people.

Originally published June 24 2018, Updated July 24 2020

Divyeshwari Singh

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