While the 360-degree concept has much to offer and many successes have been documented there are also stories of confusion and disappointment. Many of the 360-degree programs are carried out in the absence of a strategic context, and fail to focus on contributions that they can make to a firm's competitive advantage. There is little consistency to what is being done, and 360-degree feedback programs can range from any deviations from the traditional vertical form of performance appraisal to highly sophisticated feedback systems that systematically gather, analyze, and disseminate behavior data to managers, professionals, and even rank-and-file workers functioning in teams.
Many organizations adopt 360-degree feedback without clearly defining the mission and the scope of the program. Consequently, employees who receive the feedback are left to figure out for themselves how to cope with the results and tend not to develop goals and action plans following 360-degree applications. One study concluded that while such programs are popular, in many cases little more than lip service is paid to them. Furthermore, there is discouraging evidence regarding the effectiveness of feedback-intervention programs as tools in bringing about improvements in performance. A review of over 600 feedback studies found that only one-third reported improvements in performance. Another third reported negative changes in performance, while the final third reported no impact. In their haste to gain the advertised benefits of 360-degree feedback, organizations may not be sufficiently aware of the problems that often accompany its adoption. Failure to recognize the problems that often occur can lead to disillusionment, reduce the value of the exercise, and confirm the lip service that tends to be paid to 360-degree results.
Future Prospects & Recommendations.
360-degree feedback is powerful because it makes it easy to gather and report credible feedback about important issues that are otherwise hard to quantify. Like any powerful tool, it needs to be used with care in order to derive all the benefits.
Here are seven recommendations for avoiding problems.
1. Learn about the technology before you invest in it. 360 feedbacks is changing as rapidly as hardware and software systems are changing. Much is possible now that wasn't dreamed of a decade ago. Innovations in 360-degree systems such as 20/20 Insight GOLD have made feedback easier, more accessible, more affordable, more flexible and more versatile than ever. Not all 360-feedback publishers are innovating at the same pace or in the same direction. This creates a challenge for the prospective user who is learning about feedback options. However, a thorough, up-to-date review of what's available now will ensure that you get the maximum capability for the least investment.
2. Make sure that organization is prepared for 360-degree feedback. Readiness can be improved by addressing the following areas:
* The climate of trust
* Organizational stability
* Feedback practices
* Development practices
* Awareness and acceptance of 360 feedback
* Availability of computers
3. Use well-researched, well-constructed survey items. A 360-degree assessment is only as effective as the items that make up the survey. The best surveys are carefully constructed and locally validated. This is challenge is made easy by customizable survey platforms such as 20/20 Insight GOLD.
4. Protect confidentiality. People are willing to give honest feedback if they believe that doing so will benefit them and the people receiving it. You should establish policies and procedures that keep ratings anonymous and give supervisors only the summary data they need to help direct reports improve performance—and no more.
5. Use skilled facilitators. When people receive 360-degree feedback the first time, they often need help sorting through, accepting, understanding and making use of the information. People who have experience making this process successful should lead these meetings.
6. Follow up. Don't make the mistake of thinking that 360 feedbacks alone will improve performance. It can focus on priority development needs and produce strong motivation to change in many people, but individual development planning; coaching and empowerment of developmental activities are essential.
7. Separate developmental feedback from personnel and compensation decisions. 360 are best used for measuring the hard-to-quantify aspects of work, such as interpersonal skills. Reward systems are expensive, so they're best applied to reinforce desired results. It's a mistake to apply rewards to the work processes rather than work outcomes. Follow developmental feedback with developmental initiatives, not rewards.
On the other hand, interpersonal behaviors (e.g., leadership, team interaction, communication, sales, service, negotiation and instruction) aren't easily quantified or measured. The best way to get objective data about this aspect of performance is 360-degree feedback.