360° Feedback has been around for quite a while as a concept to develop leadership and boost employee engagement within an organization.

At its core, a survey is used to solicit anonymous performance assessments about an employee from their boss, peers, subordinates and sometimes even customers...basically those around the employee and hence the 360° implication.  This information is meant to help identify areas of weakness and strength along with highlighting opportunities to improve oneself.

This all sounds very good and when properly executed can be useful......however....

Actually, before I go on I want to state categorically that when it comes to improving the workplace, morale and employee performance (i.e. increasing Employee Engagement levels) a 360° Feedback initiative is exponentially better than doing nothing, sweeping issues under the rug and just hoping things get better.

With that said however, the main issues and concerns I see with 360° Feedback as it pertains to today's workforce (who expect real-time, employee driven initiatives) are;

Point-In-Time Information

Like other data collection activities (such as the dreaded annual employee survey) the information gathered is usually static for a period of at least another year.  Those invited to provide feedback on an employee effectively get one shot to give their evaluation and opinions.  Let's hope they weren't having a bad day when they took the survey!

360 Degree Feedback is Flawed and we need an AlternativeOpinionated Information

The feedback generally focusses on negative traits and can be influenced by;

  • Personal association and rapport with the employee being evaluated
  • Recent events such as a project gone bad, coworkers leaving/fired, etc...
  • One's own desire to climb the corporate ladder

In particular, if an employee has a beef or poor relationship with their boss or co-worker they may purposely try to skew results and provide overly negative comments. 

Too Little Information

Because the process is anonymous by design (and there are no specific follow-up actions), it is difficult for the recipient to get clarification or further information on subjective feedback that is unclear or ambiguous.  

Too Much Information

Subjective commentary from various angles can be very difficult to collate and even more difficult to group into actionable outcomes and solutions.  Employees and managers may feel overwhelmed with the disparate nature of the feedback and actually become despondent due to not knowing where to and how to focus their efforts.

What to do with the Information

Many people are overwhelmed when they get their results and sit down to discuss with their manager or administrator of the initiative.  Very few have the tools or training to analyze the data and put together a specific plan to address the needs and measure progress over time.

Let's Compare

As can be seen, the above points all circle (pun intended) around the information (or lack thereof) that 360° Feedback initiatives are supposed to supply.

What is really needed in today's workforce is a solution that is transformational rather than just informational.  To put it in another context,  what good is antivirus software that simply detects a threat to mission-critical IT systems but has no means to fix it.

An Even Better Place to Work provides all the features to perform ongoing diagnostics at the individual and team level rather than solicit opinions on someone else's performance. The program then highlights areas of need immediately and includes built-in activities that empower the individuals and their team to make targeted changes in areas that are important to them.

Below is a comparison of BP2W and traditional 360° Feedback initiatives... (Click HERE for PDF version)

Criteria

360 Feedback

An Even Better Place to Work (BP2W)

Driven By

HR and/or Management (sometimes reluctantly)

The employees

Seen as

Performance and/or job rating tool

Individual and team development tool

Who’s it for

Select employees and managers. 

Too many people omitted or opt-out of the survey.

Each employee.

Immediate results and built-in activities ensure employee buy-in.

Survey Format

May be lengthy (over 100 questions). 

Usually includes open ended questions to get comments from employees

28 question (Likert-type scale) diagnostic – takes 5-7 minutes.

No open ended questions asking for opinions about management, company, colleagues, etc…

Frequency

One-off, point in time – usually annually. 

Participation levels vary and answers tend to be influenced by last few months experience with subject.

On demand - i.e. Your schedule.

Suggested retake every 8-12 weeks – employees look forward to bettering their prior scores.

Question Characteristics

Usually relates to another employee’s performance, skills, character. 

Opportunity to vent anonymously or purposely slant the results to help/hinder someone.

Related to 7 key areas of needs and importance for the individual and their immediate team.

Opportunity to identify relationship, morale and esteem issues at the local level.

Metrics/Reports

Can take months to collect and collate results for each individual.  High administrative overhead.

Immediate (colorful) charts showing areas of need at the individual, team and organizational level.

Analysis

Manager, Subject (and sometimes Administrator) meet to review what Reviewers state on survey.

Analysis Paralysis

Polar charts at the individual, team (and organization) facilitate speedy and highly targeted areas of concern.

Actionable Realities

Next Steps

Manager, Subject (and sometimes Administrator) hunt and peck for identifiable trends or results

Decisions and actions may be seen as ‘management agenda’

Built-in team activities coupled with individual and team goals ensure speedy improvements. 

Program includes additional resources such as hints, tips, posters, videos, etc…

Progress

Subjective periodic/annual reviews of individuals.  Manually see how results look next year ????

Built in snapshot tracking provides ongoing transparency into areas of improvement (and also where culture may be slipping)

Outcome

Discombobulated data that an individual may decide to act on to appease fellow employees.

Highly engaged employees who exhibit leadership skills helping to build an open culture where everyone feels valued.

Summary

Informational………….at best

Transformational………….from within

  For PDF version of the above table please click HERE

Again, I wish to reiterate that a 360° Feedback initiative is so much better than doing nothing....but there are better, real-time solutions that will actually make a difference in your organization.