Monday, 5 May 2013

The vast majority of clients that we work with use 360-degree feedback specifically for personal development. There are a few organisations that have adopted the processes and procedures for performance appraisals. We would always suggest that this should be approached with great care, and only after significant effort in developing the quality of the framework, understanding the culture of the company, validating and analysing the meta data, being absolutely clear how it is to be used and what the outcomes will look like for those involved in the process.

… and then we would suggest they think again!

Here are some pointers as to the differences you might wish to consider in the 360° Feedback process if you intend to use 360-degree feedback in performance appraisals:

1. Tread softly into the dark night. Do not, ever, consider using the results of 360° Feedback without being absolutely sure that there is a meaningful relationship between the results of the 360° Feedback within your organisation and the performance metrics that you use in your business. This usually means running it as a personal development tool for a couple of years at least. Let’s face it if you can’t see how it fits into a performance appraisal, then it is highly unlikely that anyone else will.

2. Prepare the Team Set the expectation that the feedback route is the one you’re taking for your upcoming appraisal. Explain precisely the part it will play in the appraisal, why you have decided to include it, how much it will contribute to the outcome of the appraisal and the steps you will be taking to ensure that the feedback results are as valid as possible. Set the expectations early and make sure that you manage any concerns before the process starts.

3. Remove the Democracy from the process. By introducing 360° Feedback results into the Performance Appraisal process you are now explicitly linking behaviour in the workplace to performance. This is a serious step and inconsistencies will have consequences. One of the perennial areas of inconsistency is the bias that can be introduced through selective choice of feedback respondents. You need to make sure that the process is as consistent and repeatable as possible for all taking part. We would suggest that you remove one opportunity for bias to creep in by removing the selection choice from the candidates. Create universal rules such as “Feedback will be received from all reports and all colleagues who work with the candidate on a regular basis and have known the candidate for greater than six months”

4. Ensure strong interactions as best you can It may seem obvious, but feedback works best when the rater actually interacts with the feedback recipient on a regular basis. Do the due diligence on whether your raters are indeed best-placed to provide authoritative insights.

5. Smaller and more often is better than larger and infrequent. 360° Feedback requires a massive amount of organisational time compared to any other form of testing. Rather than lumping all participants into a large melting pot, work in smaller groups, to ensure the feedback is focused and inclusive of the right individuals. This will also reduce the tendency towards “Survey fatigue” where respondents become overwhelmed with the process and focus on completion rather than quality of completion. Make sure you understand and respect the time commitment required for those giving feedback.

We will cover the final 5 in part two.

If you’d like to discuss the issue of using 360 degree feedback in performance appraisals in more detail or have anything that you would like to add from your experience below, then we’d love to hear from you.

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