Six Ways Your 360 Degree Feedback Could Go Wrong

Thursday, 6 June 2013

When you return from that human resources conference, where you heard about the wonders of 360 degree feedback for the first time, it can be tempting to jump right in and start creating your new appraisal system on your first day back at the office. But hold off for a while, and consider that 360 degree feedback creates a major change in the way your employees operate and interact. Big changes should never be entered lightly.

Here are a few ways your new 360 degree feedback system could go wrong, if you are inadequately prepared.

1. You could end up wasting a lot of time, on a system that has no real purpose.

Your 360 degree feedback must have a clear, stated goal before you set out to integrate it into your employees’ daily lives. Because it is infinitely adaptable, you run the risk of trying to assess too much, too often, for no good reason. This will waste company time and money, and become an unnecessary burden to your staff. Decide what you need to know, and who you need to ask, and cut out any unnecessary reporting.

2. You could alienate valuable staff.

Suddenly being asked to report detailed feedback on jobs and managers, when employees had been used to operating with a high degree of anonymity, can cause distress. Employees may feel they are no longer trusted, or that the information they provide could be used against them. Communicate well and often what your purposes are in implementing 360 degree feedback. Help them understand the vision you have for a more cohesive, transparent organization, and show them how they will reap the benefits of the changes.

3. Managers might try to use 360 degree feedback to replace good management techniques.

While employees can certainly benefit from a higher degree of self-awareness provided by the information they get from their new appraisals, this is not a substitute for direct, communicative management. Underperforming employees still need the involvement of a real, live human to help them understand what they need to do better or faster. Simply providing them the information through 360 degree feedback is not enough to cause improvement on its own.

4. You might offend your stakeholders.

Always remember that 360-degree feedback is a major alteration in the way your company communicates and operates. Therefore, it is vital that you make sure the people who have a stake in your company’s success are on board with the changes you want to make. Suddenly implementing a comprehensive appraisal system without notice can raise the hackles of any concerned shareholder, and you could end up in deep water. Get the major decision makers on board before you begin, and keep them up to date on your progress.

5. You could betray your employees’ trust.

Your staff takes a big risk in reporting on the management successes and failures of their superiors, and on their own performance. If information that they considered private is leaked to those in authority over them, your employees could be rightfully outraged and fearful. Be perfectly clear as to what is confidential, what is public, and who reads each report they provide, before you create your feedback system.

6. You could stifle the potential for growth.

Once your employees begin to receive valuable feedback from your new system, they will need resources at their disposal to learn, and room to improve. It would be infuriating to finally understand exactly how you need to change and grow, and have no learning or development resources available to make it happen. Before you implement your 360 degree feedback system, make sure that your organization has the tools in place to develop your staff’s potential to its fullest extent.

With adequate planning and preparation, and a clear goal always kept at the forefront, your new 360 feedback system could help your company accomplish amazing things. But if you want to just jump in, do so at your own risk.

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