Revealing insights into 360 degree feedback

This is the first of a multi-part article where I’ll address the questions raised by David in response to my post on 5 tips for writing objectives that produce results. Here’s a summary of what he had to say . . .

  • He finds 360 degree feedback orders of magnitudes better than the traditional methods.
  • But the implementation in his company limits the true potential.
  • He believes the way they are using 360 allows managers to avoid providing constructive feedback.
  • It has become a crutch because KPIs are almost always vague and unmeasurable.
  • David wants to know how to tie 360 degree feedback to personal and company KPIs.

I think it’s great that David has identified problems with his organisation’s current process and is looking for solutions. So to respond to David’s comments I’m going to post a few articles over the coming weeks on various 360 degree feedback topics. In the process the answers to David’s questions will be illuminated.

360 degree feedback has become a crutch
OK in this post I want to focus on one of the really interesting parts of David’s comments. He says 360 degree feedback has become a crutch because KPIs are almost always vague and not measurable.

The first point I need to make here is that writing good quality KPIs is the most important part of the whole performance process. Everything else is next to useless if this isn’t done. People need a specific goal, otherwise they aren’t going to arrive at the right destination.

The problem with vague goals comes to a head at review time
One of the problems of using vague and unmeasurable goals occurs at review time. Because there’s no way of measuring achievements, the end result has to come down to the manager’s opinion. So your performance result rests on the way your manager feels about your performance, or their observations of your performance.

The problem for both the manager and employee here is what happens next. It’s almost inevitable . . . disagreement! The employee feels they have busted their gut for the company and the manager might agree but hasn’t seen the results they wanted. So you end up with dissatisfaction, growing cynicism, less and less engagement . . . looking for another job!

360 degree feedback
Enter 360 degree feedback. Now it’s not just your manager’s opinion. Your peers, reports and customers get input. And they provide input based on a structured set of competencies, behaviours or values. This is great. You get some useful feedback on a person’s capabilities from a range of people with differing perspectives. Very useful stuff as we’ll see in the next article.

It’s no wonder 360 has become a crutch in David’s organisation.

It’s giving them useable information that is much less subjective than the manager’s opinion on performance against objectives.

There’s something missing here though. 360 degree feedback can tell us a lot about a person’s capabilities and behaviour, but it doesn’t tell us what the person has achieved. So you end up rewarding people for their capabilities, not on outcomes. And definitely not on outcomes tied to the organisations goals.

Quality objectives
I’m sure David’s not alone here. So if you can identify with this problem, the first thing that has to happen is quality objectives. They are essential. From his comments David has come to this conclusion as well. He’s asked the question how he sets SMART objectives without the clarity of business goals and resolution of metrics. So we’ll take a look at that as part of this set of articles.

Jump in
If you haven’t already, jump in and take a look at these three articles:

To continue shedding light on the answers to David’s questions, in the next series of posts we’ll look at:

  • What is 360 degree feedback.
  • What is 360 degree appraisal.
  • The best time to run 360.
  • Setting SMART objectives when there’s little clarity of business goals.
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About Jon Windust

Jon Windust is the CEO at Cognology – Talent management software for the future of work. Over 250 businesses use Cognology to power cutting-edge talent strategy. View all posts by Jon Windust

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