Why use 360 degree feedback in the first place

The need for 360
An organisation starts off with a goal to achieve something. To reach that goal they need a plan. Turning that plan into action and achieving the outcome requires people. But not just any people. The organisation needs people with specific capabilities. And the more capable they are, the more capable the organisation is!

By capabilities I mean both technical skills and things like the ability to lead and communicate well.

Alright, once the organisation identifies the capabilities needed to achieve its goals, the next question is . . . do we have those capabilities? This is actually an ongoing question – people leave, retire and are promoted.

There’s a number of ways of answering this question. All with varying degrees of accuracy. Some very inexpensive and some very costly.

For example, you could ask managers to assess their staff as part of the annual review. This is inexpensive to do, but suffers from quite a few problems – the biggest of which is that it’s one perception and potentially highly inaccurate as a result. What a manager sees an employee as being able to do (or not do) could be very different to what the person’s peers, customers and direct reports see.

Enter 360 degree feedback. It’s inexpensive and is a lot more accurate. That’s essentially what it comes down to – it’s a good tool for the job.

So once the organisation knows what capabilities it does and doesn’t have, it needs to fill the gaps. There’s two ways of doing this:

  1. Recruit people.
  2. Develop people internally.

Buying in skills can work well, but is difficult when there’s a shortage of skilled people. Plus it can be costly for new recruits to build the knowledge of internal systems within a company. So a combination of the two approaches is used.

It turns out that 360 degree feedback is also really useful for developing people. It identifies precisely where the development is needed so you don’t end up wasting a huge amount of money on training that people don’t need. And it also provides something that’s needed for effective development – a measure of progress and achievement.

David’s questions
This is the third post to answer the questions asked by David in response to 5 tips for writing objectives that produce results.

There’s a few of reasons for going into detail on 360:

  1. To make sure we’re talking about the same thing.
  2. To describe it for others who may not be familiar with it.
  3. To provide the foundation for my suggestions for David.

So what are those suggestions at this point?

  • From the previous posts and this one, something really stands out – his organisation needs a clear set of goals for the year.
  • These goals then drive employee objectives and the competencies used in the 360 process.
  • David may not be able to persuade his organisation to do this on his own – but he can develop some goals for his group.
  • SMART objectives can be used to lift performance and remove annual review headaches.
  • The 360 degree feedback process needs to be done at a time other than the end of year review.
  • The results of the feedback should not affect pay/bonuses.
  • Open-ended questions can be used to get some useful feedback on areas that need to be developed.

From the comments to the previous post it’s clear that David’s company needs to review their reasons for doing 360 in the first place. It’s not being used to address the need described in this article.

In the next set of posts . . .
We’ll be looking at:

  • How 360 degree feedback works.
  • 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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