If you’re not familiar with the term, 360 degree feedback, also called multi source or multi-rater feedback, comes from a staff member’s peers and subordinates, while also including an element of self-evaluation. At the same time, those who are being assessed report back to their supervisors on how they feel about the way they are being managed.

Even suppliers, customers and others with whom the employee works can sometimes play their part.And it can bring many benefits, including the fostering of a working environment based on trust, while employees gain a more thorough understanding of the impact their performance has on those they interact with every day than they would through a traditional style of appraisal. Equally, many find job satisfaction increases because they also give feedback on their manager.

However, if you are using 360 feedback in your place of work, there are some potential pitfalls to avoid through good planning. These include:

Ineffectual assessment items: It is important that you ask the right questions which take into account the specific role of the individual being assessed, as well as wider organisational expectations. Well-written assessment documents will draw out the information you need.

No alignment with organisational goals: Everything you assess must be important in terms of the organisation’s strategy, mission and vision, so that staff members are able to develop the skills and competencies that in line with the direction the company as a whole is taking.

Lack of management “buy in”: The most senior members of your organisation must encourage and support (and vocally) participation in this appraisal system, or it will be very difficult to make it work.

Poor communication: Everyone who is either giving or receiving feedback must be communicated with extremely effectively – buy-in is need from across your organisation to make the programme work. People need to appreciate what is going on – and how, why and when.

Lack of Trust or Fear: Good communication will help fear of both offering and receiving feedback, as will the use of a neutral third party to look after administering the scheme. But if fear lingers, you will find life a struggle.

Lack of follow-up: Without good follow-up, it will be almost impossible to know if your 360 degree programme has been a success or not, and those who are taking part will not know whether they are improving or not. Extra feedback should be scheduled for six months to a year after you have collected the initial information.

Lack of a development plan: Everyone receiving feedback must have a proper plan in place and some developmental goals based on their feedback – measurable and achievable ones – otherwise the smoothest 360 degree programme in the world is meaningless.

The good news is that if you watch out for these potential pitfalls, and plan properly to avoid them, you can implement a strong appraisal system across your organisation.

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