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Replace 360 degree feedback with frequent feedback

360 degree feedback vs real-time feedback.

Lead­ing organ­i­sa­tions are adopt­ing real-time feed­back in place of peri­od­ic 360 degree feed­back exercises

The high­ly respect­ed CEB (Cor­po­rate Exec­u­tive Board) released a research report in 2014 enti­tled Per­for­mance Man­age­ment Can Be Fixed. The research con­cludes that mod­ern per­for­mance man­age­ment process­es have typ­i­cal­ly become over-engi­neered’ and have turned into a check-the-box exer­cise’. I believe that 360 degree feed­back in its clas­sic form (i.e. mul­ti­ple peo­ple rat­ing indi­vid­u­als once a year on a set of behav­iour indi­ca­tors) has become just that. In fact, it’s hard to think of a bet­ter exam­ple of a check-the-box exercise’!

Does 360 degree feed­back work?

There’s no deny­ing the appeal of 360 degree feed­back. In mod­ern day organ­i­sa­tions, man­agers do not always work close­ly with their team mem­bers on a day-to-day basis, so it makes sense that feed­back should be gleaned from the peo­ple who work most close­ly with the indi­vid­ual. And the result­ing reports with their colour­ful charts show­ing where the employ­ee excels and where they need to improve appear on the sur­face to be a valu­able tool.

But here’s the issue — there is lit­tle evi­dence to sug­gest that 360 degree feed­back actu­al­ly leads to improved per­for­mance, espe­cial­ly when used as part of a per­for­mance man­age­ment or per­for­mance appraisal process. For exam­ple, research con­duct­ed by Sil­ver­man, Ker­rin and Carter found that:

The 360-degree feed­back process had not been effec­tive in chang­ing behav­iour or per­for­mance and there was some con­cern that it may even have caused more harm than good.’

Oth­er researchers have reached sim­i­lar conclusions.

The prob­lem with 360 degree feedback

The main prob­lem with the tra­di­tion­al form of 360 degree feed­back is that it tends to hap­pen once a year, at a time deter­mined by the organ­i­sa­tion. And as the CEB points out, for per­for­mance man­age­ment to be effec­tive, feed­back needs to real-time and mean­ing­ful’, rather than being giv­en infre­quent­ly on a sched­ule’. For feed­back to be mean­ing­ful and accu­rate, it should be giv­en soon after a rel­e­vant event occurs, rather than poten­tial­ly many months lat­er, by which point the per­son giv­ing the feed­back will strug­gle to remem­ber spe­cif­ic exam­ples of the behav­iours they are being asked to rate.

Fur­ther­more, the feed­back rat­ings giv­en are like­ly to be influ­enced by the reviewer’s most recent inter­ac­tions with the indi­vid­ual being rat­ed, as they will be most promi­nent in their mem­o­ry. There­fore, the result­ing 360 feed­back report is rarely a bal­anced sum­ma­ry of the individual’s per­for­mance over the past year, as it is nor­mal­ly assumed to be.

A sec­ond prob­lem with the clas­sic mul­ti-rater’ type of 360 degree feed­back, is that the ques­tion­naire is nor­mal­ly fair­ly time con­sum­ing to com­plete. Those com­plet­ing the ques­tion­naire often do not have the time to put suf­fi­cient thought into it, par­tic­u­lar­ly if they are being asked to com­plete them for more than one per­son. So it can end up becom­ing a tick-box exer­cise and the results may not be par­tic­u­lar­ly accu­rate or insightful.

The alter­na­tive: fre­quent feedback

Research tells us that fre­quent, in the moment feed­back is most effec­tive in chang­ing behav­iours and can boost per­for­mance by up to 12%. It’s no sur­prise then that lead­ing organ­i­sa­tions such as IBM and Gen­er­al Elec­tric have put fre­quent feed­back at the cen­tre of their per­for­mance man­age­ment process. A study report­ed by Mind Gym’s Rein­vent­ing Per­for­mance Man­age­ment report found that get­ting feed­back every two weeks is the opti­mum fre­quen­cy for achiev­ing improved per­for­mance. So how can we go about mak­ing this hap­pen in prac­tice? Here are three things you can do:

1. Encour­age a feed­back culture

Feed­back won’t sim­ply hap­pen by itself, it needs to be encour­aged. As with any per­for­mance man­age­ment process, this should start with obtain­ing buy-in from top man­age­ment and get­ting them to lead by exam­ple. Help to devel­op a feed­back cul­ture by pro­vid­ing train­ing and engag­ing videos for staff on the ben­e­fits of giv­ing and receiv­ing reg­u­lar feed­back and how to give con­struc­tive feedback.

2. Build feed­back processes

Just­Giv­ing, the online fundrais­ing web­site, have devel­oped a suc­cess­ful process for encour­ag­ing reg­u­lar feed­back. At the start of each review peri­od, each employ­ee choos­es three or four peo­ple who will be most able to give them feed­back on their con­tri­bu­tion over that peri­od. They then share their goals for the peri­od with them and ask them to give them reg­u­lar, in-the-moment feed­back, relat­ed to their progress against these goals. Since intro­duc­ing this approach, Just­Giv­ing have seen a sig­nif­i­cant rise in their employ­ee engage­ment measures.

3. Use tech­nol­o­gy to make it easy to give feedback

Peo­ple will be more like­ly to give and seek feed­back reg­u­lar­ly if it is made easy for them. Whilst this could be as sim­ple as send­ing some­one an email with some feed­back, tech­nol­o­gy can make the feed­back process even more effec­tive by pro­vid­ing peo­ple with a secure place where they can quick­ly and eas­i­ly give or request feed­back via their smart­phone or com­put­er. A sys­tem can also com­pile the feed­back giv­en over a par­tic­u­lar peri­od for dis­cus­sion at review meet­ings, as well as peri­od­i­cal­ly remind­ing employ­ees to give feed­back if they have not done so for a while.

We’ve built fre­quent feed­back into the core of our Clear Review per­for­mance man­age­ment soft­ware. Why not book a demo now to see how it could work for your organisation.

See How Clear Review Can Encourage Frequent Feedback in Your Organisation