360 degree feedback is a system in which staff receive feedback from the people who work around them. Usually this includes the employee's manager, peers and direct reports.
A mixture of eight to twelve people fill out an anonymous feedback form, asking questions covering a broad range of workplace issues. Questions are measured on a rating scale and ask raters to provide written comments. The person receiving feedback also fills out a self-analysis survey that includes the same survey questions others receive in their forms.
Managers and leaders use 360 feedback surveys to get a better understanding of their strengths and weaknesses. Online systems generally tabulate the results automatically before presenting them in a format that helps the feedback recipient to create a development plan. In order to preserve anonymity, individual responses are combined with responses from other people in the same rater category (for example, supervisor, peer or direct report) and to give the employee a clear picture of their overall strengths and weaknesses.
Companies typically use a 360 feedback system in one of two ways:
To help employees recognise strengths and weaknesses and become more effective
When approached in the right way, 360 feedback is highly effective as a development tool. The feedback process gives people an opportunity to provide anonymous, honest feedback to a co-worker that they might otherwise be uncomfortable feeding back to. Recipients gain insight into how others perceive them, and have an opportunity to adjust their behaviour and develop skills that will enable them to excel at their jobs.
To measure employee performance
Using a 360 degree feedback system for performance appraisal is a common practice. However, take note that it is difficult to properly structure a 360 feedback process that creates an atmosphere of trust when you use them to measure performance, because 360 feedback focuses on behaviours and competencies more than on basic skills, job requirements, and performance objectives. These things are most appropriately addressed by an employee and their manager as part of an annual review and performance appraisal process. It is certainly possible and can be beneficial to incorporate 360 feedback into a larger performance management process, but only with clear communication on how the 360 feedback will be used.
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