8 Questions Companies Must Ask Before Using 360-Degree Feedback

February 10, 2016 by Sandra Mashihi

This is the third post of an ongoing series on 360-Degree Feedback Best Practices.

Let’s be honest — Not all organizations are “ready” for 360-degree feedback. All too often it gets introduced in the middle of a very large organizational change (e.g., merger or acquisition) or some other untimely organization-wide event.

8 key questions to ask to determine if your culture is ready for successful introduction and use of 360-degree feedback assessments are:

  1. Is employee engagement and morale high enough to support a feedback intervention?
  2. Is the organization supportive of talent development and coaching?
  3. Do managers get trained, rewarded and compensated to act as performance coaches?
  4. Do employees feel comfortable giving feedback without reprisal?
  5. Has your organization had a bad experience with a prior 360-degree feedback intervention?
  6. Are people motivated to use the feedback they receive for their own professional growth and development?
  7. Does your organization have resources, training and other support to help employees create and implement professional development plans as a result of the feedback?
  8. Will employees be held accountable to discuss the results of their feedback with their bosses and to create a development plan?

If you feel your company is indeed ready for 360-degree feedback, here are a few tips to get your company ready:

  • Start the 360-degree feedback program with a pilot using an organizational sponsor or senior manager.
  • The use of a “180-degree feedback” assessment between an employee and his/her manager is a wonderful way to softly introduce the benefits of a full-blown 360-degree feedback to the organization.  This helps employees begin to feel comfortable with the feedback process and understand how they will be given honest, constructive and useful feedback.
  • Remember that 360-degree feedback processes should be used to solve real business needs so make sure it is introduced as a solution to improving leadership effectiveness or team building.

Coach’s Critique:

In my experience, organizations that had a culture of trust have been the most ready for the 360-degree feedback process.  A 360-degree feedback system might not be the best remedy for organizational cultures that consist of individuals that hold suspicions about the organization’s intent.

For example, I conducted a 360-degree assessment in a corporate culture that reflected a great deal of suspicion about the company’s motives. The 360-degree process was perceived for many as a plot from upper management to pursue self-serving and bureaucratic motives. While we were clear that the 360-degree system results would be confidential, a good portion of the raters did not believe it. We discovered that raters feared that their ratings would be revealed to their bosses and those being rated feared that their results would be held against them by their bosses.

Despite all the cautionary steps we took prior to implementing the program, employees were simply not buying into it. As a result, the 360-degree feedback process caused more harm than good. Some individuals grew more suspicious the intent of management, while others became more angry and hostile.

Before implementing a 360-degree feedback system, think about the times that you implemented the assessment in cultures that weren’t receptive. What impact did that have on the organization? What types of cultures were most and least receptive to the process?

Dr. Sandra Mashihi is a senior consultant with Envisia Learning, Inc. She has extensive experience in sales training, behavioral assessments and executive coaching. Prior to working at Envisia Learning, Inc., She was an internal Organizational Development Consultant at Marcus & Millichap where she was responsible for initiatives within training & development and recruiting.. Sandra received her Bachelor’s of Science in Psychology from University of California, Los Angeles and received her Master of Science and Doctorate in Organizational Psychology from the California School of Professional Psychology.

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