The Risks of Including New Employees in 360-Degree Feedback

November 9, 2015 by Sandra Mashihi

“No accurate thinker will judge another person by that which the other person’s enemies say about him.”

-Napoleon Hill

The goal of 360-degree feedback is to provide useful, accurate, and constructive information to employees to leverage their strengths and focus on potential development areas.  If employees are too new to a job role or organization, then raters are unlikely to have enough opportunity for specific feedback.

Depending on the purpose of the 360-degree feedback intervention and the competency model being used, care should be taken if including employees with less than six months’ tenure in a role or position in a 360-degree feedback process. While the six month rule is a general rule of thumb, at Envisia, we generally tell our clients 3-6 months depending on the job role and level of interaction.

Most vendors provide “not applicable” or “unable to observe” as options on their typical response rating scale, so if a relatively new employee is included in a 360-degree feedback initiative, raters who don’t have opportunities to observe the employee and provide useful feedback can utilize these response choices.  In such cases, the use of open-ended comments might be more useful for the initial impressions created by new employees to solicit and analyze or to help target important competencies and behaviors for developmental purposes.

Coach’s Critique:

It is often assumed that the more participants are included in the 360-degree feedback process, the more valid the data. In fact, research by Greguras & Robie (1995) suggest that the optimum number of raters involved in most 360-degree feedback projects would require at least four supervisors, eight peers, and nine direct reports to achieve acceptable levels of reliability (.70 or higher).

However, one can meet the standard for “optimum” number of raters, but may fail to include the most appropriate raters, by including new employees that have not had enough time spent with the participant to provide specific, behavioral, and meaningful feedback. There are a couple of reasons why this is risky!

While there may be an option within the 360 questions that says “not applicable”, many raters may not be inclined to check that option, and may simply complete the 360, even if they don’t have enough facts to answer the questions. Inevitably, this could increase inaccuracy of results.

Furthermore, I believe that when a new employee is presented with a 360-degree before a certain level of rapport has been established, it could possibly lead to a lack of trust between the participant and the new employee, since both parties are more inclined to make assumptions about the process. The participant may feel resentful that the new employee was not in a position to evaluate him or her. The new employee may view the participant as less credible than before he or she took the 360.

What has been your experience with including new employees in the 360-degree feedback process? Do you agree with including employees with less than six months tenure in a role or position in a 360-degree feedback 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.

Posted in 360 Degree Feedback

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