TIPS FROM THE TOP
How effective is 360° feedback?
Written by: Renée LeMoine
Photo by: Lubomír Fuxa (1-3), Tomáš Kubeš(4)
Project director, New Day Activity
My most interesting experience with 360-degree feedback was as
part of a senior management development program, whereby my employers
wanted to make a thorough assessment of performance and training
needs, towards devising a development plan for staff.
In this case, as a "ratee", I found the feedback fair
and informative, and felt motivated by the prospect of a beneficial
outcome. The "raters" appreciated the chance to be involved,
seeing it as indicative of the company's desire to build an open,
participative culture. However, some raters admitted to nervousness
about responding entirely honestly for fear of negative repercussions.
Furthermore, for financial reasons, the company was unable to deliver
on the development plan, and the project was shelved.
360-degree feedback can be a useful tool in helping individuals
understand how they are viewed within the organization, but companies
should be aware of why they are doing it - is it to evaluate someone's
promotion candidacy, or is it a development tool to identify key
improvement measures? Trained professionals should conduct the process
- in confidence - and raters trained to reduce false responses and
avoid genuine rating errors. Finally, companies should be genuinely
prepared to evaluate results, and to follow through with an action
The multi-source aspect of 360-degree feedback seems to provide
more comprehensive and accurate information about managers' leadership
skills, as well as possibilities for his or her improvements. Results
help managers to be more aware of how their performance affects
others and to pay more attention to their communication with employees.
In many of my cases, 360-degree feedback positively influenced managers'
motivation, performance and job satisfaction. However, without a
clear explanation of a purpose of 360-degree feedback to all employees
who are part of the feedback system, employees may feel threatened
by a new assessment method and hesitate to participate in it. It
has to be clearly communicated whether the process is going to be
used for developmental or evaluation reasons and what is going to
happen with report results. I am strongly convinced that the assessment
style is an outstanding tool for helping to make better decisions
in assignment selections, enhancing team effectiveness, and conducting
better training and development methods.
Operations director, central and
eastern Europe, Logica
"Logica's rapid growth relies on the effectiveness of its
managers; key to this is their ability to influence others and,
through this, effecting change. Our managers ask colleagues - taken
from "360 degrees" - to complete a questionnaire about
how they see that manager's influencing skills. Those managers then
complete a corresponding questionnaire about how they see their
ability to influence each of those colleagues.
Away from the office, our managers compare the results in graphical
form and, with the help of a psychologist, try to understand and
learn from them. There are often surprises - a manager might discover
that, for example, a staff member they thought was in sync with
their thinking was in fact hearing a very different set of messages.
It's all about increasing the managers' self-awareness, and about
making them think about how others see them.
I've seen the evaluation effect significant changes in individuals
who are open to change - itself a measure of a good manager. Some
others have found it painful to face up to their own limitations
or the need for change.
Human resources director, ČSOB
I consider the 360-degree feedback of personnel to be one of the
best sources of information, especially for developing management
skills, through reflection and self-reflection. It reveals the possible
discrepancy between what the manager thinks about his managerial
style and methods and how they are perceived by the employees with
whom he is in contact.
Based on experience that I had gained during the application of
this method at Pepsi-Cola and US West, we at ČSOB prepared our own
questionnaire covering four basic dimensions of managerial work:
strategic thinking, business (client) approach, team management
and characteristics of personality. It was clear that a questionnaire
had to contain precisely-formulated questions that were based on
the local or the corporate culture. The questionnaire was distributed
to the evaluated person, his supervisor, three managers of the same
level, and five subordinates. In total, this evaluation was done
by 180 managers.
It was discovered that managers are perceived much more critically
by their supervisor than by their subordinates. Usually at least
one dimension brought a big surprise to the managers who had no
idea that they could be perceived so negatively. The analysis of
the results served as a source for the selection of management training
that focused on some of the weaker managerial skills.