Are 360’s Still Used?

By 360’s I mean,  360° feedback systems for managers. Are people out there still using them? I know that this was one of the hot items of the 90’s that many employers implemented. I was tasked to implement one for our manufacturing organization when supervisor to team member ratios were about 30 to 1. Having 30 is tough for supervisors to effectively evaluate their employees.. Having a 360-degree feedback system gave them a better picture of what is happening when the supervisor was not around. Later on, the supervisor were being rated within the 360-degree tool as well.  Like all hot at the time programs, this one only lasted a short time. There were many different reasons that the tool failed, but 360-degree feedback lived on.

One of the ways that it lived on, was managers felt that this was a pretty good way to get a clearer picture of what is happening. Getting additional feedback was a great way to expand the view of performance outside of just the managers eyes. Of course, that comes with the fears. Those being 360’d really don’t know what is being said. As a manager, I was impressed with the insight that many folks provided. Some of the insights were additional examples of what was demonstrated to me already. When the feedback seemed a bit out of character, I would get additional information and watch closer over time. A good manager can make a 360-degree feedback a powerful thing.

360-degree feedback can still be scary. I bet if you asked 10 people what they think about a 360-degree system for performance, 6 folks would tell you, “no thanks!” For me, I set up a few guidelines around 360 feedback that I used when I was getting reviewed. Every year when the dreaded performance review would come around, I would pass on my guidelines of proper 360 feedback receiving!

  • Adjust your perception: Most people fear what is happening outside of their sphere of control. Getting feedback from folks anonymously is out of their control. I would stress that the feedback is the tool that I use to help me insure that their individual development plan is complete. I used to use my example of if everything is perfect, then I am just lucky. I learn more from my mistakes or faults. Sometimes I have a blind spot and need to have folks shine a light on it, before it will get better.
  • Evaluate the feedback: This step to me is critical. If you have technology that gathers the feedback and offers up a report, great! Sit down with the person and let them look it over and provide your insights. For me, my system was more a simple email with questions asked that the feedback provider would just email back their thoughts and examples. I would then compile the information – as is.. Share with them the information. I would facilitate a session of what do you get from this feedback. Helping them to evaluate the feedback.
  • Develop Improvement Plan: Part of a performance review that I liked to do was ask the employee to write their own rev 0 (after the 360-degree feedback was presented). This allowed the employee to take the feedback and look at the stuff that they truly felt was in need of developing. I would have their Rev 0, 360-degree feedback, my data and would write my Rev 1. We would sit down and discuss the overall Rev 1. The goal was to have a complete performance review in the end.

I believe that without the 360-degree feedback, the employee and manager are missing out on information. I don’t know of any manager that can be in all places, all the time. When the manager is normally around, the employee is usually on the best behavior or insuring that they are doing their best! We all know employees that manage their manager very well. Having different viewpoints is necessary. When I was receiving my 360 feedback, I used that information more for my development than just my manager. Treat it as powerful information!