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The 5 Hidden Land Mines of 360-Degree Feedback

Venturing down the path of implementing a 360-degree feedback process for performance assessments or development purposes? Better detect the hidden land mines before charging ahead. The process you hope will bring added value to the business may erupt as a destroyer of employee engagement.

For companies that are looking for more complete insight into their employees’ performance, gathering feedback from a broad range of perspectives seems to make sense. But, as is the case with any new, unfamiliar process, the devil is in the pre-planning details. Pay attention to these five hidden land mines:
1.      Lack of planning. Before taking any action toward implementing a 360-degree feedback process, ask the question, “Why do we need this?” If you can’t articulate a strong business case describing how adding a 360-degree feedback process will solve an existing or anticipated problem or advance your business strategy, you shouldn’t go forward.
2.      Disjointed processes. A 360-degree feedback process is rarely used in isolation from or as a substitute for a broader system of performance management. When your 360-degree feedback process brings added value to your existing performance or talent assessment programs, managers and employees are more likely to accept the new process. Train managers and employees in the art of delivering and receiving feedback to alleviate fear or apprehension before implementation.
3.      Poor participation. Involving the right people in your 360-degree feedback program is critical, and successful adoption requires the support and visibility from top executives in the company for the best success. Ideally, involve five to seven raters to provide feedback for employees, but don’t limit feedback to just those names provided by the employee. Determine a mix of colleagues, customers or suppliers that both the employee and the manager feel represent a balanced picture of performance. 
4.      Limited perspective. In addition to seeking feedback regarding “what” the employee has accomplished, solicit feedback that demonstrates “how” their behaviors support the specific competencies needed for success in their role.
5.      Wrong presentation. Regardless of the level of transparency your culture supports, 360-degree feedback is best presented back to the employee anonymously. By clarifying the anonymity up front, you’ll receive more survey returns and more honest feedback. Summarize key themes from the feedback rather than providing verbatim responses. Tie these themes into specific performance coaching, then monitor improvements and revisit progress on a regular basis. 

With careful planning up front, you can avoid getting tripped up in a land mine of employee concerns when you introduce your new 360-degree feedback process. And one of the best ways to ensure your focus remains on strategic outcomes is to shift the administrative burden to an automated performance management system. When too much time is spent creating paper-based processes or searching for confidential ways to route and store forms, you may lose sight of the real purpose and value of the entire process — developing your people to provide the best service and products to your customers.