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360 degree feedback processes are very common and yet handled incorrectly to the detriment of organizations and employees. When done well, 360 review programs allow for employees to improve in key areas that might be limiting their upward career path. When done poorly, 360 programs create mistrust, anger, conflict and can leave a workplace with lower morale than when the program started.

Improving 360 Reviews

1. Management needs to be involved and acknowledge the program’s importance. 360 programs driven by Human Resources alone without been embedded in the culture of the organization or championed by upper management, are not effective. When management gives importance to such an important process, it in turns gets the attention of his/her reports. The management team has to be a believer that 360 reviews yield better results than traditional peer review ratings.

2. Focus on comments that are constructive to the ratee’s development. Ensure selected raters have knowledge of the ratee’s work performance. Involving unnecessary and misinformed peers in the process can very well cause other employees to have bad 360 experiences. Peer employees uncharged with submitting comments on the 360 review needs to understand the purpose of the exercise is to be constructive, not personal. Doing so helps maintain the focus on specific and measurable actions.

3. Meet with employees promptly after collecting the data. Have a plan for following up upon receiving the feedback. The extent to which the feedback will contribute to a change in behavior, depends greatly on the action plan taken. 360 data is only helpful to the extent that it gets acted upon and utilized in the development process. The majority of managers and supervisors involved in such programs often don’t understand their value. If feedback is given, it also often gets swiftly forgotten.

4. Conduct ample follow up. Following up just once is never enough. In an effort to change behaviors, several reminders are needed. Hence, why a post-plan follow up is needed. Ideally quarterly follow up until the next 360 review is important in ensuring a change in behavior. 360 reviews are recommended to be performed annually.

5. Enforce confidentiality. It is common for peers to feel uncomfortable about the information shared and how it will be protected in terms of confidentiality. Selected peers need to be assured of the confidentiality of the program both before and after the process. Employees need to understand information shared won’t be taken out of context. Involving a third party consultant however, can easily streamline the confidentiality concern and ease quarterly follow-ups instead of internal Human Resource departments as employees are usually more comfortable opening up to an external representative.

Following the above recommendations have yield better results than doing the contrary. These points will place organizations well on their way to making the 360 review experience a positive one and, more importantly, one that will actually help each employee in their own development. When 360 reviews are done right, they can yield great results; becoming a major part of driving accelerated growth for a team and an organization.

By Sophia Sanchez, SPHR

 Principal Consultant – Develop For Results International
Author of  “The Development Alternative: Powerful Strategies for unparalleled Business Results”
For more information about our Human Resource Consulting services to include 360 reviews and performance management please visit DevelopForResults.com