In recent years, there has been considerable debate around the true value of 360 feedback processes. One of the reasons for this controversy is that many businesses encounter difficulties attempting to implement successful 360 solutions. But why is it so difficult? What are the common pitfalls in implementing 360 feedback, and how can you help ensure your initiatives are a success?
By Charlotte Harman, Consultant, Cubiks UK
At Cubiks, our work is driven by a strong belief in empowering people who are being assessed, by providing them with fair, transparent, valuable assessment experiences and feedback. In my day to day role supporting organisations with rolling out 360s, here’s what I’ve learned about the issues they experience and how those problems can be overcome.
Why your 360 project might not succeed
A lack of engagement from leaders
If your leaders don’t believe in and promote open, honest feedback and behavioural change, it is near impossible for them to inspire their teams to take the process seriously.
A lack of engagement from reviewers
Are you working in an organisation that sees most subjects receive the same ratings and a reluctance from reviewers to use the full range of the rating scale? This could be due to reviewers being too busy to give it due consideration (the ‘busy-ness complex’) or a lack of training. Your reviewers could be sceptical about how their ratings will be used or received, or they could lack clarity on how to best use and interpret the rating scale.
A lack of transparency
Linked to the previous point, the less reviewers know about why they are providing feedback and how it is used, the less useful their ratings and feedback become. Is there a possibility you are linking 360 ratings to pay reviews/promotions/bonuses? If so, you could be provoking scepticism, fear of being honest and political behaviour.
A lack of growth mindset and receptiveness to feedback
We often see subjects spending too long overanalysing the scores they receive, and spending too little time digesting the feedback and concentrating on how they can develop.
It all boils down to whether you have a feedback friendly culture
So, what do we recommend? We have several top tips for embedding a feedback friendly culture when implementing 360s.
1. Set the tone through communication, communication, communication.
Make sure that everyone knows the answers to the following questions. Being transparent alleviates scepticism and promotes engagement.
What is the rationale for implementing the 360?
Are reviewers’ ratings anonymous and confidential?
What is happening to the feedback? Is it linked to any compensation-related decisions or promotions?
2. Role model from the top
Start with your leaders and ensure you’ve got their buy-in, so that they can communicate the value to the rest of the organisation. There are several ways in which this can be done – you could implement a phased roll out and ensure they are the first round of 360 subjects, or you could involve them in the 360 design or communications.
3. Embed a feedback culture by teaching people how to give and receive feedback
Use training to encourage accountability for giving and receiving feedback, and to help challenge barriers to giving or receiving feedback constructively. Here’s a checklist.
Subjects need to be encouraged to…
- Be more inclusive of and curious to hear different perspectives
- Invite reviewers who they know are going to be constructive and appropriately critical
- Recognise they have limits and blind spots
- Challenge their emotions – are you annoyed? Why?
- Challenge themselves to do something with the feedback so they grow and develop.
Reviewers need to be encouraged to consider…
- What’s their own agenda? It shouldn’t be about finding fault
- Whether they understand their own biases and how this impacts their ratings
- Whether they understand the rating scale
- How damaging destructive feedback can be, and the importance of avoiding accusatory, undermining feedback.
Line managers need to help support subjects and reviewers by…
- Creating a climate of psychological safety
- Exploring key messages and ensuring they are context relevant to the subject’s role
- Challenging emotional reactions
- Stretching and supporting subjects to make development plans and structure their development moving forward.
Finally, it’s essential to make sure your 360-degree feedback system reflects you as an organisation. It should be transparent and fair, and enable individuals to use it in the easiest, most comprehensible way possible. Communications around the programme should support the open exchange of feedback, and reinforce that ratings are confidential and anonymous. With additional options such as Cubiks’ matrix functionality, you can also allow reviewers to rate multiple subjects at the same time, encouraging differentiation and helping save time.
A good assessment provider will deliver all of this, plus it’s a great advantage if they can also brand the process and embed your content within it. That way, your participants will feel more comfortable, as their 360 looks like you, sounds like you and feels like you. The result of bringing all of this together is that your people will be more engaged in your 360 process, and will see the real value in how it relates to them, their role and their future.
Looking to refresh the way you do 360s? Get in touch with your local Cubiks team to find out about our flexible feedback ecosystem.
Charlotte is a business psychologist and consultant in our UK consulting team at Cubiks. She has worked on the design and delivery of several successful, bespoke 360 projects within the retail, media and energy sectors. Charlotte is currently leading on the design and launch of an inclusive leadership diagnostic tool, leveraging 360 functionality.