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Five Mistakes That Sabotage a 360-Degree Feedback Program

Aug 15, 2008
Your 360 degree feedback system can be a highly-effective tool for identifying the strengths and weaknesses of an employee or manager. It's a powerful way to help others develop skills and competencies based upon peer feedback. However, when executed poorly, the program can be useless, misleading and even damaging. Like most tools, there are circumstances for which the 360 degree feedback system should be used and those for which it should not. Below, you'll discover 5 mistakes that are commonly made when deploying this type of survey.

Mistake #1: Bad Survey Objective

A 360 program is uniquely capable of delivering valuable insight to an employee or manager. For example, if an employee lacks certain skills that are considered important by his peers, the feedback he receives can guide his development. However, a 360 system shouldn't be used to measure an employee's job performance. Whether or not an employee has met specific job requirements should be discussed with his manager.

Mistake #2: Ineffective Questions

The value of the responses from a 360 degree feedback system will depend largely upon the questions that are asked. Not only should you consider the expectations of your staff when designing the survey; you need to formulate the questions in a way that encourages useful insight. The more targeted your questions are to the areas of assessment that you consider important, the more valuable the data.

Mistake #3: Poor Feedback Mechanism

The goal of a 360 degree feedback program is to solicit thoughts from others about a peer's competencies. The delivery of negative feedback can have a dramatic impact on an employee's receptiveness and willingness to pursue further development. If delivered inappropriately, that feedback can have unintended results. Managers using the 360 program should use a neutral third party who can deliver the feedback professionally and objectively.

Mistake #4: Inconsistency With Organization Goals

Every business or organization has goals that guide daily operations. Small groups within an organization (i.e. accounting department, marketing division, etc.) often have their own respective goals. If a 360 degree system is executed without considering these goals, the results can hamper the organization. The feedback can encourage the development of skills and competencies that are outside the scope of the organization's objectives.

Mistake #5: Failure To Follow-Up

The potency of the 360 degree feedback program is in the follow-up. Once the data has been collected, it must be analyzed and delivered to the target of the survey. Then, that person must develop a set of measurable goals. Without a follow-up process in place, the data becomes useless. Plus, the employee doesn't develop competencies in the areas in which weaknesses have been identified. Worse, the peer group can become less willing to participate in future surveys.

Making A 360-Degree Feedback Program Work

Using a 360 degree feedback system can be an effective tool for helping your staff communicate their thoughts about a fellow employee's competencies. When used properly, it can provide valuable insight that can help an employee address certain weaknesses. But, the survey must ask targeted questions that are clear and consistent with the organization's objectives. There must also exist a follow-up process that delivers feedback objectively and encourages employees' further development. A 360 degree feedback program can be powerful, but avoid the mistakes described above to maximize its usefulness.
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SurveyGizmo is a leading provider of online survey software, check them out on the web for more great ways to use surveys to enhance your business.
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