MT People: HR Speak - 360-degree feedback

According to business folklore, HR professionals love nothing more than a bit of bureaucracy - a myth that their fondness for 360-degree feedback does little to dispel.

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Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

The much-vaunted '360' seems pretty sensible on the face of it: combining information on an employee from a number of sources, so that it's not just the line-manager's observations that are taken into account.

For staff members being evaluated in this way, between eight and 12 colleagues (including the employees, their peers, subordinates and line managers) will be asked to fill in forms anonymously - on everything from how their strategic thinking skills shape up to whether they are a good listener and how they respond to criticism. For the feedback to be fully '360 degrees', subjects will have to be managers themselves and have staff working below them.

It sounds great in theory, but according to research from Shine Feedback, 360s often give little insight into individual strengths and cause headaches for staff as they struggle to manage the paperwork. And it takes, on average, a lethargic 10 days to gather the information for each 360 review.

But the trickiest questions raised by the system may be political. The 360 can provide a rude awakening for a boss who finds the unedited views of minions hard to stomach - and a forum for junior staff to give vent to personal grudges.

So be careful how you use the results, and don't be over-zealous in interpreting them. Keep the questions simple, few in number, relevant to individual employees - and free from HR jargon, of course.

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