Despite the fact that we live in a time where there is often talk of a culture of openness – including openness to feedback – collecting feedback based on the 360 / 270 degree method is constantly controversial. There are often comments among clients that “the organisation is not ready” to conduct an appraisal based on the 360 / 270 degree method.
However, after a longer discussion, it turns out that “not ready” means either fear in the group of decision-makers or very bad experiences with previous processes using this method. However, our experience of several years of implementing 360 / 270 degree assessment processes indicates that the phenomenon of “lack of readiness of the organisation” does not occur. On the other hand, mistakes can often occur in the implementation of the process, which then have a significant impact on the perception of conducting such processes in the future.
What are the most common mistakes made during the implementation of 360 / 270 degree appraisal?
There are situations when the conducted 360 / 270 degree evaluation process does not bring the expected result. A thorough analysis indicates that in such cases at least 3 of the mistakes indicated below were made during the planning and implementation of the entire process. Our experience indicates that the following mistakes are most frequently made during the implemented 360 / 270 degree assessment processes:
Inappropriate moment of conducting 360 / 270 degree appraisal
The 360 / 270 degree appraisal most often involves a group of people with a managerial function in the organisation. Sometimes a situation may occur, when people who have started to perform a managerial function for a few weeks or have been promoted to a managerial role shortly after the appraisal are invited to the assessment process. In these situations, assessors may not have sufficient knowledge to make an objective assessment. Consequently, the result obtained may hardly describe the real level of competence possessed by the appraised person.
Linking the results of a 360 / 270 degree appraisal to gratification
Sometimes we receive information from clients that the 360 / 270 degree appraisal process to date has been characterised by particularly high marks. A closer look at the situation indicates that this circumstance is due to the linking of the appraisal with the gratification to be received by the appraised person (e.g. promotion, level of bonus / bonus received). It is worth noting that this situation only applies to organisations where 360 / 270 degree appraisal is a relatively new / young appraisal method.
The questions in the questionnaire are inadequate.
In the case of this error, we can speak of two situations:
- the questions / statements asked in the questionnaire do not relate to the competence model in the company or the challenges that the appraised person faces on a daily basis. A consequence of this could be that both the appraisee and his/her line manager are not interested in developing the areas indicated in the report.
- the questions / statements asked are poorly formulated from a methodological point of view, i.e. relate to several aspects of the person’s functioning (e.g. motivates and corrects) or are vague and difficult to observe or assess (e.g. acts ethically). In this situation, the consequence of this error is a lack of precise answers and thus the possibility to plan appropriate development activities.
Lack of connection of the 360 / 270 degree appraisal with the company’s vision, mission, values and strategy.
If the competencies that are being measured are not linked to the company’s mission, vision and strategy it is likely that the direct supervisors will not support their development. This means that the whole appraisal process conducted will be seen as a complete waste of time and budget.
Lack of support from senior management
It is also often the case that 360 / 270 degree appraisals are mainly carried out by the HR departments, who at the same time take full responsibility for the implementation of the entire process. Thus, senior management may adopt an attitude of indifference in the communication process – they do not actively encourage participation in the appraisal process and, consequently, do not express confidence in the benefits that participation in the appraisal provides. In addition, there are sometimes situations where middle managers are included in the appraisal – while senior management refuses to participate in the appraisal process. Such an attitude on the part of senior management undermines the credibility of the appraisal process – moreover, in the long run, the results obtained from the appraisal process will not be sustained and may even be undermined and negated.
Lack of communication
This is the mistake that companies most often make when implementing a 360 / 270 degree appraisal process. Sometimes, the only communication that is made by the Sponsors of the process comes down to a single email or, in “better” cases, a meeting with the appraisees.
The need to communicate the whole process – including its benefits – to everyone involved in the evaluation process affects the level of commitment to the whole process. If people believe in the benefits that come from the appraisal, the whole process will have a direct impact on the performance of the whole organisation.
Negative effects of the evaluation
This mistake occurs when negative consequences are drawn after a 360 / 270-degree appraisal, e.g. dismissal of the worst appraisees, looking for ‘culprits’ for a low appraisal or ‘quiet days’ on the part of superiors or colleagues. In the event of a re-evaluation, anxiety is likely to set in among the respondents, which will translate into very low attendance and an overall negative assessment of the whole process.
Therefore, it is very important to ensure that you have a thorough understanding of the assumptions behind this way of collecting feedback before starting the 360 / 270 degree appraisal process.
This mistake often occurs when a large number of people are involved in the 360 / 270 degree appraisal or / and there are not enough people to supervise the process of the conducted assessment.
In the first case (large number of people involved in the evaluation process), a situation may arise when a single person receives several to a dozen questionnaires at the same time. The consequence of this situation is that after the third/fourth questionnaire, fatigue sets in due to the need to answer a large number of questions, with the consequence that people may stop filling in questionnaires or answer them in an unthinking/mechanical way.
In the second case (lack of sufficient resources to manage the process), a situation may arise where the person, overseeing the whole of the process being carried out, is unable to do so in a smooth manner (e.g. responding in real time to doubts / difficulties that arise). Consequently, employees start to perceive that the process is not well controlled and the whole 360 / 270 degree appraisal loses its credibility.
Inadequate feedback process
The idea behind the competency assessment process according to the 360 / 270 degree methodology is to support employees in developing and achieving better business results. Lack of feedback or an inappropriately conducted feedback session is demotivating for the appraisee and can have completely opposite effects – in extreme cases, it can even end in quitting the job.
The feedback session is crucial to the success of the entire 360 / 270 degree appraisal process. A well-conducted feedback session determines whether the appraisee will take responsibility for the development of his/her important competence areas.
Lack of ability to define goals
This error is indirectly related to error 9 described above. An extremely important competence in the feedback giver is the ability to define development goals, which then translates directly into the ability to support the appraisee in correctly defining their own development goals. Development goals are meaningless if they are not defined correctly. Therefore, it is very important to make sure that all people involved in the assessment process, are able to define competency objectives correctly (in line with the SMART methodology).
No development plan
The purpose of the 360 / 270 degree appraisal is to support further development. Therefore, it is extremely important to define very precisely the development activities that can potentially be offered to the assessment participants before starting the assessment process. Our experience shows that often such activities do not necessarily involve additional budgets or additional work.
If nothing is done with the information we obtain after a 360 / 270 degree appraisal, we will induce in the participants of the process, a feeling of wasted time. It is therefore very important that, once a specific development plan has been defined, the organisation provides opportunities to develop the defined areas.
Failure to implement the developed plan and monitor its implementation
Unfortunately, the most common mistake made by many companies is that, once the assessment has been carried out and the action plans defined, all the participants in the process return to their daily duties, forgetting the declared activities and the written activities. Forgetting the declared objectives is also facilitated by the attitude of direct superiors who, in the flurry of various tasks, stop monitoring what was supposed to be changed.
A very important stage in the entire 360 / 270-degree appraisal is the monitoring of the realised objectives and, consequently, the feedback to the participants of the process concerning the stage they are at in the context of the set objectives.
Author: Bożena Roczniak (R&D Director)
Member of the Board, R&D Director at Ostendi Global. For more than a dozen years she has been supporting the boards of various companies in building their Human Resource Management strategies. She has a unique experience combining more than 16 years of practice in business with 10 years of conducting diagnoses in the field of psychiatry. Bożena has continuously developed her competences, which is each time confirmed by receiving international certificates: ICC coaching, MBTI(R) Practitioner (Mayers-Briggs Type Indiator), use of SLG Thomas tests (Personal Profile Analyzes, Training System Test, EQTest), Insight Discovery™, EQ-I 2.0 and EQ 360 2.0, Ostendi Talent Hunter Practitioner. Due to her experience, Bożena is responsible for the substantive and methodological product development at Ostendi Global.