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Performance Reviews and 360-Degree Feedback

While most businesses are familiar with and use regular performance appraisals which can provide great value, there is a growing need to take a more holistic approach to gauging an employee’s strengths, weaknesses and performance.

Managers need to understand not only how an employee is performing against set KPI’s (which can be assessed in traditional reviews) but how they are performing in less quantifiable areas such as teamwork, professionalism, and their impact on the organisations’ reputation. There is a need to gauge risks an employee may be posing to the business with regards to how they treat their subordinates, their respect for OH&S and adherence to policies and procedures. The best way to do this is to through 360-degree feedback.

360-degree feedback is a process where a cross section of people who have contact with the employee evaluate their performance in a survey. Survey participants can include peers, trainers, direct reports, secondary reports, inter-departmental colleagues, senior managers, service providers and customers as well as the employee’s direct manager; so pretty much anyone who has contact with the employee in the course of their job. The employee also provides self-evaluation, which is used as a comparison point.

The result is a compilation of information that can clearly illustrate how the employee perceives themselves contrasted with how others perceive them and their performance. Done properly, it can also provide valuable information on how the employee performs key tasks, highlight strengths and weaknesses and can identify both good or bad work practices. Ideally, the results will clearly illustrate areas for professional development and training, as well as strengths that can be used for training others. 360-degree feedback helps improve employee performance because it clearly illustrates different perspectives of their skills and performance to the employee.

The ability to use feedback and opinion from multiple sources (subordinate, lateral, supervisory and service related) adds a valuable dimension to traditional reviews which only include feedback to and from the employee’s direct supervisor, and quantifiable evidence e.g. Sales figures, production reports etc.  The 360-degree feedback method acknowledges the importance of key stakeholders in the employee’s circle of influence and provides an operational and outcome focused view of performance. It also alleviates the problem of the employee who puts on a great performance for their boss, but who performs poorly everywhere else. As self-ratings are generally significantly higher than the ratings given from others, it can be a sobering wake-up call for the employee who thinks they are fantastic and can’t put a foot wrong!

A word of caution though – 360-degree surveys can generate conflicting opinions and produce different views of the same behaviour. Results must be taken with a consciousness of the feedback-providers subjectivity and motives, and whether the feedback provider is in a position to fairly answer the question being asked. It is impossible to fully alleviate this problem, however to minimise the impact it is very important that the survey is carefully crafted for each level of recipient and only asks for information that is relevant to their level of contact with the person.

Further to this, the survey must only be used for development purposes and all feedback should remain anonymous. The results should not be used as the basis for disciplinary action nor should they impact on employment decisions.

From the point of view of the person completing the survey, it’s important to state that the survey results will be used for training and development purposes only and if the person has any particular issues that they would like followed up they should raise these in line with your company’s Grievance and Dispute Resolution Policy.

360-degree feedback and performance appraisals get different outcomes. Therefore, both traditional performance appraisals as well as 360-degree feedback should be used together to fully evaluate an employee’s performance.

If you would like the full picture of your employee’s performance, the experts at HR Gurus can customise and implement 360 Degree reviews for you, and design and implement a Performance Review Process tailored to your business.

Written by Resident HR Guru Louise Betts.

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