360 degree feedback
The traditional path for Leadership Development focuses on the improvement and refinement of skills, and the understanding of models that aid in the diagnosis of which skill to apply in which situation.
This approach, is not proving to be beneficial for numerous reasons, including the lack of any element of measurement. Organizations continue to invest a significant amount of money and time without being sure of what benefits are being accrued. Managers are ending up overburdened by multiple, sometimes complex and conflicting, leadership models to analyze situations. Continue reading
In the beginning, 360 assessments were seen to be a development tool. They were not conceived to be used as a tool for performance appraisal. As their use has grown, however, they have come to be used by some organizations for evaluation, not just for development. This has pulled the rug out from under the original intent and caused a lot of problems for many. Continue reading
360-degree feedback has, over the past 30 years, become the norm in many organizations. It is sometimes called multi-rater feedback, or multi-source assessment (MSA). By whatever name it is known, it has become de rigueur in American business. Some estimates are that as many as 90% of the Fortune 500 make use of 360-degree feedback and as many as half of all American businesses do the same.
If you are using or considering the use of 360 degree feedback in your company for leadership development or employee appraisal purposes, one of the first questions you need to ask yourself is: which is most important, to use 360 degree feedback for employee development or for employee appraisal?
Before you answer, let me offer one cautionary note. Organizations fail when they attempt to use the 360 degree feedback tool for both employee development and employee appraisal purposes. It has been found to be virtually impossible to effectively coach and evaluate a person at the same time. Evaluation will override development every time.
Why was it created?
In the beginning, the 360 degree assessment was seen to be a development tool. It was not conceived to be used as a tool for performance appraisal. This distinction, in fact, remains a cornerstone of the philosophy of the 360 degree feedback creators. As the use of 360s has grown, however, it has come to be used by some organizations for evaluation, not just for development. This has muddied the water.
So why is it used for employee appraisals?
There are several reasons generally given for using 360s for appraisal purposes. The strongest reason is to augment traditional top-down performance appraisals with a different perspective. This, though, strikes me as a more of an admission of the weaknesses of traditional performance appraisals than as an argument in favor of using 360s for the same purpose. We shouldn’t try to fix something that’s broken by importing a tool that was developed for an entirely different purpose.
If the only end you have in mind is to know how your employees are doing today, then go ahead and use 360 feedback for evaluation. Here is another cautionary note. You can get away with this once, before mis-trust sets in.