Manager A: It’s that time again. Let’s quickly gather and notify [X]’s peers to give some good old 360-degree feedback.
Manager B: What’s the point? It’s long, tedious, and isn’t really different from the feedback you’d give yourself, is it? Just write an email and get it done. 🤓
Pardon us for our terrible attempt at humor! We all know how some managers seem to follow this line of thought despite evidence suggesting time and again that 360-degree feedback is imperative to your team members’ career development.
You know what—we get it. It’s far easier and rewarding to rely solely on your judgment and help an individual prosper professionally. But that’s not enough; please stay with us, and we’ll tell you why.
Aside from the apparent benefit of eliminating subjectivity in feedback, there are many more benefits that 360-degree feedback brings to the table. Now, such feedback doesn’t come without its fair share of flaws, but trust us—it is still just as important and relevant as it was back when it first saw the light of day.
If you find it difficult to trust our word just yet, it’s okay—allow us to take you through all the benefits of 360-degree feedback. We’ll show you how to utilize it in your feedback cycles.
What is 360-degree feedback
To get started, let us first be on the same level with what 360-degree feedback is all about. So, 360-degree feedback is a comprehensive review of an individual’s strengths and weaknesses. This feedback is developed by bringing together individual’s points of contact within an organization—that includes their manager, team, peers, and customers.
The main idea behind giving individuals 360-degree feedback is to give them reliable and comprehensive insights about their performance while helping them identify developmental opportunities that can help them pursue their ideal career path, bolster their strengths, and minimize their weaknesses.
Benefits of 360-degree feedback
1. Provides a complete and fuller assessment of your team member
Giving feedback all by yourself is not a bad practice by any means, but it's excellent if you enhance its quality by having others contribute to the process.
That’s what 360-degree feedback does—by having an individual’s every point of contact provide an extensive view of their strength, weaknesses, and potential, the feedback you end up with is more reliable, comprehensive, and certainly more complete than before.
2. Encourages self-reflection and awareness
One of the critical objectives of conducting a 360-degree review is to identify a person’s key strengths, weaknesses, and areas of development.
This is done by collecting feedback on a predetermined set of competencies such as leadership, interpersonal skills, communication, productivity, and more. In turn, the complete feedback that the individual receives allows them to be fully aware of the extent of their abilities and work on improving themselves.
3. Helps reduce workplace bias
It is noted that 360-degree feedback assists in terminating some of the common unconscious biases in the workplace such as:
- Recency Bias: Managers can sometimes favor recent events, overlooking historical events.
- Halo Bias: Managers can rely on a strong impression of the individual in one area to dictate their image in other areas.
- Pattern Recognition Bias: Managers may fail to consider that previously recognized patterns may just be an anomaly.
4. Builds transparency and openness
One of the key characteristics of 360-degree feedback is how it helps everyone understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses while facilitating dialogue around the same. This, in turn, builds a level of transparency and openness in the workplace. Not to mention, this is an excellent way of building healthy and meaningful relationships at work if done with honesty and politeness.
5. Encourages upskilling
By helping individuals recognize their strengths, flaws, and areas of improvement, they find themselves in a better position to collaborate with their manager in creating development plans that help them acquire more skills, enhance their performance, and pursue the career path of their choice.
6. Allows anonymity in giving feedback
One of the problems that people come across when sharing any objective opinion on someone’s work is the hesitation and fear of opposition that comes with it.
People, as a result, then forgo sharing feedback. Therefore, by giving people some much-needed anonymity in sharing feedback, they find themselves in a comfortable position to help an individual raise awareness of their skills.
7. Brings accountability to each team member
When giving 360-degree feedback, everyone is responsible for everyone. What this does is bring a level of accountability when giving feedback.
Unless someone holds an absolute grudge against someone (if that’s the case, it needs to be resolved ASAP), the feedback people give each other will be honest and trustworthy. Every person wants to see themselves and their team succeed, and 360-degree feedback facilitates accountability.
8. Helps develop a culture of feedback
Of course, as people share feedback with each other across all levels in an organization, you get to build a culture of feedback that helps identify the shortcomings, develop more concrete goals, and boost your organization’s overall performance.
Now, we’re not saying that 360-degree feedback is an easy feat. This is why we’ll talk a little about what makes this process slightly tedious.
The 360-degree feedback process requires extra effort
1. It is time-consuming
One of the biggest problems when collecting 360-degree feedback is how it requires a lot of time for the many people involved in the process. From notifying every single reviewer to developing all responses into cohesive feedback and delivering it to the individual, the process can hamper your day-to-day tasks and slow everything down to a crawl. As such, building a system that automates the process of collecting and presenting feedback is a must.
2. You need to ensure that the power of anonymity is not abused
We previously mentioned how anonymity could give people the much-needed space to share feedback with each other.
On the contrary, there is a chance that this space may get abused, and people share bogus or negative feedback that doesn’t have any actual backing for the wrong reasons. To prevent this, make sure to have some open-ended questions that draw concrete instances and data to back the rest of the feedback.
3. You need to ensure that people aren’t focusing too much on the negatives
Due to some unnecessary connotations attached to the word “feedback,” people tend to interpret it as focusing solely on areas of improvement or weaknesses—or things that are lacking. This is a big no-no, as accomplishments and strengths deserve just as much recognition, and it is necessary to balance both good and bad in feedback.
4. Can create a negative culture of distrust
Whether it be anonymity or the exchange of negative feedback, if the system of 360-degree feedback is misused, people may begin to lose trust in each other. This, in turn, may spread throughout the organization as a plague and develop into a negative culture of wariness and skepticism.
5. It can be difficult to find the right people for feedback
Last but not least, it can be challenging to find the right people to give feedback. If, for example, you ask people who have recently met your team member to provide feedback on their work or interpersonal skills, chances are that their feedback will be inaccurate or even biased.
An easy way to counter this is to find people who have worked or interacted with your team member for over 3-6 months. They’ll be much better equipped with the data to give proper feedback.
360-degree feedback is all about asking the right questions
One common inference we can draw from all the drawbacks mentioned above is that this system of exchanging feedback relies on the nature of questions that are asked to gather feedback. You’ll surely get the right answers if you ask the right performance review questions. Along with this, a well-designed process involving the right set of people can make or break the cycle altogether.
To sum it up, it’s crucial that you make 360-degree feedback a part of the performance review process in your organization. With employees working remotely or even in hybrid setups, it’s not always possible to gauge the finer nuances of performance through virtual calls. You need to ask more people to get more answers for you to be able to boil all of it down to a solid understanding of the individual’s performance.
Simply put, it’s the need of the hour. If you do it well, you’ll definitely reap the rewards for your efforts.