Posted by Jessica Miller-Merrell
360-degree evaluations can be either eye-opening and very worthwhile or a morale-busting waste of time. It all depends on your organization, it’s employees, and the strategy and execution you apply. As indicated by its name, a 360-degree evaluation is all-encompassing and provides insight into how your organization runs from every viewpoint, including those of its customers, employees, supervisors, and higher-level managers.
While all 360-degree assessments begin with high hopes and good intentions, they don’t always play out that way. At first glance, it may seem that only good can come from an effort to get feedback from all parties involved, but that isn’t always the case. When considering whether or not to launch a 360 evaluation program at your company, there are many aspects to consider, from how it will affect the individual employees to what it will mean for your organization as a whole. It stands to reason that if you plan to evaluate all aspects of your business, you must first consider all aspects of the evaluation process.
There are quite a few ways that 360-degree evaluations can go wrong, so you’ll want to make sure you consider as many potential pitfalls, from development, to implementation, as possible. The difficulties typically begin in the planning stages of the 360 evaluation, since people often fail to take the time to consider what they specifically hope to gain, what questions must be asked to achieve that, and who should answer those questions. While there are certainly out-of-the-box solutions that cover many important areas, your company has unique aspects that you’ll probably want to evaluate as well, from a specific skill to a value that you expect all of your managers to embody. Take the time to customize your questionnaire, and then think through what each participating group, such as vendors and customers, should provide when it comes to giving feedback.
Another major pitfall, which actually exists with many other types of evaluations as well, is the potential for inconsistent measurements from person to person. For instance, what if my “5” rating means the same as someone else’s “3”? To cut back on the confusion, be specific in what each number on the scale means. Last, but certainly not least, many administrators never decide ahead of time what they’ll do with the results of a 360. This is essentially opening up a can of worms for employees without any intention of finding solutions to problems or improving situations, and it can lead to frustration and morale problems.
For all the potential pitfalls, there are many advantages to 360-degree evaluations. After all, they are extremely popular, which points to the fact that they can be useful tools. The main advantage of this type of evaluation is that, when used as a development tool rather than a measurement tool, it can be extremely helpful in guiding decision making. As mentioned above, an evaluation just for the heck of it is counterproductive, but when used in the right way, it can be extremely worthwhile. And in this case, that means using it to guide and direct your team to make any and all necessary changes. Aside from guiding development, it is extremely helpful in many ways to see your organization through others’ eyes and from every angle. It can be surprising and eye-opening, because it provides a window into how the daily interactions of your managers and supervisors and their direct and indirect reports affect the organization.
Overall, 360-degree evaluations can be productive and effective when they are planned and executed successfully, and when the results are used for more than just providing overarching general statements about individuals or groups.
Has your company performed a 360-degree evaluation? Share a couple of implementation tips that you’d pass along in the comments section below.
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Jessica is listed as the 2nd most influential recruiter online and as the 8th most powerful woman on Twitter. She is the author of Tweet This! Twitter for Business, a how-to business guide for Twitter users. She also writes for a number of leading publications, including Fortune, HR Magazine, SmartBrief, and HR Executive Magazine.