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Myths & misconceptions about 360 degree feedback

Myths & misconceptions about 360-degree feedback

30 June 2022

One of the most necessary requirements in business is to constantly evaluate and appraise your workforce in order to remain productive, profitable and judge employees’ level of engagement and morale. Feedback in any and all forms is necessary for initiating improvements, providing training and lauding employee performances. In this regard, the 360-degree feedback approach has been adopted and implemented, “in some form” by nearly all modern, forward-looking organizations in rating their employees’ performances.

What is 360-degree Feedback?

The 360-degree feedback survey, often known as multi-rater assessment, is a mechanism where an employee receives confidential feedback from various people in his/her work environment. These could include his/her peers, managers, juniors or even clients. It’s a complete tool for giving an employee insight on his/her strengths and weaknesses, behavioural skills and competence in work to ultimately enhance overall performance.

Common Myths and misconceptions:

No assessment tool is exempt from misunderstandings and incorrect application. The 360-degree feedback system too has its share of myths and misconceptions surrounding it, especially regarding its utility and benefits. Following are some of the major misconceptions regarding this method:

  • Management Centric

    The most common myth regarding 360-degree feedback evaluation is that it’s for senior executives only. It may start at a higher level however, why restrict this evaluation tool to a particular level of hierarchy? Instead, you can use it for your employees at all levels to create a more self-aware workforce with a clear goal to learn and grow.

  • Only ‘comment’ oriented

    Organizations need different and varied inputs that these surveys provide regarding their workforce appraisal to arrive at a workable action plan for each employee. Charts, graphs and tables in addition to comments and interviews from the respondents make 360-degree a great assessment tool to gain insights on competency of the present workforce, generating employee self-awareness and creating development and growth opportunities at individual and organizational level . This helps avoid confusion and provides overall clarity on the people being assessed.

  • Biased Review

    Since this method provides feedback from various sources in an employee’s work environment – peers, managers, direct reports, customers, external stakeholders etc. the feedback received is more well-rounded. This reduces risk of bias due to interpersonal relationships of an employee. It also reduces the possibility of discrimination on race, gender, age etc.

  • Not required in an Open Organization

    An open organization has complete transparency at its core.

    Leaders of such organizations believe that due to their organization’s open structure in communications, 360-degree feedback will be useless. However, in the real world no organization can claim to be 100% transparent. Despite having best intentions, people do not provide feedback to their peers or superiors unless explicitly asked.Everyone is busy doing their jobs. Rejecting an efficient tool like 360-degree feedback may deprive even very open organizations of a talented, self-aware work force and future leaders.

  • To remove under performers

    The main purpose of a 360-degree feedback assessment is to gain insights into employees’ potential and improvements they can make based on this feedback. While this tool is definitely a performance management tool, it is not meant to be used as the only yardstick to measure the same. Most organizations use the opinions from a multi-rater feedback survey to identify development opportunities for employees and not for removing under-performers.

  • To remove under performers

    The main purpose of a 360-degree feedback assessment is to gain insights into employees’ potential and improvements they can make based on this feedback. While this tool is definitely a performance management tool, it is not meant to be used as the only yardstick to measure the same. Most organizations use the opinions from a multi-rater feedback survey to identify development opportunities for employees and not for removing under-performers.

  • Unnecessary for target achievers

    360-degree feedback focuses on the process rather than the outcome. Many employees who achieve their targets believe they do not require to be a part of 360-degree evaluation. This system does not highlight -’how many targets were achieved”, rather the focus is here on - “how the targets were met”. Thus, it leads to identifying blind spots, perception gaps and devising a plan to bridge these.

  • Can’t include friends and family

    It is a general belief that people at work behave differently than in their personal time. So, when asked which respondents would they like their feedback from, employees generally choose their peers, managers, subordinates or anyone else from their work environment. Studies show that given a chance family members and friends tend to provide similar feedback as co-workers. It may differ contextually however parameters remain the same. Example managers who are good listeners at work tend to be good listeners at home as well!

  • Tool for criticism

    One of the biggest obstructions to smooth implementation of 360-degree feedback evaluation is that people believe that they will only get criticized. However, it does not do just that. The survey is designed to focus constructive inputs on how to make improvements to achieve one’s potential, make use of strengths and which areas to prioritize for change.Therefore, the feedback should be taken in the same spirit - as an opportunity for growth and change.

  • Agree with the given feedback

    Another myth to be debunked is that you need to agree with all the feedback that is given to you and make an action plan based on it. Feedback is generally a perception of how others ‘see’ you. It is entirely up to you what you want to do with it. You may agree, disagree or neither agree or disagree with it. The point is to take the feedback and observe oneself closely and then decide what to do. When perception gaps are too wide, the subject may even opt for additional personality assessments to dig deeper.

How benefits of 360-degree feedback outweigh the disadvantages?

360-degree feedback assessment makes employees self-aware about their strengths and weaknesses. It also informs them about their own opinions about themselves and how people around them perceive them. There are many advantages to using this assessment tool:

  • Balanced and complete view from all stakeholders:

    As the data for the assessment is collected from large and varied sources, 360-degree feedback provides well-rounded and accurate feedback from people involved in one’s work environment. Organizations get a better idea regarding an employee’s work competency, behavioural skill set and work relationships as the feedback is obtained from a broader spectrum of respondents that include - direct supervisors, juniors, peers, clients and vendors along with senior managers. This makes it more balanced as compared to a single manager providing feedback.

  • Increases self-awareness and encourages personal development:

    360-degree feedback makes one aware of his/her own personality, abilities, weaknesses and various management and leadership approaches. They become aware of what skill set they need to deal with different situations and people, leading to a more comprehensive action plan for future improvements.

  • Improves team productivity and working relationships:

    This approach opens up avenues to build mutual trust, open communication encouraging teams to meet personal and organizational goals. The team members rate each other’s performance thus making them accountable to each other leading to better relationships and increased organizational productivity.

  • Measures the ‘how’ rather than the ‘what’:

    Since 360-degree feedback focuses purely on the ‘process’ of how to achieve targets than on ‘what’ has been achieved, it helps create a better outcome in terms of employee growth and development.

  • Facilitates Communication:

    360-degree feedback provides a safe space for employees to understand the given feedback with the help of the surveyor/manager in-charge. This leads to more open dialogue which forms the basis for all individual and organizational development.

  • Identifies requisite training areas:

    The main purpose behind conducting 360-degree feedback is to understand an employee’s opportunities for development. It encourages employees to play a central role in identifying the skill gaps and creating an action plan to meet the same, leading to overall organizational efficiency.

  • Insight into one’s role:

    In any organization it's very important that each worker understands the role he/she plays. 360-degree feedback helps employees understand what is expected of them, how they fit and contribute to their organization’s success.

  • Transparency:

    360-degree feedback builds mutual trust between co-workers and brings in transparency which in turn lays a solid foundation for any company to bring about positive changes and reach its full potential.

  • Creates a culture for openness:

    Proper pre and post training and guidance for respondents and assessee boosts accuracy and transparency whenever the assessment is administered. This openness in communication leads to a more cohesive and productive environment at individual, team and organizational levels.

  • Empowers the workforce:

    360-degree feedback gives ‘a voice’ to the employees. They feel they are heard when things are discussed and growth plans are developed with them at the center. Employees are less likely to feel disengaged and quit if they feel they have a voice to iterate their opinions which they feel is heard.

  • Fosters accountability:

    As already mentioned, 360-degree feedback is employee centric. Employees become aware of their own personality, strengths and weaknesses and behavioural skill set. They are able to determine individual goals and work better towards achieving those and organizational goals.

Despite so many advantages, few critics of this approach feel that using 360-degree feedback appraisal has certain drawbacks like it’s time consuming, and may create distrust and conflicts among team members leading to organizational unrest. Such scenarios can be avoided by setting up clear guidelines for effective implementation of 360-degree feedback.

Simply writing reviews and generating reports is not the end goal of the 360-degree feedback tool. As is the case with any assessment, an assessee requires guidance in interpreting the result of their evaluation accurately. Incorrect interpretation of the given feedback may lead to demotivation and reduced productivity in the workforce; a loss for any organization. Employees should be helped by their surveyors to understand the feedback in order to come up with action plans well suited to their needs.

Using an external agency like GreenThumbs, which provides custom 360 Degree Feedback software, ensures accurate implementation of 360-degree evaluation, maximizing productivity and engagement of your workforce and achieving organizational goals.


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Team GreenThumbs