Flipping the Traditional 360

The 360-degree review collects direct feedback from people in your immediate work circle. This however has inherent benefits and drawbacks.

Many companies are using the 360-degree feedback review to assess employee performance. In a nutshell, the 360-degree review collects direct feedback from people in your immediate work circle. Your reviewers will most likely consist of your peers, supervisors, subordinates, and in some cases, external colleagues such as customers and suppliers.

This has its benefits as well as drawbacks (especially when the review results are linked to employee compensation).

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Here’s an idea: Why not flip it and have employees review their performance on a regular basis? Let’s explore the benefits of ‘flipping’ the 360.

Company Growth through Performance Development

Every company’s ultimate aim is to grow. In order to grow, companies hire employees, not to fill in a limited or finite functional space, but to contribute skills and knowledge that will naturally change or evolve over time. In addition to this, growth implies monitoring the developments and changes occurring within multiple spheres of a given competitive business environment. In order to accomplish this, companies often need to rely on the input of those who are most in touch with certain aspects of that environment, namely individual employees.

The effect of this collaborative and cumulative growth in knowledge, facility, and situational awareness is what helps companies take major strides forward with full cognizance of its internal capabilities and external environments.

Dynamic Project-Based Timelines for Enhancing Performance

Everyone who has worked in a collaborative or team setting understands the importance of frequent status updates and evaluations. Planning takes place before project implementation; frequent status-update meetings take place to ensure that a project is headed in the right direction; and debriefs happen at the end to dissect what went well, what went wrong, and how to do better the next time.

This teaches us a few things: a) frequency of assessment is an important part of the performance improvement process; b) assessment timing is critical; and c) proactive improvements are best made in a combined self-directed and collaborative setting. These three factors are activated when employees are given the opportunity and responsibility to administer their own 360 feedback.

Empowering an Individual’s Ownership and Leadership Potential

There’s a big difference between an employee who occupies a functional space within a company and an employee who feels he/she is an integral part of a company. The difference is what the employee perceives is at stake: a mere job vs. one’s own valuable contributions within a collaborative undertaking; remote participation vs. ownership.

When an employee is given a wider capacity to evaluate and improve upon his/her performance of tasks, he/she is granted a degree of ownership. The benefit to the employee is the empowerment, trust, and responsibility he/she feels as an essential part of a company’s operations. The benefit to the company is the self-directed improvements that are made on a granular scale across the entire spectrum of its business. In short, a company can experience frequent and self-directed improvements on multiple grounds without the need for micro-managed processes.

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Establishing Highly Collaborative Work Circles

As a leader, what would you rather hear: “Tell us what to do, how to do it, and we’ll provide you with results,” or, “tell us the ultimate objective and we’ll use our ingenuity to come up with a few solutions”? The differences are clear. The former is a top-down approach (you will get a result, but you have to plug in the figures for the entire equation), while the latter is more of a leveled or ground-up approach; the former aims to achieve direct results via strict and linear input, while the latter aims to create conditions from which multiple favorable results can come into fruition.

We would venture to say that for most executive and upper-tier managers, there is nothing more comforting than having a competent team of experts who are self-sufficient and self-directed toward a common goal. Collaborative excellence implies well-timed collaborative evaluations on an individual and team basis. It’s about establishing multiple tiers of leadership.

360 Feedback That Is Strength-Focused

Employees have a natural inclination to succeed (nobody takes on a job in order to fail). As success means drawing upon skills and resources to make things ‘work,’ employees tend to take on a perspective that is strength-focused. This markedly differs from a company approach to assessing employee performance: as feedback is remotely perceived and processed, employee strengths and weaknesses have a categorical and almost ‘quantitative’ weight (as if strength and weakness can be measured in terms of a ratio). In contrast, employees who know the nuances of their tasks measure strengths and weaknesses in terms of ‘potential,’ wherein one quality (strength or weakness) can compensate for the other in a manner that is transformative, time-based, and ‘qualitatively’ measurable.

A Ssuccessful Employee-Administered 360 Requires Agreement between Company and Employee

Like any task, the development of a 360-degree feedback assessment requires neutral expertise oversight. Assessment is as much a discipline as it is a method or tool. That being said, there are a few major requirements that must be met in order for an employee-administered 360 to work successfully.

  1. Establish consensus on the implementation of the employee-administered 360.

If the employer neither understands nor recognizes the process, then its implementation is pointless. The employer and employees must agree on the implementation of the employee-administered 360 and how it can be utilized to everyone’s benefit.

  1. Development of a flexible and open-ended 360 feedback should be reasonably formalized and undertaken by an expert with a neutral-outlook.

The construction of an effective assessment method requires expertise (just like any other critical task). It’s a matter of choosing the right expert with the right outlook: one that takes into account the interests of the employers and employees.

  1. The 360-degree feedback review ought to be decoupled from compensation decisions.

Most companies that implement the ‘traditional’ 360 often use it strictly as a performance development tool. Using the 360 to determine pay, promotion, or demotion discourages employees’ trust in the method. Without trust, the whole process derails. In the case of an employee-administered 360, such effects—whether increasing performance or derailing the process due to ill-use—can be even greater.

Closing Thoughts

A company’s executive leaders may be the visionaries driving the overall strategic direction of a company. But many of the great strides taken by thriving companies owe a lot to the cumulative effects of smaller departmental and individual contributions. Granting each employee the capacity to evaluate, correct, and improve (as an individual or team) at the most opportune moments activates the leadership impulse in every individual, and they in turn become a potential source for a company’s ingenuity.

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