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It's becoming more and more apparent that performance management processes are failing to deliver business value in the workplace. Research has shown that many employees feel disengaged and demotivated by performance management processes, which is a big concern for organisations who are struggling to attract and retain top talent. 360 feedback is becoming an increasingly popular tool in evaluating employee performance, and in his latest article, Rob Caul discusses how to effectively use 360 in workplace learning and development.

Published in TrainingZone magazine, April 2015


So many organisations are stuck in outdated performance management practices that don’t match the needs of today’s workplace. Sadly, Deloitte research shows that only 8% of companies believe their performance management process drives high levels of value, while 58% say it’s not an effective use of time. It seems that employees aren’t impressed either. Around 1 in 3 UK workers think their company’s performance management process is unfair, a waste of time, and fails to contribute to their personal career development (CIPD Employee Outlook Survey, 2014; Badendoch and Clark, 2012).

For organisations that want to keep their best talent from walking out the door, it’s time for a more effective performance management paradigm. Love it or hate it, 360 feedback is becoming an increasingly popular tool, not just for determining compensation and promotion, but for engaging employees in their own development. Because feedback comes from all directions – team members, colleagues, managers and external stakeholders – the 360 removes bias from one-to-one manager-led appraisals. Most importantly it gives employees more meaningful feedback on where they can add value and grow in their roles and which skills and competencies they need to hone in order to reach their potential. Seeing ourselves through others’ eyes can be rewarding and all this great insight can be fed into key development activities.

In short, 360 feedback lends itself to the dynamics of today’s less hierarchical and collaborative workplace where we tend to work on multiple projects with multiple leaders and peers. Done well, it can enhance professional development and organisational success, and it can play a vital role in transforming high performers into tomorrow’s leaders. Done badly, 360 feedback, much like traditional performance management appraisals, can end up as little more than a tick-box exercise, leaving your employees deflated and reaching outside your organisation for their next career progression opportunity.

Turning the 360 tool into a proactive and powerful means of inspiring greater engagement, productivity and performance across the workforce hinges on five key success factors:

  1. Culture first

For any performance and development initiative to be truly effective, having the right company culture in place is critical. Those at the top of the organisation need to take the lead in actively supporting the process as part of everyday business thinking. Actions speak louder than words, so active participation in 360 feedback from the top is a must. There may well need to be a change in mindset from the business and its HR department for the 360 to become an intrinsic part of performance management and L&D strategies. However,  the upside will be more engaged employees: the holy grail for every organisation these days.

  1. Clear communication

Even if you think you have the best processes in the world, if your people don’t know what is expected from them, then your systems can’t be fully successful. Education and training is key. Everybody involved in the 360 process needs to understand the objectives and how feedback will be gathered and used. Conducting a 360 review is just the starting point, as participants will need to be carefully debriefed and encouraged to talk through the results and what they mean from both a personal and business perspective.

  1. Turning insight into action

How people act on 360 feedback is what really counts. There’s no value in putting the results into a filing cabinet and forgetting all about them – participants need to focus on turning feedback into actionable results. Employees should be encouraged to use the insight gained from each 360 to develop personal action plans and should be supported in implementing any necessary changes. L&D has a key role to play in ensuring that the right learning and development initiatives are targeted when and where they are most needed.

  1. Harnessing technology

Technology is rapidly enabling the transformation from manager-driven appraisals to 360 degree feedback. In today’s global organisation, where teams are dispersed across different functions and geographical regions, 360 feedback software can enable people to collaborate, wherever they are, at any time, on any device. The digitisation of 360 centralises and streamlines review and administration processes and provides intelligent reporting for optimising targeted development programmes. By making it easy for multiple contributors to take part, the time individual managers spend providing feedback will be minimised. Also, it’s easy to include self-ratings which are essential for empowering employees to identify areas for improvement and for prioritising learning.

  1. The power of integration

The 360 review should never be viewed as a standalone process. It provides far greater value to HR, learning and the business when it is integrated with performance management, learning, talent and succession planning processes. Just as these core processes impact each other and should be linked together, so should your software.

360 feedback has the power to actively engage employees in their own development and can help create more detailed career plans with targeted learning resources to improve employee performance. When aligned with the characteristics of today’s workplace – technology-enabled, dynamic and collaborative – the 360  can hold the key to truly optimised performance management.

Rob Caul is CEO of Kallidus, a leading provider of learning and talent management solutions. Kallidus will be showcasing Kallidus 360, as part of its integrated multi-platform solution at the CIPD 2015 Learning and Development Show, 13-14 May, stand 530. For further information, visit www.kallidus.com

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