Whether or not you experienced it for yourself, the nineties were an era of acid-washed jeans, slouchy socks, and compact cassettes. Several professional publications related to HR and L&D have likened 360 assessments to other fads of the early nineties - best tucked away and forgotten. Compact cassettes will probably not be making a comeback anytime soon, but a quality 360 can help you understand how you see yourself and how others see you.
Never Say Never in Science
Scientists typically shy aware from strong words such as 'never.' There's nowhere to go from never, after all. Saying never is akin to saying 'throw the baby out with the bathwater.' Using a term like never is potentially throwing out valuable information that may not be found once the ultimatum is issued.
Google provides many examples of titles that state you should never use 360 feedback, or why such programs fail. Each author gives varying reasons for the doom and gloom of 360 assessments, but common criticisms include the bias of rater feedback, selection of raters, or that the data may be used for other means, outside of the intended scope.
Several articles state that anonymous 360s are a problem, and their widespread use lets raters hide behind the veil of anonymity. Accordingly, anonymous assessments don't allow for 'face-to-face' conversation, so there aren't courageous conversations about performance. But, the idea that people should drop anonymous 360 feedback and go straight to a face-to-face format because they build trust, openness, discomfort, and vulnerability is naive.
Trust Doesn't Magically Happen Overnight
It takes effort and time to have a culture of trust, openness, and vulnerability. Leaders must create the conditions where the trust required to jump into a courageous conversation is already present. That type of confidence takes some time to develop, and this is one of the biggest tests of leadership. It means that you as the leader will do as you say you will. You will show integrity and prove that you are worthy of trust.
Statistics in recent years underscore why the trusting environment needed for candid and direct feedback is elusive.
Only 36% of U.S. employees believe that their leaders act with integrity.
76% of employees admit they have observed illegal or unethical conduct at work.
77% of Americans lack confidence in their leaders.
Only a select few are fortunate enough to work in an environment where trust and openness are business as usual. As we move into the Imagination Age, successful companies will realise that trust and integrity are crucial. A quality 360 is a useful tool, no matter your work environment, and it can provide insights that help promote positive changes.
The measures competencies and includes inputs from clients, suppliers, family, and friends to provide meaningful data that will show how the person is developing at work, at home, and in the community. Individuals who are assessed may experience a new awareness of themselves, which can lead to career and even life-changing shifts.
I think it's very important to have a feedback loop, where you're constantly thinking about what you've done and how you could be doing it better.
Avoid Homegrown 360 Tools
One criticism of anonymous 360 assessments is the poor quality of the evaluations. If the tool in question is poorly researched, validated and constructed, it typically focuses on accomplishing tasks with a narrow focus and provides little meaningful information to the individual.
Any person or organisation should carefully consider what criteria make up a 360 feedback assessment. It is important to invest the time and financial costs to deliver meaningful results to both the employee and the organisation.
A quality assessment:
- Is relevant to the 21st Century business climate and useful to the individual
- Provides content and outcomes that could be applied throughout the organisation to develop the personal leadership qualities of every employee
- Is strengths-focused and is customisable to fit the needs of individuals and teams
- Helps reverse the 'trust' deficit in many businesses and set the stage for face-to-face feedback
- 360 Assessments can still provide meaningful feedback (in the same way than a Fitbit band does and more!)
Don't lose valuable information that could benefit both employees and the organisation as a whole. 360s aren't just relics from the past. The right assessment tool, which is aligned with the right business issues, should provide employees with personal benefit. A positive experience with tangible outcomes leads to improvements for the organisation.
Leadership ability should not be taken for granted. It ebbs and flows by position, organisation, and life circumstance. It requires vigilance and discipline, and regular feedback to track how you are doing. The can help you have a new understanding of how you are 'seen' by your peers, managers, and even those in your personal life.