Q: Most 360 programs are anonymous. To me, that makes them useless. Moreover, most people tend to focus on weaknesses. How about a program focused on identifying and leveraging strengths and ignoring weaknesses?
A: I disagree that anonymous feedback is useless and that a focus solely on strengths will help improve effectiveness. When reviewing the results of a 360, both strengths and development opportunities (weakness is such a pessimistic term) should be identified. The strengths allow people to understand their unique gifts?attitudes, skills and behaviors?on which they can build their careers. The development opportunities allow people to mitigate behaviors that may derail their career development over time. For example, a technologist who is rated only highly but not excellent for his ability to deliver results benefits from knowing that people find him difficult to work with, especially if he is interested in assuming leadership positions in the future. This is an important point?strengths and development opportunities should be evaluated in light of career goals.
Regarding the value of anonymity, a 360 participant should focus on the top five strengths and development opportunities and forget the rest. Consensus makes the issue of anonymity irrelevant, while the higher-quality feedback from anonymity makes it a prerequisite for success with a 360.
Q: I tried the 360 tool for teachers in the management department. Two issues confront me:
1. How to address conflicting reports?
2. How to follow up on the results of the program?
A: The conflicting nature of the feedback is one of the strengths of the 360 process. Performance effectiveness is definitely in the eye of the beholder, and the 360 process must be designed not only to highlight conflicting reports but also to provide insights on the source of the conflicts. The best practice is for the 360 design to incorporate qualitative comments as well as quantitative ratings. An experienced professional should assist in the interpretation of the results and provide follow-up development coaching. The only way to judge the effectiveness of a 360 program is to repeat the survey every year or so as part of a long-term commitment.
Q: What do you think about assessments being tied to salary?
A: Tying the results of 360s to salary can be a very effective way of putting your money where your mouth is, provided the survey is well designed along the dimensions I’ve outlined. To ensure that the kinks are worked out in the design of the 360, most experts recommend initially implementing it for developmental purposes and delaying the linkage to incentive systems until the assessments are well accepted and understood?by all participants.