In a 360 degree feedback system it is very important that the raters give honest feedback. In order for this to occur there must be a plan for anonymity and it must be followed. Leaders also need to ensure that all feedback is given in good faith and that there is not anyone trying to get revenge or trying to sabotage another employee.
Employers need to make a system where employees also feel comfortable giving feedback, even if it is negative. There needs to be an understanding that the evaluation is a tool to help people improve. Not everyone is perfect; people are going to have flaws. Sugar coating the flaws or not mentioning them at all creates an unrealistic portrait of the individual and does not give them valuable feedback on their performance. Companies need to make sure that their employees have an understanding that the 360 degree evaluation will contain both positive and negative feedback. The employees need to feel that their harsh words will not have an extremely negative impact on their peers and managers. This may be as simple as letting the work force know that unless an employee is found to be violating company policy they will not be fired over negative comments in an evaluation. They may be coached on the results and given a chance to change, but they will not be fired.
Another important aspect of a 360 degree appraisal is ensuring that the ratings are given consistently by the raters. This can be done by offering a training session for employees participating in the 360 degree process and going over the rating system that will be used and explaining what each level on the scale represents. Giving examples will help solidify the ratings for the employees.
The 360 degree evaluation is only a valuable tool if the behaviors and skills being assessed are related to the job that they perform. A Department Store Manager would receive not valuable information from a 360 degree evaluation that assessed the manager’s skills as a swimming instructor. The skills need to be relevant for the assessment to be useful to the manager and the organization.
Having managers who will receive the information and act on it is the most important aspect of the 360 degree appraisal. There must be plans of action put in place after the appraisal has been completed. For example if there is an HR Manager who has appraisal results that indicate that he or she is not fully knowledgeable on California Meal Break regulations then the plan of action could be that this manager would take a class that fully reviews the California Meal Break regulations.
Human Resources Management: Gaining a Competitive Advantage. Noe, Hollenbeck, Gerhart, Wright. McGraw-Hill/Irwin, 8th edition. ISBN: 0078029252