Sometimes (thankfully, very infrequently) a 360 degree assessment process can turn ugly, leading to confrontation and/or ill feeling between the participant and their manager or peers.
I have to say that when this happens, in my experience, 9 times out of 10 it's because of the way in which the manager or supervisor of the person being rated handled the process (sometimes an HR manager may be involved also).
Here are six golden rules to make sure the process is a positive one for you and your employee:
1. Don't spring any surprises
If your employee feels 'ambushed' by the process from the get-go, there's nowhere to go but down. Consult with your team at the outset - tell them what you're doing, and why (see next point). Don't let the 360 email invite be the first they hear of the process.
2. Be clear about your motives
360's are applied for a variety of reasons - to develop individuals, or a team, or to help get a better handle on why someone is under performing.
If you are already a Predictable Success organization, you may be using your 360's to better understand why someone is over-performing (in order to mentor and coach their 'success factors' to the rest of your team.
Sometimes they're used because other employees have expressed concern about a specific aspect of an individual's behavior. You may be using a 360 for a reason very specific to you and your organization.
Whatever the reason, communicate it to the participants. If you don't, they will dwell on the options themselves, and will fill the vacuum of their understanding with whatever they believe the reason is - and they may well be wrong.
Either way, they will start the process unsure and with limited confidence in the process - not a good start...
3. Involve them in choosing Raters
You may have some people who you want to make sure are included as Raters - that's fine, our process will allow you to include anyone you wish. However, it's important that the process is consensual, so discuss with the employee who you want as Raters, and listen to their comments and feedback. If they wish to add Raters, let them - the more responses in the system, the better quality the feedback is.
Conversely, if you 'stack the deck' with only Raters you have chosen, guess how the participant will view the results...yep, in their view, whatever comes out of the process will lack credibility, as it only consists of responses from the people that you chose - a sub-set that the participant is likely to view as biased.
4. Analyse the results with them
Don't just lob the final report at the employee - arrange a time to sit down and discuss it, in detail. You should set aside 90 minutes for this exercise, and expect that you might even spend longer. See the article later in this section on how to get the best from that meeting.
5. Let them read the report in advance
If you bring a participant in to a meeting about their 360, and they haven't seen the final report before, they are not going to be open in their discussion. Send the report to them a day or two ahead of the meeting. Give them time to read and absorb it.
By the way, if you're wary of doing this (letting them see the report in advance) because you're concerned that they will read the report and merely use the time to make up excuses and reasons for the negatives in their 360, then bear in mind these two things:
- There's something wrong in the underlying approach to the process - it shouldn't be perceived in this negative manner in the first place - go back to point 1 above and trace through to find ways in which you can make the atmosphere more positive.
- If such a (negative) atmosphere has developed around the use of the 360, the participant will likely stonewall in the meeting, take the report away, and come back later with the same excuses and reasons - you just end up having two meetings.
6. Be clear about what you want to happen next
Don't just let the conversation end with a vague sense of what you want - be specific. Here are examples of questions you should know the answer to:
- Do you want to see performance improvements?
- If so, in which specific areas?
- Over what time-frame?
- What resources or tools can you provide to assist the employee in their development?
- When will you meet again on this subject?
- Will you re-run the 360 later to gauge improvements?