How serious are you about feedback?

Imagine if your ongoing employment in a company was contingent on receiving positive feedback from your peers and subordinates. Imagine if your business took feedback so seriously that management were not just held accountable to the feedback they received, but their continuation in their leadership role depended on it.

Would it change the way you behave?

That’s the way organisational changemaker Ricardo Semler ran the business he took over from his father in 1980. It was a form of “corporate democracy”, an approach which saw employees design their own jobs, select their own supervisors and determine their own salaries.

In this TED talk, Semler discusses how when he was CEO, everyone in the company was evaluated anonymously every six months by both peers and subordinates, to determine if they should continue in their position. If the rating they received in a particular area was deemed unsatisfactory, they were moved on.

Today, Semler helps other companies re-write the rule book when it comes to building an engaged, committed and satisfied workforce.

The importance of 360-degree feedback

Performance evaluation is critical to many aspects of business; it can be used to determine employee satisfaction and engagement, assess board effectiveness, and is a key part of measuring employees against KPIs.

Many businesses collect this type of information through 360-degree reviews – a process in which feedback is gathered from an employee’s manager, peers and direct reports to provide a holistic view of their impact on the organisation.

Not only does this provide a broader perspective than a one-dimensional manager to direct report performance review, it allows businesses to assess employee performance through a forward-looking lens, by evaluating strengths, weaknesses and areas for development.

360-degree feedback evaluations can help you assess things like leadership, vision, communication skills, teamwork and collaboration, remuneration and reward, opportunities for growth and much more.

A quantitative online survey is the best way to conduct a 360-degree review. It removes any interviewer bias and allows employees to speak their mind in a safe forum.

People will hesitate to provide negative feedback if they feel it could impact their future with the company, so it’s important to assure respondents that their opinions are anonymous and let them know their honesty is essential.

If you’re thinking about conducting 360-degree research, here are some tips to bear in mind:

  • Make sure everyone in the organisation is involved and understands the purpose of the survey
  • Ensure you gather sufficient responses to make it representative of the organisation and its individual employees’ views
  • Make sure the feedback comes from the bottom up and the top down
  • Each employee should also do a self-assessment on the same aspects that their peers, subordinates and managers are being asked to rate them on
  • Identify patterns and trends in perceptions of employee behaviour and what this is telling you about your organisational culture
  • Share the collective organisational insights with your staff, and make it clear what action will be taken on to address their feedback
  • Share the individual employee insights with each employee, and consider including any development areas identified into future KPIs
  • Do something with it; don’t let the feedback gather dust on the shelf. Use the learnings for the benefit of your company and your staff.
There’s nothing worse than feeling like the feedback you took the time to give has fallen on deaf ears, so if you’re going to implement 360 degree reviews or culture surveys in your business, make sure you are serious about making any necessary changes to ‘the way we do things around here’. Recognise the positives, but don’t shy away from the negatives, and to do that well you need to have the right structures in place to not just collect and analyse the information effectively, but also to embed the process of ‘what happens next’.
The individuals involved in sharing the results of the 360 degree reviews need to be trained on how to deliver performance feedback effectively, and prepared to take action where the insights gained clearly show that someone is persistently underperforming, is a poor cultural fit with the business or is generally exhibiting behaviours that are not in keeping with the organisation’s values. While these exercises should never turn into a witch hunt, it’s important to distinguish between individual perceptions that may not be reflective of the majority view, and themes identified that offer a well balanced view on how an individual is perceived by their peers, direct reports and superiors.

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This article was also published online by Business News WA on May 22, 2018

About the Author

Kristen Turnbull

Kristen is director of CoreData WA and deputy managing director of CoreData Group. Kristen has more than 10 years’ experience running market research projects across Australia and founded the WA business in 2017. Kristen understands the importance of building relationships, and has done so across multiple industries where she continues to leverage her strong interpersonal skills. Starting her career in journalism, Kristen’s strengths include interviewing and written communication, overseeing large, complex projects, and building and maintaining high trust-relationships with clients and peers. Graduating from the Australian Institute of Company Directors in 2019, she has a solid understanding of governance and risk, and is able to manage highly sensitive client projects with stringent data privacy requirements, including for banks and superannuation funds. Kristen holds an Executive MBA from AGSM and is a non-executive director of disability services not-for-profit, Intelife. Before relocating to Perth, Kristen was head of financial services in CoreData’s Sydney office. Prior to joining CoreData in 2009, she was a financial journalist for seven years.
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