“Feedback is the breakfast of champions,” as quoted by American author and management expert, Ken Blanchard. Feedback is in fact necessary to improve, encourage, and motivate ourselves, in addition to remedying our shortcomings: it is a growth and alignment factor in a company’s strategy across all levels.
In today’s digital economy, it is crucial that we restructure management. The ecosystem revolving around each employee tends to grow, and the actors it interacts with diversify: employees, partners, subsidiaries, counterparts in other parts of the world, clients, and sometimes even competitors (cf. Lab RH, P&G Connect+Develop). More and more, work methods are increasingly structured around projects, diversifying interactions as much as possible.
How do we consider these changes and their implications in order to improve employee appraisals?
The 360 degree appraisal method has been around for some time now, dating back to the 1980s. What’s changed is that we now have mature technological tools that allow us to contextualise these appraisals and thus make the best use out of the gathered information. For example, General Electric allows its 200,000 employees to provide and receive feedback via a dedicated mobile application called PD@GE.
The difference compared to 360° appraisals, whether they be hard copies or on Excel, is that all gathered information is contextualised. Everyone involved in the appraisal process can know the exact context of these interactions, the relationship between the appraisee and the appraiser, and their purpose. An accurate and reliable record defining their relationship helps understand the true value of these appraisals in such a way that they can be used to draw the best possible conclusions in favour of the employee.
In this respect, HR’s and managers’ role is to help employees by providing specific guidelines:
- Defining clear process objectives (consider interactions that are “invisible” to the manager’s eyes)
- Displaying the specific expectations tied to this sort of appraisal (ongoing, more complete appraisals)
- Choosing the potential participants (partners, clients, N+1, direct reports, etc.)
This last point is crucial in making sure the process runs smoothly. How do we define who appraises who? Who approves the choice of participants? How much importance should we give to external participants? There are several possible options:
- Give employees free rein to choose the appraisal participants
- Allow employees to choose the participants, following a set of defined restrictions (for example, at least one manager, at least three peers, a maximum of two direct reports, exactly two external participants, etc.)
- Allow employees to choose the participants (with or without rules), but make sure the final approval comes from the manager
- Ask managers to select participants
Each company will decide which solution best meets their requirements. Each of our clients have their own opinion on the matter.
In short, when paired with the available technologies, 360° appraisals make for more accurate and impartial judgements by employees. They also make it possible to identify opportunities that will enable the company to improve its productivity, all while placing the individual at the heart of the strategy.