Traditional training and development programmes have always been drawn up on a one-to-one basis, employee and line manager, and focus on how to progress up the career ladder or take on more responsibility in the coming months.
But that just doesn’t cut the mustard for all organisations.
On a practical level, one line manager could be responsible for many employees in several sub-teams, so understanding each one’s achievements, difficulties, strengths and weaknesses and then formulating a subsequent plan is a hefty task.
This is where 360 degree feedback comes into its own. This approach asks a group of colleagues to anonymously answer a series of questions about an individual’s performance and/or strengths and weaknesses.
This is then fed back to the individual to gain valuable insight into how they’re perceived by their colleagues. Together with their line manager, they can consider how they can develop themselves further, by growing their skills, developing an appropriate learning or development plan and adjusting their behaviours accordingly.
Working this way makes for a much happier workforce and so therefore improves staff retention - the holy grail of all HR teams! But how does 360 feedback achieve so much?
By asking your employees to feedback anonymously, either on specific projects, initiatives or indeed their colleagues’ performance, you’re opening up a communication channel and welcoming their opinions. This paves the way for dialogue that is constantly open and demonstrates to your team that their opinions matter, whether their thoughts are negative, positive or neutral. It means that even the members of staff who are a natural introvert can have an important voice in the development of their company.
Many organisations may say they want to hear what their staff think and feel, but how many actually mean it by acknowledging receipt of new suggestions or comments? For example, do you have a suggestions box in your workplace? When was the last time you read its contents and then took the time to investigate or consider the suggestions and fed back? By offering a private, anonymous option for colleagues to feedback on individuals or projects is a step closer to proving that you do listen and will respond appropriately. Even if you can’t provide or achieve what someone has suggested, they respect you more as a leader or leadership team.
Again, it’s common place for companies to say they’re honest but are they truly honest with their own staff? You expect your employees to be open with you – whether that’s trusting that the day they took off sick last week was genuine or that when they give feedback on a new initiative, they’re not being deliberately critical or awkward – so leaders need to be reciprocal. If there’s feedback on a company-wide initiative that is receiving criticism, for example, you need to acknowledge the negativity and welcome improvement suggestions or respond with why the project has been taken on and is following a certain course of action, Of course, there will be times when you can’t be completely open because of confidentiality reasons (perhaps if you’re thinking of selling the business, acquiring another or making redundancies) but keeping those channels of communication open will do wonders for employee relations.
It’s key to the success of a 360 degree feedback system that you take the relevant steps to resolve or answer any issues that have arisen. It may result in offering to pay for specialist, external training course fees to enable career progression, allowing an individual to change their working hours in order to care for relatives or even the difficulty of taking an employee through disciplinary procedures. If you feedback to those who took the time to bring whatever matter it was to your attention, you are again likely to gain more respect from the team.
Having an ever-changing workforce is just as detrimental to your employees as your recruitment and training budget. By implementing a system where staff are encouraged to give constructive criticism and can see resulting action, gives them a great feeling. They will appreciate your efforts and will be less likely to start looking for work elsewhere. In turn, this means less churn of staff and a more settled workforce.