These three mistakes are ruining your 360 feedback program

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We've used Scaffold for talent planning, performance management and employee development. It provides incredibly useful ways to operationalize our talent management processes, enabled us to quickly identify issues, and empowered us to positively address them. Their team is super supportive, and I'd absolutely recommend Scaffold to other organizations looking to accelerate the growth of their employees.

Matt Hoffman, VP People at DigitalOcean

1. You're using 360 for performance evaluation

Stop right now
Seriously, don't do that. I get why you want to: it seems like a good way to incorporate different perspectives and make the performance review more holistic. But let's think about this for a second.
If your 360 is linked to performance evaluation, your employees are incentivized to enlist only raters who will give them positive ratings, not those who will give honest feedback.
Maybe your employees aren't allowed input on who gives them feedback; lessening their participation will lower their buy-in, so this isn't a great practice, and you still haven't eliminated problematic incentives:
  • Rating others poorly for malicious purposes (e.g., a grudge or competition for promotion)
  • The formation of political alliances (“I’ll give you high ratings if you give me high ratings”)
  • Friendship: People may give each other positive feedback because they care about one another. If you knew you had a hand in determining your friend's bonus or career path would you give honest feedback? Or would you give them great ratings across the board? (Okay, maybe YOU would give honest feedback, but do you think that holds true for everyone in your company?)
Do people love each other at your company? Your 360 ratings are going to be high.
Is there lots of competition and politics at your company? Your 360 ratings are going to be low.
Any way you look at it, data from 360 feedback used for evaluative purposes is less indicative of performance than it is of your company culture.
Data from 360s used for evaluation is less indicative of performance than of your company culture
As a manager, evaluation is part of your job
Performance feedback and evaluation are important for every company, but they're not part of an individual contributor's job -- nor should they be.
If you're looking for cover for giving someone a poor review, you shouldn't be a manager. You certainly shouldn't be pawning that responsibility off on their peers.
It's great to gather data from lots of voices before giving a review. In fact, you should do that. However, don't use a clunky and time-consuming survey assessment. Ask people for feedback directly and not only during review periods; solicit feedback continuously so you know how your people and your teams are doing.
So what good is 360 feedback?
Glad you asked. 360 feedback is amazing -- when used for employee development, not for evaluation.
360 feedback should be about mastery. Allow your employees to have a growth mindset. Allow them to explore gaining competence, not proving it. If you want your people to grow and you're investing in that growth, 360 is an amazing tool that empowers your employees to both build on strengths and develop where they have opportunities for improvement.

2. Your questions aren't behaviorally-based

Assumption-based feedback is not verifiable
Imagine someone telling you that you don't care about their opinion. What would you reaction be?
How could anyone know if you do or don't care about their opinion unless you've directly told them? More likely they are making an assumption based on behavior they've observed. Assumptions are bad, which is why behaviorally-based feedback is good.
Behaviorally-based feedback is actionable
Now imagine someone telling you that you don't ask for their opinion before you make decisions.
Interesting. You can objectively examine this feedback. You can even ask other people if this is a trend in your behavior. If you find out it is, you even know exactly what to do about it: ask people for their opinions more often.
If you'd like people to hear your feedback and possibly even act on it, try making it behaviorally-based and free of assumptions.
Make sure your feedback is observable, verifiable and actionable.

3. You aren't providing opportunities to get better

What do I do with this?
Is there anything more demoralizing than hearing you're doing something wrong and having no idea how to get better?
Your employees need to know you're as dedicated to helping them achieve their goals as they are to helping your organization achieve its goals
Make sure you provide support after your people receive feedback. Coach them through the report. Point out their strengths! Help them make a plan to get better. Really, point out and appreciate their strengths.
Where does this person want to go in their career? How can you support them on that journey? They might only be with you for one tour of duty, but if you want the most out of them while they're there, and maybe even keep them on for another tour, invest in them. Invest in the relationship. Help them see that you are as dedicated to helping them achieve their goals as they are to helping your business achieve its goals.
Provide a Scaffold for development
Help your direct reports construct an action plan tied to mastery goals that help motivate them to achieve greatness. Download your development template below and then get in touch with us to see how we can help you empower managers in your organization to develop their people. You can use the form on right to set up a demo or you can reach us directly at Looking forward to connecting soon!
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