Are You Practising Fair Leadership in Your Staff Appraisals?
by Christopher Creswick
(Surrey, United Kingdom)
Line managers have mixed emotions about performance discussions with their direct reports: it’s a pleasure to reinforce strong performance and uncomfortable to highlight shortcomings. As well as the emotional challenge, these discussions suffer from a weakness – they are based on the perception of that one manager, which may be incomplete and partial.
The reality is that top-down, manager-to-report appraisals are no longer sufficient in assessing employees as they offer an incomplete view of an individual’s performance. This is due the fact that a manager often has very limited chances to observe their direct report’s behavior. It’s very common for managers to spend the majority of their time in meetings and for them to have 10 or more reports, so of whom may work remotely.
For this reason, 360 degree appraisal is now commonplace in both medium and large companies. This supplements the information a manager has and reflects the many relationships that employees have. 360 degree appraisal is based on views of the individual taken from those that work for them, at their level and above them as well as internal and external customers.
A further driver for the use of this technique is that companies are focusing more resources on measuring what AND how employees work towards objectives. Measuring results
The "what" measurement has traditionally been the primary focus of appraisals but it is now equally important for companies to understand and assess how employees are working. As an example, companies want to look at the behaviors and values employees are demonstrating in their work. A 360 degree appraisal allows companies to focus on how an employee interacts and builds relationships with clients or goes about resolving challenging situations.
360 degree feedback is a unique tool in that it recognizes the complexity of the management process and is versatile enough to be applied to different organizational structures, bringing together multiple perspectives to measure performance. What should companies do that wish to employ this technique?
It is widely accepted that the successful use of 360 degree appraisal requires thorough planning, understanding of the organizational culture and clear communication with the employee population. While employees are generally receptive to feedback from a development-only 360, when introducing 360 degree appraisals, the company needs to identify and manage potential resistance and contesting of feedback due to the administrative consequences linked, for example, to pay.
Academics and practitioners theorize that the effective use of 360 degree appraisals, must be under-pinned by a mature appraisal and feedback culture. While it is possible to introduce 360 degree feedback for appraisal straight away, it can be achieved by starting the "360 journey" with a developmental aim and transition to appraisal gradually. This would typically be after some 12-18 months and in the second or third cycle of feedback.
360 degree appraisal can fundamentally change performance appraisal for the better. The next time the manager and their report meet, their discussion will be based on a shared understanding of how everyone perceives the employee – both their strengths and weaknesses. This "evidence" is a firm foundation for a discussion on what’s been achieved, and how, and how to further improve performance.
About the author:
Christopher Creswick is and HRM Professional specialising in Employee Satisfaction and 360 degree appraisals. Christopher has worked in Leadership for more than 5 years.