“Feedback is a gift. Ideas are the currency of our next success.” – Jim Trinka and Les Wallace
But gifts don’t always come wrapped in neat packages. And feedback? Not all feedback is appropriate for every situation. Feedback can be a rich source of knowledge for employees to mine to advance their careers. Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman from the Harvard Business Review said, “We had an up-clod view of many people who were teetering on the edge of job termination and have seen them blossom into extremely valuable contributors.”
When the stakes are so high, how does a company decide when and how to offer employees feedback?
We will cover 360-, 270-, 180-, and 90-degree feedback, as well as instant feedback, and their pros and cons. Regardless of the type of feedback, they all have one thing in common – they access the workplace competencies of an employee (that is, their knowledge, skills, and behaviors) by people from their workplace.
The type of feedback that’s most appropriate hinges on a number of factors – which position the employee holds within an organization, how long they have worked there, company culture, and more.
How to choose the best feedback option?
360- AND 270-DEGREE FEEDBACK OVERVIEW
360-degree feedback is when employees receive feedback from people that work with them in a confidential, anonymous way. Somewhere between about 8 to 12 co-workers, managers, and direct reports will fill out a survey that asks questions about core competencies, which the person receiving the feedback will fill out as well. This feedback is most appropriate for middle and executive managers of teams.
270-degree feedback is when employees receive feedback from their boss, themselves, and either their peers or direct reports. This feedback is most appropriate for an employee whose work does not require her to manage teams and therefore has no direct reports.
- Well-rounded feedback. Oftentimes, the team a co-worker works directly with has a better understanding of their strengths and weaknesses than management does. This feedback offers a full view from multiple perspectives.
- Opportunity for career development. This feedback will likely provide some insight for the employee into what steps she could take to progress in her career.
- Access training needs. This is a great time to zero on any knowledge gaps and create a plan to tackle them with training, mentorships, or further education.
- Reviewer failures. Inexperienced reviewers may let their personal feelings influence the survey answers to either make the person in question look better or worse. Also, the employees as a team can band together and artificially inflate the survey answers.
- Increased time investment. The more people you add to a process and invariably the more complex and time intensive the process will become.
- Lack of follow-up. If the review is delivered in a vacuum, it can lead to frustration. The review needs to be tied into a greater performance management system with specific goals for each evaluated employee.
180- AND 90-DEGREE FEEDBACK OVERVIEW
180-degree feedback is when employees receive feedback from their boss and themselves. An annual review is a typical example of 180-degree feedback.
90-degree feedback is when employees receive feedback from a single person, either their manager or themselves.
- Less paperwork. When you’re only reviewing feedback from a boss and the employee in question, there are fewer pieces to juggle, less paper to collate, and less time invested.
- Higher risk for discrimination. When the feedback is only coming from a manager at a higher level, there is a higher chance for discrimination than when the employee is reviewed by multiple people with different backgrounds.
INSTANT FEEDBACK OVERVIEW
Instant feedback generally falls under the umbrella of 90-degree feedback (straight from a manager), but it deserves its own category because of the way it’s delivered, which is instantaneous. Oftentimes 360-, 270-, and 180-degree feedback is an annual process, which means that a lot of time can elapse before a problem is addressed. With instant feedback, an employee receives frequent feedback in smaller bites to course correct all year long.
If you want to learn more about instant feedback, you can check out our blog post here where we go over it more in depth.
WHEN NOT TO USE 360- AND 270- FEEDBACK
There are times when getting input from peers or direct reports might not be the right choice to help evaluate an employee’s performance.
- A new hire. An employee that has worked at an organization for less than a year has likely not spent enough time with her peers or direct reports for them to have developed a well-rounded picture of her competencies.
- A long-time employee. Employees that have worked for an organization for more than five years might not benefit from evaluations from peers or direct reports because over time peers and direct reports are likely to have developed an expectation of an employee’s behavior and will be less likely to rate based on actual performance.
- Entry-level employees. These employees will not have direct reports and might lack peers that could accurately and meaningfully access them. Entry-level employees can still benefit from an 180- or 90-degree evaluation to zero in on strengths and target weaknesses.
- When the evaluation will be tied to promotions or compensation. You will likely find that your employees as a whole will resist the idea of using 360- or 270-degree feedback when the results of the feedback are tied to either promotions or compensation. This type of feedback functions best when used as a tool of career development.
Each type of feedback, when done correctly, can create an open, effective workplace with engaged employees that feel like they are part of a supportive team. Oftentimes, when it can be accomplished, offering employees a voice to express their opinions, share their views, and offer feedback can empower employees and increase cooperation.
What type of feedback is best for your organization? Let us know in the comments.