Despite being a well established tool in the corporate world, questions persist about 360-degree feedback.  Should it form part of performance appraisals or be used purely as an employee development tool?  Or can it be both, and more?  What is its best use?

It seems the 360’s versatility may be both its strength and its weakness.  And to further confuse matters, we’re seeing new trends of how 360s are used.  It’s clear that the 360 has evolved from being simply a development tool.  

ETS research of 100 senior HR practitioners from blue-chip companies revealed 25% use 360s as part of the appraisal process.  Further insights show companies we work with use 360s to:

–  Identify development areas and skills gaps

–  Find future leaders

–  Help implement culture change programmes following mergers

–  Embed organisational values

In truth there’s no single answer to the question about the best use of 360s.  It will differ by company and careful consideration needs to be made to critical broader organisational issues such as the maturity of the feedback culture.  But it can certainly add value for companies if used in the right ways.

Companies implementing 360-degree feedback programmes must be transparent with employees about its purpose – what are results to be used for?  Don’t link 360s to pay-related decisions immediately – you must first embed the process for 12-18 months.  And ensure you have senior management buy-in otherwise adoption elsewhere may be low.

360-degree programmes are versatile and insightful and are increasingly being used to inform broader people strategies.  For example results can inform decisions around workforce planning and targeted training and development initiatives.  Just pinpoint what its best uses are for your company, ensure clear communication with users and implement a programme that fits your unique organisational needs.