For most of the 20th century, American workers received feedback on their performance from one source: their boss. Now that’s changing.
The growth of 360-degree feedback in the last 20 years has created more opportunities for employees to learn and develop their skills. But it poses challenges that can cause as much trouble as they solve.
To maximize this feedback system, keep it simple and transparent. Lee Vikre, vice president of talent and culture at McMurry (publisher of Managing People at Work), shares her experience putting it into practice.
MPAW: What was your first experience with 360-degree feedback?
Vikre: I was introduced to it years ago as a participant. The feedback wasn’t new to me, but it had more weight coming from my peers. I needed to hear it from them.
MPAW: Can you give an example?
Vikre: I knew at the time that I didn’t have a tendency to be detail-oriented. When I heard how that impacted my peers—that they were picking up dropped balls or not getting the information they needed from me—it hit home.
MPAW: How do you think 360-degree feedback works best?
Vikre: Our 360 feedback is open-ended and qualitative. We don’t use scores. And because it’s not anonymous, people don’t feel free to take potshots. They’re more tactful.
MPAW: But even tactfully worded criticism can hurt!
Vikre: You need a culture built on trust. Our employees view feedback like a gift from a friend. It’s like having lettuce in your teeth: You want a friend to tell you about it so you can address it.
MPAW: Is there a way to provide feedback that doesn’t sting?
Vikre: The key is to focus on solutions, not problems. We do recurring training to help everyone provide tactful input. We’ve also trained managers on what questions they should ask to gather the most valuable feedback on their employees. They’ve learned to ask more specific and strategic questions.