360-degree feedback has become another one of those trendy subjects. Suddenly everyone is talking about 360-degree feedback and everyone wants to be able to say, “Of course, this is something our organisation does.” But what exactly is it? Does your organisation really need it? And what benefits can you get from it?
Most of us are familiar with some form of performance appraisal, usually once per year, a time when boss and employee sit down together and review what’s been going on for the past year and agree on goals for the next year.
360-degree feedback was originally born out of a way to improve the performance appraisal process. It assumes that your boss is not the only person who has useful information about your performance. In fact, in many cases your colleagues or direct reports often know you better than your boss. They also have a different perception of you based on a different working relationship than the one you have with your boss. So, what if these people could also contribute to your appraisal and could add their feedback about your performance — even make suggestions about things you could improve in order to be more effective.
This is exactly what Si.mobil, the second largest telecommunications operator in Slovenia, decided to do in its Customer Service team. Over the previous years, the team (comprising of approximately 80 agents, eight team leaders and two managers) had already done a lot of training and development — not only in technical skills and product knowledge, but also in ‘soft skills’. They had used the SDI as part of their Customer Service training and also to help their Team Leaders and Managers to improve their leadership skills. A lot had been achieved with their SDI learning but they were now facing a particularly challenging time. A large competitor was withdrawing from the market place and Si.mobil was flooded with new clients. The sudden increase in business was affecting the customer service agents in a more negative way. They wanted to do something that would help the team leaders better manage and motivate their teams through this difficult period. And so they decided to expand their SDI work into the area of 360-degree feedback.
360-degree feedback is a way to collect feedback from a select group of people who know you to get a more ‘rounded’ picture of yourself as seen through the eyes of others. Why might you want this? Because seeing yourself as others see you is extremely valuable in getting to know yourself better. You begin to recognise the impact your actions and behaviours have on others and discover if your true intentions are being seen by others or not. Si.mobil implemented the feedback programme with all the Team Leaders as a way to find out what impact their actions had on others around them and identify what was working and what wasn’t. This feedback would be used to encourage changes that would better support the agents, increase satisfaction and impact performance levels.
But before an effective 360-degree feedback programme could begin, Si.mobil had to address a few concerns and questions: Why would the agents and others be open to giving this feedback? Wouldn’t their direct reports be concerned about telling the Team Leaders what they really thought about them? Could this information be used against them somehow? And wouldn’t their colleagues think it’s not their job to tell the Team Leaders if they are or are not doing their job the way they should, surely that’s between them and their boss?
When conducting 360-degree feedback, there are some basic principles that should be followed in order to ensure that the process goes smoothly, that the feedback given is honest and beneficial, and that something useful is done with the information gathered. The table below shows step-by-step how Si.mobil approached the project.
Who is 360-degree feedback best suited for?
It’s typically carried out for managers, but is especially useful for any individual or group of people where there is a clear need to understand self and perceptions (or misperceptions) of others.
One year after the Si.mobil 360 programme, the Customer Service team is going strong. Each team leader has just undertaken an SDI team development process with their direct-reports in order to build on the original 360-degree feedback process and continue the work of developing and motivating their teams.
So, did they achieve their goal?
Yes! Results were calculated using various performance measures including customer satisfaction levels, speed of call answering, time on one call, achievement of goals, etc. and ALL of these indicators improved. But the main benefit that they saw was the motivation of the agents and team leaders. Communication between agents, team leaders, and customers — internal and external — greatly improved. Barbara Gorse, manager of the Call Centre had the following to say: “The SDI 360 feedback process is an ingenious tool to understand the relationships in your team and the behaviour of all individuals. It is a perfect process to improve the working atmosphere and to build a good working environment, where people are more relaxed, enjoy working with each other, and can get better results. Can you imagine anything better than an environment where everyone is aware that each and every person is unique, respects the differences, and uses these differences to build stronger healthier relationships? SDI and the 360 feedback process brought us here. The investment in this process is nothing compared to the results we achieved.”
The author, Pam Welsby, is the owner of FastForward International d.o.o. and Personal Strengths Adriatic in Slovenia. She is the main trainer and author of all FastForward programmes. She is a People Development Specialist, a Human Resources Professional and a Master Practitioner of NLP. She began using the SDI about 15 years ago, receiving her training from Personal Strengths UK. Pam currently integrates SDI and Relationship Awareness tools into many varied programmes including management, leadership, sales, customer service, communication skills, and relationship-building. She works primarily with international companies like DHL, Coca-Cola, Johnson & Johnson, Sava Tires (Goodyear), Nestle (pet food division).