Question: Is making 360 feedback companywide and public a good idea?

We are a technology service company, 70 employees strong and growing fast. We have a very open culture, but as new managers come in... they bring their own style of operating.

To retain our openness and collaborative culture, one of the founders has proposed implementing an internal tool where anyone can give feedback on anyone else's performance, completely anonymously. Further, this feedback will be public to all employees (although initially moderated by HR manager.)

Is this a known practice? Are there any risks we should consider?

Thank you,

8 Expert Insights

No, your 360 feedback report should not become public knowledge.  In most cases unless one has also undergone a 360 assessment they'll most likely misinterpret the feedback. I coach my clients to not share their full feedback report.  After our 1-on-1 debrief I ask that they

(1) Discuss with their manager what they feel the results indicate are top 2 or 3 important areas that they focus on improving/changing... to get their agreement.

(2) Once there is agreement on the areas that make the most sense and offer the best ROI to focus on, I invite them to approach a select number of  'raters' (whose opinions they value) and ask them privately to share more about how they believe they might become more effective in those areas.

(3) Once the client and i have co-created a true game plan on what and how they plan to actually change or which skills you plan to develop further .... it's appropriate to let those around them know  what they have personally identified  as areas of personal growth, and that they will begin to see some changes, but you're still a work in progress.

Conventional wisdom is that we are able to focus on improving 1 to 3 things at any given time.   Openly sharing a laundry list of areas that one could improve upon based upon the bias of the raters isn't helpful to the individual or anyone else.

What's helpful is for the individual undergoing the feedback to collaborate with their manager on which of the areas for improvement or change would have the biggest ROI for their career and the organization.   If more than 3 areas are identified, create a longer term plan.

It's been my experience that a best practice is to let other know what behavior/skills you are focusing on changing/up-skilling once you've identified and committed to making the investment in change....this creates an additional level of accountability.

I have never heard of an internal tool where anyone can give feedback on anyone else's performance, completely anonymously, and where the feedback will be public to all employees. It sounds like it has the potential to be a disaster. This also doesn’t sound like 360 feedback.

It would be good to build a culture where people feel free to give each other feedback directly. Giving feedback about someone to his/her manager and made public sounds like it could create massive problems. It seems the opposite of action that would build an open & collaborative culture.

360 feedback used in the process that Dave describes can be very useful and provides the foundation for the coaching work that many of us do.

I agree with the other comments about the proper use of a 360 instrument. From your description, it sounds like  you want less of a formal tool and simply a mechanism for anyone to give feedback to any other employee at any time. If that is what you are looking for, then I would teach people the most effective ways to give feedback to each other, in the moment, when it will have the most impact.

Some organizations gather feedback from each employee's "stakeholders" at performance appraisal time and use that information as part of the performance management process.

If you want the more formal 360, it is most effective when you take your corporate values and their associated behaviors and competencies and establish a questionnaire around those. Then everyone is given feedback on the behaviors you want to encourage in your company. The results of the feedback should remain with the individual and their manager and be used for development purposes only, not performance evaluation.

I concur with my colleagues recommendations above.  360 instruments are meant as learning tools, the true value tapped through learning/development conversations between manager-employee (and any outside assistance via performance/leadership coach).  The tool itself is useless (at best) by itself/not employed as designed.  As with any metric, the greater risk one introduces, the less useful the tool becomes as people - both individually and collectively - learn to game the system to meet important self interests.  Behavioral tools/metrics are not engineering metrics - the value is in the engagement versus an easy turn to raise/lower voltage, pressure or output.  Human learning and change/improvement are the goals, people are not machines - as always, success rests in good management.

I'm going to go a step further and state that I don't like 360 instruments generally, for any purpose. In this era of breached trust, corporate malfeasance, widespread management incompetency and corruption, and politically-charged corporate environments that produce highly-dysfunctional cultures hinged on group think behaviors, I believe a better developmental tool is one that creates contextual frameworks of proportionate, mutual feedback by select individuals tied to very specific performance factors. There is nothing more destructive than fueling power to certain individuals who may have their own agendas regarding the colleague under review - and whose own qualifications aren't nearly on par with that colleague. Just another one of those management fads that got too much PR but is utterly counterproductive to building an innovation-driven entrepreneurial culture in which independent thinking and contrarian world views are essential.

I'll take a contrarian perspective to the 7 answers already provided.  Whether or not it's a 360 instrument, establishing a culture of complete transparency would be refreshing.  

I agree that - in terms of working on personal improvement - 1-3 objectives is a reasonable expectation (not trying to change everything at one).  And I agree that *only* measuring one set or class of employees could be scapegoating and disastrous for the targets.  However, if everyone is subject to the same scrutiny, and everyone has a stake in the transparency movement, it could just work to sponsor open dialog wherein everyone is motivated to help everyone else accelerate their development, contributing to a rising tide that floats all boats upward.

Just a thought.

Larry Hiner, PsyD
Workforce Equanimity, LLC

Every new employee, regardless of position, comes into an organization with their own style, norms, management expertise and leadership practices. As part of the "New Employee Orientation" (or whatever it is called by the company), it needs to be pointed out what are the company vision, mission, norms, leadership philosophy (such as Servant Leadership Principles and Practices), and ethical standards, just to name a few. Every organization is a "Learning Organization" and as such needs to maintain the following five step process, or some similarity thereof:

1. Make sure everyone understands the organizational standards.
2. In addition, training needs to be accomplished on company policies and procedures.
3. The new employees need to be observed for a period of time to insure they are following 1. and 2. above. This is called practice for the new employee and observation for other leaders.
4. In the relationship building process, there needs to be comprehensive feedback. It can be 360 Feedback, but not published company wide as it might be negative and the whole organization does not need to be privy to it.
5. When it appears that the new person(s) are functioning to organizational standards, they are making reasoned decisions for the good of the company, and they are "fitting-in" and building relationships that are productive and performance enhancing, they are released to perform as all other employees in the organization.*

* The Leadership Bible; NIV Version. I have used this process for the past 15 years and found it to be most productive, effective team-building leadership and most effective relationship building methodology.

Only positive affirmation and praise is made public; all other mentoring, counseling and reviewing is private, even by a board of directors of upper level management and leadership.