Wednesday, October 15, 2014

How to Create Effective 360 Degree Performance Appraisals

 In more than 35 years in the nonprofit sector, I have yet to meet a supervisor or manager who loves doing employee performance appraisals! One reason for this is that one person (the supervisor or manager) is required to “think-up” all the positive areas for feedback and recall any areas of concern that must be addressed for 10 or more employees year after year. Then there are the forms to be completed, meetings to be coordinated and documentation to be prepared. 360-degree performance appraisals are one way to reduce reliance on one or two peoples’ recall of a whole year of employee activities and performance. They are no less time consuming (in fact, a 360-degree appraisal may initially take a bit more time), but they are arguably the most effective way to provide well-rounded and complete feedback for employees in key roles in the organization.

Step #1 Create a task force or committee to plan the new appraisal process, draft necessary policies to guide its use and pilot the process with several employees before rolling it out to a larger group. Ensure the group develops written Terms of Reference to clarify its tasks and time-lines. Click here to download a free Terms of Reference Template.

Step #2 Identify key positions in your organization that warrant using the 360 degree process. This should include all supervisors and managers. It may also include people in key administrative and coordination roles. It should also include anyone in direct service roles who do not have frequent contact with their supervisor (e.g., employees who work nights, in outreach roles or show are geographically isolated).

Step #3 Develop a master list of questions. This list should include 25-50 questions that cover all the important areas for feedback for a broad range of positions. The list may be segmented into headings such as direct services, communication, supervision/leadership, community relations, teamwork, administrative etc.  During an appraisal, questions are selected from the list that are appropriate to be used with each group of stakeholders who are part of the employee’s 360 degree circle.

Step #4 Decide on the methods for gathering feedback for each group of stakeholders. This may include a brief (5 to 10 question) survey (paper or online to protect anonymity and confidentiality); individual interviews (confidential but not anonymous – most often used with people who have communication barriers, disabilities or limited literacy).

Step #5 Determine how employees will participate in self-evaluation. The simplest way is to use the master list of questions and   select up to 10 that seem relevant to both the employee and his/her supervisor or manager. It is a good idea for some/all of these questions to be the same as the questions asked of others who are invited to participate in the employee’s appraisal.

Step #6 Determine if the feedback will be anonymous or owned. Anonymous means that people giving feedback will not be required to identify themselves - increasing both the number of people willing to participate and the likelihood they will provide ‘honest’ comments. There is a downside, however, to anonymity. Serious concerns (e.g. an allegation of wrong- doing) cannot be investigated, confirmed and resolved unless the source of the feedback is known. Anonymity allows people to make unfair or untrue comments without any accountability for their actions.

Step #7 Determine who will receive and summarize the feedback. This may be the immediate supervisor of each employee. It could be a manager or someone in a human resource position who coordinates all appraisals. It should NEVER be the employees themselves. This violates the important rule of maintaining confidentiality during the appraisal process.

Step #8 Develop comprehensive guidelines for administering the new 360 degree process. These draft guidelines will be tested in your pilot phase with 3 to 5 employees who volunteer to help the committee refine the new system. Guidelines should include how many people will be selected to provide feedback (10 is sufficient, which may mean inviting 15 or more people to participate), what stakeholder groups will be invited to participate (see graphic below), how will the new system be communicated to all employees, how will surveys be distributed, who will do interviews if they are necessary, who will receive the raw feedback to be summarized, what are the time-lines for each step in the process, how and who will meet with the employee &  how the feedback about the process will be solicited and integrated to improve the system in the future.

Step #9 Pilot the new 360 degree process. The pilot should include at least 3 and as many as 10 people who are in various types of positions within the organization. Invite at least one manager, one supervisor, one administrative staff and one direct service staff. Participation in the pilot must be voluntary.

Step #10 Evaluate the Process. Create a short survey for everyone (employees and stakeholders) to provide their feedback and comments on the process, forms, time-lines etc. Make adjustments to the process before implementing it fully within your organization. 

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