I’ve heard countless tales from my friends in HR of nightmare 360 feedback implementations. The people who needed to use the systems hated them so much that 360s were very nearly discredited altogether for their organizations.
Happily, I’ve also heard as many tales with the opposite view, where technology saved hours of effort, made the process painless, and provided even more value.
There’s no doubt that 360s are here to stay. They are critical for organizations wanting to develop their people, and employees trust them as tools to further their careers.
If your organization is looking to get started with a 360 system, there are five key considerations you need to think about before purchasing.
1) Your Current Requirements
A great starting point is to obtain clarity about what your requirements are today. The quickest way to achieve this is to:
- See demonstrations from three or four well-known vendors. By getting an overview of a few systems, you’ll become aware of the key things to look out for and, broadly, what the very latest technology will let you do.
- Run internal focus groups to gather internal requirements. Running three separate groups is a good idea: one for the executive team to make sure that any program will deliver what they need; one for a sample of managers to understand what their key concerns and desires are; and one for a sample of employees to see clearly what’s most important from their perspective.
- Collate the information. You will have obtained a clear idea of your internal requirements and should now be in a position to collate two lists: the ‘must haves’ and the ‘would like to haves’. This information will prove invaluable at 360 selection time.
2) Your Future Needs
The world is a fast moving place and what you need today may not be right for tomorrow. You need to consider how ‘future proofed’ any solution you’re looking at is. The best way to do this is to ask potential software vendors what would happen if you:
- Changed your competency framework
- Wanted to alter the questions
- Wanted to add new questionnaires
- Needed to change the scales
- Had to amend the process (e.g. from manager approval to no approval of rater lists)
This isn’t a comprehensive list, but it shows the type of questions you need to think about and, more importantly, get answers for.
You need to be sure that any new 360 feedback system will work seamlessly with your existing HR ones. Happily, this isn’t as difficult as it may seem. The best approach is to have your resident IT expert ask the potential vendors two questions:
- How do you get your current people data (names, email addresses, departments etc.) into the new 360 system?
- How do you get the results from the 360 system into any other applicable HR system (for example, to record the results of the 360s in your succession planning system)?
Your IT expert can then easily tell you whether or not potential vendors offer this integration.
4) Look and feel
This is something that is often over-looked. The success of any new software implementation can depend on a user’s experience in the first few moments. If they can easily find and see what they need to do, they will happily participate in the program. However, if they are frustrated because they can’t see how to do what they need to, it could mean the demise of the entire venture.
This doesn’t mean you need to choose the best-looking system. Experience shows that the better-received 360 systems are the ones that exactly match existing internal systems. This means that users immediately feel comfortable and positive about using it.
You want to avoid choosing a new 360 system every year so you must think about which vendor you could work with over a number of years. Spend time with them and take up references of their other existing clients. Establish how long they’ve been providing such systems and for which types of organizations.
Every single IT implementation has bumps along the road. The type of people you choose to partner with will decide whether you enjoy the journey and feel genuinely supported, or whether you feel that they were out to sell you a license and move on.
Taking time to choose the right 360 feedback system is time-consuming, but is nevertheless time well spent. Decisions made in haste are, as the saying goes, often repented in leisure!