A couple of months ago, a person I know extremely well, both professionally and personally, asked me if I could participate in her 360 appraisal, which is a common annual procedure at her company (a megacorporation) for the whole managerial team. I said yes, of course, and after a few minutes, I received a link to access the above mentioned tool, displaying the logo of a very prestigious consulting firm. In a very unappealing manner, its instructions imperatively described the way I should fill in the questionnaire (I should sit down in a very quiet room, switch off my mobile phone, etc.) as well as the approximate time it would take me to do it. Both the tone and the content of the instructions sounded quite anachronic to me, taking into account our knowmad, mobile world. However, I stuck with the exercise. The questionnaire per se followed the style used in the initial instructions. Concepts and scorings were far from evident (maybe this is why such an amount of focus was required) to the extent that, while I was answering the questionnaire, I thought how a person who didn’t know the appraised profile in depth could score her fairly. I finished the questionnaire by the time specified by the instructions. I clicked “submit” just wondering how on earth big corporations still spend money on 360 tools in 2019 (and how famous consulting agencies dare sell them).
After two weeks, the person who I’d appraised called me. She didn’t feel as though she identified with the overall results of her 360. Worried, she just wanted to share the report with me. No wonder she felt kind of anxious: I didn’t even recognise the person I know in that report. Neither in the strengths nor in the improvement areas.
Why do companies still use 360 appraisal? If it’s with the aim of helping the appraised person to improve, we can definitely see it’s not the best tool. If it’s with the aim of making the person aware of his/her team’s opinion about him/her or detecting what the mood is in a specific working group, there are plenty of more sustainable, easy-to-use tools out there. Platforms such as Give A Wow, with its social network-style app, allow people working within the same team to congratulate the other team members when they achieve success, to recognise a good job, to encourage each other in times of intense workload and to celebrate together the good little everyday things. Frequency, content and intensity level of interaction within a group are the best metrics to define a person leading a group (in case someone needs to measure it), as well as a clear KPI of how healthy the group is as a team. Silent groups who do not recognise each other and who do not celebrate extraordinary nor ordinary things are the ones who need help. And it does not help that someone sends a questionnaire, instead someone should work within the group to see its day to day and its interactions to spot where the problem is and form the right plan to solve it. Evidence can only be collected by observation and experience, never with a questionnaire which will always offer a biased version of the reality (starting with the form itself, which is the first bias).
So, when thinking about using 360 as a tool, I cannot think of a better sentence than the one my friend Yolanda Garcia told me: If you move 360, you stay in the same place.