HAVE YOU CONSIDERED? Reviewing Performance

Q Our head office has advised us that we will be implementing 360° feedback shortly. To be honest, I am not sure what it is and have only ever heard people say it doesn’t work. Can you help me please?

A Many organisations use 360° feedback process to help their people gain wider perspective of how they are performing and how effective others in the organisation perceive them to be.
Traditional performance management is usually top down with the manager giving feedback to member of their team. The 360? feedback process adds value by providing additional information from wider range of people than just the person’s manager. This would include peers, people who work for the person under review, and often customers. The reviewers rate the person’s performance based on set of pre-defined criteria. This is how the name 360? feedback is derived as it is top down, bottom up and sideways.
Done well, 360? feedback elicits significantly improved information for development planning. However, like all things, it can also be done badly and can result in alienating the people it is trying to help.
Link any 360? feedback to behaviour. We all tend to judge others by what they do because this is what we can readily see. We can easily determine if we think the person’s behaviour is effective or not. This type of feedback can be very useful when an organisation is trying to build set of behaviours that create increased organisational capability. These desired behaviours can be defined and people can be asked to rate to what extent an individual’s behaviour is aligned with desired ones.
Gathering and analysing 360? feedback can bite off large chunks of company time so try to use email to collect feedback and collate the results in spreadsheet.
Another drawback is that 360? feedback is based on perceptions rather than facts. For example, person may receive low 360? feedback rating because they are seen leaving the office every day at 4pm, leading to the assumption that they lack commitment. The truth is that the person comes into the office at 6.30am every day to beat the traffic and works longer than most of their colleagues. It is important to make sure that the person receiving feedback has chance to sift it and accept or reject unrealistic observations.
Overall, 360? feedback can be very useful tool in the right situation, especially when company is trying to build capable culture or develop effective behaviour. Just make sure you implement it effectively.

Q Over the years I have engaged consultants for variety of reasons including organisational design, developing human resource systems and strategic planning. In hindsight, I find it difficult to establish the tangible value that they deliver. Is this normal view or do most people see the value delivered more clearly than me?

A I guess we have all heard the comment that consultant just borrows your watch and then tells you the time.
On the face of it consultant can appear to come into your organisation, spend time understanding the things that you already know, then disappear to analyse the information and return with presentation containing recommendations that you already felt you knew. Even if the outcome is value adding, this situation can leave you feeling as though you have wasted your money.
Ask yourself whether you would really have had time to develop these conclusions. Be honest. Did you really know the outcome or was it the quality and skill of the consultant who worked closely with you and helped you see what was needed and then gained your commitment to implement the recommendations?
Companies hire consultants for two main reasons.
The first is to access expert knowledge such as organisational change or strategic planning, or in one of the professional disciplines such as law, finance, human resource management or engineering.
The second is for the consultant to act as catalyst for change. They provide an external view and, if they are good, bring wealth of broad experience from work with other organisations.
The big worldwide firms are able to offer staff with high levels of training and intellect. These organisations also have the ability and resources to conduct their own research and develop sophisticated consulting tools.
Then there are the smaller local consulting groups who may be clustered around specific discipline such as engineering design or HR outplacement.
Finally there are individual consultants who operate on their own or in loose affiliation with other consultants.
In this game, size doesn’t matter as much as skill and experience. Ensure you meet the actual consultant or consultants you are intending to hire and check them out as you would when hiring staff. Aim to get sense of whether they can do the job or not and whether you feel comfortable with them.
The larger consultancies often have partner or senior manager handling client liaison but this is not necessarily the person who will do the work for you. It is important that you treat selecting your consultant like recruitment exercise so make sure to meet the person and follow up references.
Consultants do have lot to offer in the right situation but as general rule remember ‘buyer beware’.

Kevin Gaunt, FNZIM, FAIM, is CEO of NZIM Auckland and has been senior executive with, and consultant to, some of New Zealand’s largest companies.

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