Learning & DevelopmentPerformanceTalent Management

How to enhance employees’ sense of autonomy through 360° review

sense of autonomy 360 degree feedback

For many years now, the 360° review has been considered as one of the most useful and reliable employee development tools. However, despite the numerous benefits it brings to organizations and people, employees are often a bit skeptical about it. What if you were told that instead of causing discomfort, the 360° review can really build a positive employee experience and enhance employees’ sense of security and autonomy? Below, you’ll find a couple of tips on how to make this happen. 

360° review and its significance to your organization

In the 360° review process, several people share feedback about a given person’s competencies. This serves as a starting point for a conversation about the employee’s strengths and for creating a development plan. The main advantage of this form of review is its objectivism, which is actually hard to achieve in other approaches (90°, 180°, or 270°). The implementation of the 360° review in an organization should be as broad in scope as possible. 

First of all, adapting the process to the strategic goals of the organization supports talent management, which has become the leading HR and L&D trend in times of talent shortage. Josh Bersin observes that companies that are successful in this field concentrate on adopting an integrated approach and preventing skills gaps in the future rather than limiting themselves to reacting to current deficits only.

Secondly, the 360° review is an important element in defining an employee’s development level against the competency matrix in the organization. According to experts, companies that do not pay sufficient attention to the 360° review, “are often poorly structured, ponderously ineffective and burdened with excess costs.” This is yet another argument for perceiving the 360° review as something more than a performance review tool. In fact, this is an element of engagement that can significantly contribute to an increase in productivity and profit. That’s why it’s a good idea to find out how employees themselves perceive it and how it builds a positive employee experience. 

Autonomy – key to success for post-pandemic organizations? 

Employee engagement is a complex phenomenon and it cannot be built with a single process. Unfortunately, one poorly-developed element can totally squander a carefully constructed employee experience. It’s no surprise then that employee experience is listed as one of the crucial HR trends in post-pandemic business reality. Research results are clear: care for employee well-being can build better employee engagement, which in turn translates into business value. However, this care for employees must be strictly related to employees’ actual needs, which are usually most focused on their sense of autonomy.

Sense of autonomy – what is it?

According to Daniel H. Pink, autonomy is one of the three elements that build motivation in people. The other two are mastery and purpose. All three aspects are of key importance; however, in times when it’s so easy to lose control of one’s life, sense of autonomy seems to be the leading factor. Holger Reisinger and Dane Fetterer from Jabra believe that autonomy is the main factor behind employees’ expectations related to better work flexibility after the pandemic. A study conducted among 5000 workers at Jabra revealed that people expected “flexibility by way of autonomy.” 

In this approach, flexibility means a desire to decide about oneself as an independent individual with a sense of agency. It’s about the willingness to choose how to do your job and to be accountable for it. Although researchers around the world have connected autonomy with effectiveness for years, and although their hypothesis has been confirmed by remote workers during the pandemic, a number of organizations are still reluctant to take a step toward autonomy. This is because such a shift requires a lot of trust from employers. And yet, even if an organization is not fully ready for that, it should provide employees with a sense of autonomy in various areas. Performance review is one of them. 

How 360° review can be used to empower the sense of autonomy

Building positive employee experience is the responsibility of an entire organization, but HR processes play a crucial role in this. They are the “moments that matter”, as defined by Jacob Morgan in his book The Employee Experience Advantage. These include developmental processes as the components of employee journey that the organization can impact and should consciously and purposefully shape. Therefore, the 360° review is a great resource for employees to fully appreciate the importance of feedback, at the same time feeling autonomous and responsible for themselves and their professional life. There are three elements that may come in handy in this process. 

#1. Thorough identification of domain competencies and general competencies

The 360° review should be based on competencies and relevant behaviors. Normally, they are defined in advance by the HR department in agreement with managers of other departments. The key aspects here are the so-called PowerSkills. They are a complex set of skills that differ largely depending on the role a person has in the organization. When defining the key competencies, make sure to attribute them to particular positions and classify them in accordance with the existing situation. The 360° review can refer to actual behaviors. This is why it’s a good idea to involve members of particular teams in the process, e.g., during design thinking workshops. The participants, as experts in their fields, can partly assume the roles of business and HR leaders. Although it might seem like a difficult task, it simply needs to be moderated, for instance, in the process of preparing the skill list. 

360 degree feedback form with a descriptive scale in people development platform hcm deck

The competency matrix created at such a workshop is then uploaded to the HCM Deck platform; next, particular behaviors are assigned to each pre-defined PowerSkill. The questionnaire for the 360° review survey is then created automatically.

#2. The reviewers’ nominations

The strongest point of the 360° review is its objectivity: the review is performed by people who work with the evaluated person on a daily basis, so they have sufficient knowledge and awareness to describe this person’s competencies. What matters most is the selection of the participants and their number. In accordance with best practices, there should be 6 to 10 participants in the survey (but in fact 4 to 6 are just fine!) to obtain reliable feedback about given competencies. 

Taking employees’ sense of autonomy into account, they should be allowed a free hand in terms of deciding who they will receive feedback from. What does this mean in practice? The evaluated person can select and invite particular individuals to the 360° review: people that she/he has a continued professional relationship with, such as other employees and colleagues, clients, or contractors. This way, the evaluated person gains control over the process and is released from the burden of uncertainty and anxiety related to unreliable responses. Thanks to the HCM Deck platform, the messages sent by the evaluated person can be personalized, which increases the reliability of the survey and the probability of participation. 

The nomination process takes place after self-assessment. The HR department’s task is to supervise the deadlines only: although actually, the reminders are sent automatically to the persons giving feedback. The evaluated person’s leader plays an essential role in the process as well: she/he accepts the feedback submitted on the platform, evaluates the employee, and updates the competency level after a post-review conversation about the feedback results. 

choosing or changing reviewers in the 360 degree feedback process in people development platform in HCM Deck

#3. Open and honest development conversation

The survey results, accessible on the HCM Deck platform to the employee and the leader, cannot be the final stage of the 360° review. Dry data and feedback require interpretation, no matter if they’re positive or negative. Of course, the development conversation that should follow the feedback is the leader’s responsibility, but the employee needs to be actively involved in it. The best strategy, in this case, is to assume that the employee is an expert in terms of their competencies and professional goals, while the employer is just a guardian of their compatibility with the needs of the organization. Hence, the final elements of the 360° review – i.e., the creation of a development plan and update of the competency level – can only be successful if both sides are involved. 

The global trend of prioritizing positive employee experience in leading organizations seems to be the key to enhancing employee engagement. 

Strengthen the sense of autonomy of your employees with a people-first 360-degree review process. Our platform will help your employees take responsibility for their development, save your time, and will make it easy for you to measure the effects of the review.

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Hubert Joly, the former CEO of Best Buy, recognized as one of the top 100 CEOs in the world by Harvard Business Review, writes about employee motivation using the phrase “human magic.” This kind of magic can only be released when special conditions are met. These key conditions include the employees’ sense of safety and autonomy. Joly admits that he was most successful in increasing productivity when he turned performance appraisal into development conversations based on self-assessment and strength growth. The 360° review can be used for empowering employees by following their needs and expectations at all stages.

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