We're looking at buying 360 degree feedback software. Is there anything we should know?
Software for managing 360 degree feedback (and performance appraisals) as evolved a good deal over the last ten years, but that doesn't mean that the advances will actually help you use 360 and other appraisal techniques to improve productivity and skills. Here are a few things to consider before deciding to go the "software" route, many of which apply to the use of any performance management or appraisal systems.
- Software will usually make the logistics of doing 360 feedback easier. In other words, information can be solicited, recorded and stored much more easily. However, that doesn't mean the impact of feedback gets better. That's because 360 feedback is a people process, not an administrative one.
- Automation of poorly thought out systems will allow you to do the wrong things faster and more efficiently. That means that if there are unintended negative consequences, automation will mean you'll get more of them, and get them faster.
- Interspersing a technical process between people who need to communicate often makes things worse, because it increases the complexity of the process. Consider also that communication via computer is different than communication face to face.
- Finally keep in mind that HR and performance management software is HUGE business with large amounts of money involved. Companies selling software of this type have a vested interest in presenting the more positive aspects for using their products, and they almost always don't tell you about the human downsides. Research sponsored by vendors needs to be considered suspect, particularly if in the form of whitepapers.