360-Degree Employee Evaluations: Do They Live Up to the Hype?
The traditional, often change-averse organizational cultures found in many hotels and restaurants tend to be deeply skeptical of the latest HR trends. Despite this, some businesses in the hospitality industry have been able to improve performance and refine service quality by incorporating a few of the innovative strategies that have recently caught on among Fortune 500 companies.
One practice that has gained widespread popularity among corporate firms over the course of the last decade is the unique approach to staff reviews known as 360-degree evaluations. Although the basic content and format of 360-degree evaluations are very similar to traditional evaluations, the vantage point from which they are undertaken is decidedly different.
Traditional evaluations are conducted from a top-down perspective; that is, each staff member’s review is usually performed by one or two of her supervisors. However, in 360-degree evaluations, feedback on each staff member’s performance is solicited from a broad cross-section of the organization, including peers, subordinates, and supervisors. The goal of the process is to obtain a more balanced, comprehensive view of each team member’s performance than can be attained through the feedback of one or two supervisors.
In the hospitality industry, your success hinges on your staff’s ability to work well together. 360-degree evaluations offer an opportunity to gain a unique level of insight into the strengths, weaknesses, best practices, and bad habits that all contribute to team dynamics. On the other hand, designing and implementing an effective 360-degree feedback system can require a substantial investment of your time and resources. Here are a few factors to consider before deciding if this approach is right for your organization.
How Big is Your Workforce?
360-degree evaluation systems work best in organizations with larger workforces. If you’re the owner/operator of a boutique bistro with a staff of 25+ or the general manager of a large chain hotel with more than 100 employees, you can be confident that your organization has enough staff contact, interaction, and communication to allow you to benefit from a 360-degree feedback process. On the other hand, if you run a mom-and-pop diner with two cooks and three servers, implementing a formal 360-degree feedback system would probably prove to be unnecessary.
Is Your Team’s Dynamic Too Friendly?
There are as many organizational cultures as there are organizations, and most of them have qualities and attributes that set them apart. But if your team dynamic is unusually chummy, it’s unlikely that 360-degree feedback will work well. For example, if all the members of your core team have been in place for a decade, they may be hesitant to provide even gentle constructive criticism about peers who they see as close personal friends.
Will it Devolve into a Grudge Match?
If your organizational culture is highly competitive, respondents may exploit the anonymity that most 360-degree feedback systems promise, instead using the survey as an opportunity to “get back” at fellow employees they dislike. If your restaurant or hotel is elite, if turnover is an ongoing challenge, or if your team is made up of many ambitious, upwardly-mobile staff members, the results of your 360-degree evaluations may skew toward the negative end of the scale.
Are You Looking For a Cure-All?
While most experts agree that implementing 360-degree evaluations can significantly boost performance and service quality, don’t expect too much from the process, especially during the early stages of implementation. According to researcher and feedback consultant Sarah Murphy, Ph.D., 360-degree evaluations should constitute just one part of a comprehensive staff development plan.
If you think 360-degree evaluations might be right for your organization after considering the advantages and disadvantages, it may be advisable to consult with an expert before implementing your own version of the system. Larger businesses may want to contract with a feedback consultant to lead them through the process, while smaller hotels and restaurants may be able to manage the process themselves by consulting experts’ Internet and print resources on the topic.
Experts caution that this new approach to feedback will likely feel a bit awkward and stilted at first. Try to work through this initial discomfort in order to ensure that your organization will be able to reap the long-term benefits of 360-degree evaluations.