We all understand that confidentiality is key and that 360 feedback must be anonymous when asking people to comment on a colleague.
But is confidentiality really being guarded quite as well as it should be? We are not convinced so we thought we would follow up on our recent Why 360 feedback confidentiality is key post and share a few tips on how to manage 360 feedback confidentiality.
1. Explain how you manage 360 feedback confidentiality
It’s really important that people know (and trust) that their feedback will be provided in confidence, so explaining and communicating the process to candidates and reviewers is crucial.
Briefings to candidates should clearly communicate how the results will be used and shared and who will have access to the reports. And reviewers need to know that their feedback will be anonymous because some will only be honest if it is. Emails to reviewers should include information about the level of confidentiality they can expect and they should have easy access to a support desk in case they have questions.
2. Use software generated passwords for access to 360 feedback system
In this day and age, this is a no-brainer. Every user should have a unique user name and password, generated by the 360-solution (not by a human being) to give them secure access to the system. Not only that, but every review should identify the reviewer and the recipient of the feedback by name. That way, reviewers know the system is secure and able to manage 360 feedback confidentiality. They can be confident that their feedback is anonymous.
Make sure the 360 feedback solution uses double password entry security for the candidates who are receiving the feedback (ours does!). Get in touch if you want to know why.
3. Be careful with small 360 review groups
Some providers believe two is the minimum number of reviews required for a report to be generated and confidentiality to be preserved? We disagree. Two reviews is not enough to protect the reviewer’s anonymity. We put the number at three and would encourage you to only use systems that are statistically robust, with the right algorithms built in to ensure the feedback is completely confidential.
4. Warn reviewers of the possible pitfalls in their reviews
When reviewers are asked to provide feedback in text format, they may inadvertently include details that identify them to the recipient of the report.
- “In our meeting last Thursday, he/she said…..”
- “The criticism he/she had of my report on….”
- “While working on the XXX document for him/her…..”
These are all potential breaches of confidentiality that disclose the reviewer’s identity. Some reviewers don’t mind being identified like this – particularly if they have a good working relationship with the candidate. Nonetheless it is important that all reviewers are made aware of this risk so they can choose to manage it accordingly. It’s not enough to just add it as a footnote in the invitation email. This important advice should be embedded in the 360 feedback system.
5 . Beware of using free or in-house data gathering methods
When budgets are tight there is a temptation to bring the whole 360 feedback process in-house, or to use a free or low-cost third party solution. This can be a false economy. As illustrated in our Jim and Hal 360 feedback scenario it’s almost always a costly exercise in the end because it overlooks the need for the process to be explained and properly managed.
How valuable is 360 feedback if ultimately, the feedback gathered isn’t honest because reviewers are afraid they will be identified? Or if the candidate can see who said what? What’s more, if your employees know that the data gathering process is being done by someone in HR using a free survey tool, they also know that their feedback is far from confidential. No matter how secure the process is said to be, the raw data is still sitting on your server, accessible to another staff member. Not cool!
Many of the free or budget 360 services have holes in their protocols to manage 360 feedback confidentiality. We’ve tested a few and very quickly found the loopholes in their systems. Just because it says it’s confidential on a website, doesn’t mean it’s always true so please check!
Confidentiality is important in many ways when it comes to employees. With 360 feedback reviewers – it is non-negotiable. Always ask your 360 supplier if you’re not sure exactly what is required to guarantee that confidentiality is water-tight. And remember, cost savings can still be made if using an expert 360 provider because they will help you avoid the hidden cost of poorly managed 360 degree feedback.