While 360 degree feedback has been widely adopted across the Western World, in Europe and North America in particular, elsewhere cultural factors have often prevented business from discovering the benefits it can bring.
As an increasing number of UK firms look to open up new markets there is a growing need to develop large numbers of local managers quickly, economically and effectively across these regions.
As a result many global companies are rolling out 360 degree feedback programmes, but this raises a number of cross-cultural issues which must be taken into account.
For example, Asian society is very hierarchical, within families, social groups and in business. Within this structure age, tenure, level, and often gender, play large roles in a person’s categorisation.
As a result it is difficult and uncomfortable for subordinates to give constructive feedback to their managers and they are left with overly positive, superficial or bland opinions of their performance.
The resistance to providing constructive feedback works both ways, however, as a lot of value is placed in avoiding criticism– the notion of retaining face. Therefore managers are also hesitant to provide straight-forward feedback to staff who report to them.
Fortunately there are ways to help bridge this culture gap and there are a few simple best practice steps businesses can take when embarking on an international 360 degree feedback programme. For example:
- Thoroughly brief everyone involved on what to expect and be clear when explaining how the feedback will be used.
- Ensure a good balance of feedback providers for a balanced perspective on their behaviour in a range of situations.
- Make sure the anonymity of providers is protected to ensure honest feedback.
- Give feedback providers guidance on what constitutes useful feedback. For example help them differentiating between average, good and great behaviour and encourage them to take a balanced view of performance in the longer-term.