What is 360 degree feedback?

Also known as multi-rater feedback, 360 degree feedback involves collecting perceptions about a person’s behavior from those around them. The feedback can come from the person’s manager, peers, direct reports, and even external stakeholders such as customers, suppliers and board members. The feedback can then be used as the starting point for action planning, or to plan training and set development goals.

What are the benefits of 360 degree feedback?

A 360 feedback program provides benefits for both the individual and the organization. The broad scope and fairness of the 360 feedback provides an accurate and well-rounded view of how others perceive an individual’s efforts. Getting a clear picture of performance helps identify weaknesses that need to be improved as well as strengths that can be leveraged. Knowing the skills that need improvement is the first step toward creating a plan of development for the short and long term.

In an organizational setting, 360 feedback can renew focus on goals and objectives, encourage constructive feedback, and clarify the roles of managers, leaders and individual contributors within the organization. This facilitates an environment that encourages self-development, which leads to job satisfaction, minimizing turnover and the costs associated with replacing employees.

How do I choose a 360 feedback vendor?

Choosing a 360 feedback vendor should be a deliberate and well researched step. Today many 360 degree feedback companies are popping up overnight and creating 360 feedback with little experience in the field. Such companies do not offer sound products and services resulting in poor ROI by your organization and a bad impression of 360 feedback. This is unfortunate because 360 feedback was created to generate positive change within an organization by focusing on confidential career development of its leadership talent.

To help you avoid choosing an inadequate vendor we have put together the below criteria. The below criteria will ensure that you and your organization will have a successful 360 feedback program.

  • Confidential development
    An organization should make sure that it is doing 360 feedback for the right reasons. It should be used for developmental and not appraisal purposes. The two purposes are incompatible.
  • All questions are not alike
    360 feedback questions should be clearly focused and specific around a particular set of skills, competencies, or behaviors. Competencies can be improved through proper training and coaching; personality attributes can be changed only through long-term counseling.
  • Anonymity
    Rater anonymity is key to the success of a 360 degree feedback program. Ensure you are choosing an assessment that guarantees confidentiality (including the open-ended comments). Anonymity will lead to more honest and open feedback from the raters.
  • Reliable and valid
    Without a doubt, the 360 feedback assessment needs to be tested for reliability and validity. This means the 360 should measure what it proposes to measure, consistently and accurately. A well researched 360 feedback assessment will also be normed against a statistically valid database.
  • Don’t choose on cost alone
    Low-cost is a false economy when purchasing a 360 feedback assessment. It takes years to develop a good one. There are many instant “experts” on 360 degree feedback that generate custom questionnaires overnight. View 360 feedback as an investment in the organization’s future performance.
  • Training and development
    Make sure that follow-up training programs accompany the 360 feedback program. This can be done through one-on-one coaching, or group facilitation. 360 feedback without training is seldom, if ever, successful. A good training program will guarantee a strong return on investment.
  • Reassessment
    Don’t limit yourself to an instrument created for a one-time use. As useful as it is to take a 360 feedback assessment the first time, it’s the 2nd and 3rd times when one can also measure progress. Choose a 360 feedback program that allows you to compare scores over time, knowing that continuous improvement requires constant measurement.

What are norms?

Rather than relying completely upon raw scores when analyzing feedback, a combination of norms and centiles should be used. Norms can be thought of as performance benchmarks to help interpret results of the feedback more effectively. Viewing the feedback in context of a larger population of managers is essential for a full understanding of the data.

What role does coaching or follow-up training play in the 360 feedback process?

360 Feedback Coaching or follow-up training is an essential part of any 360 feedback program. 360 degree feedback without one-on-one coaching or group facilitation is seldom, if ever, successful. A good training program will guarantee a strong return on investment.

What is the purpose of having role specific assessments?

Assessment questions should be clearly focused and specific around a particular set of skills, competencies or behaviors. Surveys designed for a specific role in an organization will effectively measure competencies relevant to the role.

How are surveys validated?

Validation of an instrument means that individuals and organizations can make reliable strategic decisions, based on survey results, about where to focus their development efforts.

In order for an instrument to be valid it needs to be compared to another measure. In most cases the other measure is internal performance within the organization such as rate of promotion, bonus as related to salary, etc. If there is consistent high correlation between an assessment measure and the performance measures internally then the instrument is valid.

Why is confidentiality and anonymity so important in 360 degree feedback?

Rater anonymity is a key part of a successful 360 feedback program. An instrument that guarantees that answers will remain confidential will lead to more honest and open feedback from raters.