What is 360 degree feedback?

Imagine being a contestant on America’s Got Talent. You step out into the spotlight, microphone in hand and pause, waiting for the music to begin. As you start to sing the audience responds and is warm and appreciative. You finish the song, pleased with your performance. Then you turn to THE judge for comments who provides luke warm feedback. What? Only one judge? Imagine facing feedback from one person only – just one point of view.

That’s the situation many people faced in the early days of performance management. It’s still how it happens in many organizations today.

360-degree feedback, sometimes referred to as multi-rater appraisals or multi-source feedback is a tool designed to address the problem of bias. Instead of relying on the feedback of one person, with 360 feedback a person gains feedback from peers, reports, managers and even internal and external customers. This removes the problem of bias and provides a person with valuable insight into how others see them.

Multi-dimensional

Peers, reports and customers are all exposed to a person in different ways. Feedback is no longer one dimensional. This multi-dimensional approach often provides great insights into how different groups see a person. For example leaders really need to understand how their reports see them, just as much as they need to understand how their own boss sees them.

Trust

It’s important that a person have some degree of input into who provides them with feedback. Research has shown that a person will act more on feedback if it comes from a person they trust. It stands to reason that if you don’t believe a person is credible, you wont give their feedback much credibility either.

What is 360 degree feedback?

Motivation for change

Just as different groups such as peers, reports, managers and customers can see a person in different ways, they are also often very consistent in how they perceive a person. For instance, a person may receive feedback similar feedback from their manager, peers and reports that they are great at public speaking but need to listen more in face to face communication. This is powerful because the person receiving the feedback can be more sure of the accuracy than if the feedback comes from one person. This is a much greater motivator for change – one person’s feedback can be easily discounted, many people saying the same thing can’t be easily discounted.

Strengths and improvement opportunities

The results of 360-degree feedback reveal new information to a person and also reinforce things they already know.

ReinforcesReveals
The strengths a person knows they haveStrengths a person didn’t know they had that others can see in them
The areas a person already knows they need to improveAreas a person didn’t realise they needed to improve but which others can see

Revealing strengths that a person didn’t know they had helps them understand they can achieve more than they currently thought possible. In comparison, reinforcing areas they already know to be strengths may not seem valuable, but the knowledge that others perceive these strengths gives a person confidence.

Revealing areas for improvement provides considerable value to a person. It’s the first step of learning a new skill or capability. Without this information, a person is unwittingly limiting themself. Likewise reinforcing the areas they already know they need to improve, provides a catalyst to develop them.

Employee Benefits

Benefits for the employee
  • See themselves
  • Understand how others view their performance and behaviours
  • Know their strengths
  • Builds confidence in abilities by understanding their strengths
  • Improvement opportunities
  • Gain valuable insight into golden opportunities for improvement
  • Be a star
  • Improves capability to perform in their role e.g. improved customer service

Benefits for your Organisation

Organisation benefits
  • Better bottom line
  • Improved financial performance by boosting individual and collective capabilities
  • Orchestrated, not haphazard
  • Fair, consistent and systematic process that keeps everyone on track

Team Benefits

Benefits for the team
  • Save money
  • Reduces training & development costs by identifying common development needs
  • Knowing me, knowing you
  • Improves the ability of team members to understand how others see them
  • Builds team capabilities
  • Builds on the teams capability to contribute to the organization’s goals

Where does 360-degree feedback fit in?

When done well performance management uses a range of techniques to achieve the best outcome. When developing behavioral skills as part of a performance management process, 360-degree feedback is an ideal tool. Behavioral skills are things like communication, teamwork and leadership. They are more difficult to evaluate than technical skills that can be easily tested and demonstrated. One of the things that makes behavioral skills difficult to evaluate is that they are more subjective. When one person conducts an assessment of behavioral skills it is both subjective and biased. This is less than ideal. But multiple people evaluating a person’s behavioral skills removes the bias and helps with the subjectivity. How does it help with the subjectivity? If a group of people perceive a person in a similar way, that perception is consistent and matters.

360 Feedback Questionnaire

A questionnaire is used to gather feedback from the peers, customers, direct reports and others. This is sometimes referred to as a 360 survey. There are two types of questions that can be included in a questionnaire:

  • Questions with predefined responses
  • Questions requiring an open-ended response

The purpose of the 360 process will determine which type of question is best to use. Often both types of questions are included.

360 Survey

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