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What is 360-Degree Feedback?

360-Degree feedback, also called multirater feedback is a method for gathering feedback on target competencies and behaviours from multiple stakeholders.

Common stakeholders include direct manager, peers, direct reports and other relevant colleagues.

While less common, feedback may also be obtained from customers and other external stakeholders such as business partners.

The key to obtaining valid and reliable feedback is choosing respondents who are able to observe the individual being assessed.

What Makes 360-Degree Feedback Different to Other Types of Assessment?

360-Degree feedback is a competency assessment tool that gathers feedback from a variety of people. This might include direct managers, peers, direct reports and customers.

Feedback is based on what people observe and therefore allows individuals to identify areas where their perception of their own behaviour may be different to others.

This is different to personality instruments which highlight underlying traits, tendencies, and motivations. Using a personality instrument with a 360-Degree feedback can be particularly useful. It allows individuals to understand their observed behaviours and the predispositions that may influence their behaviour.

An individual is ultimately judged on what they do and the impact they have on others. That is why 360-Degree feedback is such a valuable form of assessment.

When Should You Use 360-Degree Feedback?

360-Degree feedback is a highly valuable assessment and developmental tool that helps people see themselves through others’ eyes. It helps to identify any blind spots or under-utilised strengths.

It is particularly useful as a development tool either on its own or as part of a formal development experience.

For example, 360-Degree feedback can be used at the start of a learning journey to determine key areas of focus throughout the program. 360-Degree feedback is most reliable when used to assess an individual’s current performance. It may not be suitable in situations where the individual does not have the opportunity to display or demonstrate certain competencies.

The sensitivities associated with selection and promotion decision may impact the reliability of the data collected. For the same reason, care must be taken when using 360-Degree feedback as part of a performance review process.

Setting up a 360-Degree Feedback Process

A 360-Degree feedback process can be used to assess technical and behavioural competencies.

Technical competencies describe skills and knowledge associated with a professional or technical discipline such as accounting, HR or IT. Behavioural competencies are more general but equally important and often define success across a variety of roles, disciplines, and levels.

They are sometimes referred to as soft skills and include things like communication, strategic thinking, networking, influence, and coaching. In leadership roles, research has found that behavioural competencies are the key differentiators of success.

When assessing technical competencies, it is more common to use a 180-Degree assessment that involves the individual and their manager. This is because the manager, who is typically from the same technical discipline, is better positioned to provide accurate feedback. A 360-Degree assessment is more commonly used for behavioural competencies. This is because multiple stakeholders will ‘feel’ the impact of these behaviours and therefore have perspectives on strengths and areas for improvement.

Companies might also choose to assess the performance of individuals against a set of company values. These are often described as core competencies and are more closely aligned to behavioural competencies.

There’s a number of things you can do to ensure the feedback process and results link to business and role priorities. The first is to ensure that the competency framework and items used for the assessment are tied to the priorities of the organisation and role. That is, what is the appropriate mix of competencies and behaviours that will support the strategic and cultural priorities of the organisation and role? The second is through the use of an importance rating.

At Halo Feedback, we use a simple framework within our platform to help individuals and organisations understand the relationship between what is important and what they bring to their role. The importance rating is typically captured by the individual and their manager. The use of an importance rating brings focus to the feedback. It looks at feedback results in terms of how important capabilities are to one’s current or future roles. For example, without an importance rating an individual and their leader will often default to areas that are considered ‘weaknesses’. With access to the importance rating the individual and manager may deprioritise a particular capability if it is not as important to their current and/or future success. The answer might simply lie in managing the impact of this gap and/or seeking out others for whom it might be a strength. The final things is more qualitative and involves constantly reviewing the results in terms of what implication it will have for performance against business and role priorities. This is where a ‘trained’ feedback provider can be useful. They will constantly probe and challenge an individual to look at the results in the context of what they are being ask to achieve.

Competency frameworks sit at the heart of an effective talent and HR system. They represent the criteria that is ultimately used to select, develop, and manage individuals throughout the organisation. A well-defined competency framework that is aligned to the strategic and cultural priorities of the organisation, is the blueprint for individual and organisational success. So should you build your own or buy one off the shelf. The case for building your own is that it allows you to capture the context and nuances of your own organisation. The case for buying is that it allows you to access a framework that has been developed by experts and proven to support a range of HR and talent initiatives. There are other factors to consider such as time and cost. Building your own framework can take a lot longer than many people anticipate. Buying a framework comes at a cost. In the end it is less about how you access your framework and more about how you use the framework. We have seen organisations invest an enormous amount of time and effort in the acquisition, customisation or development of a framework without considering how the framework will be used across different HR and talent systems. We have also seen frameworks that might look good ‘on paper’ but break down when applied to different process such as 360-Degree feedback. So, whether you build or buy, make sure you get a framework that can be easily integrated with your HR and talent processes.

There’s a number of things that can go wrong so check out our Experts Guide to Running a 360-Degree Feedback Process for a comprehensive overview of the steps and actions you can take to support your implementation and maximise impact. Three things though to watch out for:

Are you clear about the purpose and importance of the 360-Degree feedback process and have you developed a strategy and plan to communicate expectations and support for the implementation?

Have you considered all the logistics associated with the implementation of the 360-Degree process such as the configuration of the survey, technology, scope and scale of the project (e.g., staging the rollout so people don’t get overwhelmed by the volume of assessments), feedback process and report protocols (e.g., who, when and how reports are accessed)?

What support and resources are in place to action the feedback (e.g., development resources, coaches, follow up surveys).

Building Surveys

A 360-Degree feedback process can be used to assess technical and behavioural competencies.

Technical competencies describe skills and knowledge associated with a professional or technical discipline such as accounting, HR or IT. Behavioural competencies are more general but equally important and often define success across a variety of roles, disciplines, and levels.

They are sometimes referred to as soft skills and include things like communication, strategic thinking, networking, influence, and coaching. In leadership roles, research has found that behavioural competencies are the key differentiators of success.

When assessing technical competencies, it is more common to use a 180-Degree assessment that involves the individual and their manager. This is because the manager, who is typically from the same technical discipline, is better positioned to provide accurate feedback. A 360-Degree assessment is more commonly used for behavioural competencies. This is because multiple stakeholders will ‘feel’ the impact of these behaviours and therefore have perspectives on strengths and areas for improvement.

Companies might also choose to assess the performance of individuals against a set of company values. These are often described as core competencies and are more closely aligned to behavioural competencies.

There’s a number of things you can do to ensure the feedback process and results link to business and role priorities. The first is to ensure that the competency framework and items used for the assessment are tied to the priorities of the organisation and role. That is, what is the appropriate mix of competencies and behaviours that will support the strategic and cultural priorities of the organisation and role? The second is through the use of an importance rating.

At Halo Feedback, we use a simple framework within our platform to help individuals and organisations understand the relationship between what is important and what they bring to their role. The importance rating is typically captured by the individual and their manager. The use of an importance rating brings focus to the feedback. It looks at feedback results in terms of how important capabilities are to one’s current or future roles. For example, without an importance rating an individual and their leader will often default to areas that are considered ‘weaknesses’. With access to the importance rating the individual and manager may deprioritise a particular capability if it is not as important to their current and/or future success. The answer might simply lie in managing the impact of this gap and/or seeking out others for whom it might be a strength. The final things is more qualitative and involves constantly reviewing the results in terms of what implication it will have for performance against business and role priorities. This is where a ‘trained’ feedback provider can be useful. They will constantly probe and challenge an individual to look at the results in the context of what they are being ask to achieve.

Competency frameworks sit at the heart of an effective talent and HR system. They represent the criteria that is ultimately used to select, develop, and manage individuals throughout the organisation. A well-defined competency framework that is aligned to the strategic and cultural priorities of the organisation, is the blueprint for individual and organisational success. So should you build your own or buy one off the shelf. The case for building your own is that it allows you to capture the context and nuances of your own organisation. The case for buying is that it allows you to access a framework that has been developed by experts and proven to support a range of HR and talent initiatives. There are other factors to consider such as time and cost. Building your own framework can take a lot longer than many people anticipate. Buying a framework comes at a cost. In the end it is less about how you access your framework and more about how you use the framework. We have seen organisations invest an enormous amount of time and effort in the acquisition, customisation or development of a framework without considering how the framework will be used across different HR and talent systems. We have also seen frameworks that might look good ‘on paper’ but break down when applied to different process such as 360-Degree feedback. So, whether you build or buy, make sure you get a framework that can be easily integrated with your HR and talent processes.

There’s a number of things that can go wrong so check out our Experts Guide to Running a 360-Degree Feedback Process for a comprehensive overview of the steps and actions you can take to support your implementation and maximise impact. Three things though to watch out for:

Are you clear about the purpose and importance of the 360-Degree feedback process and have you developed a strategy and plan to communicate expectations and support for the implementation?

Have you considered all the logistics associated with the implementation of the 360-Degree process such as the configuration of the survey, technology, scope and scale of the project (e.g., staging the rollout so people don’t get overwhelmed by the volume of assessments), feedback process and report protocols (e.g., who, when and how reports are accessed)?

What support and resources are in place to action the feedback (e.g., development resources, coaches, follow up surveys).

PDF reporting has long been the main output for a 360-Degree competency assessment. PDF reports tend to be many pages long, showing the granular scores of individual behavioural statements as well as key highlights from the assessment, and any verbatim commentary that has been captured from an individual report. While many people still like to use PDF reports as they can write on the pages, and like having something in their hand to refer to, the reality is that they are very rarely re-used. PDF reports will always be available and popular, but online interactive reports can provide options and functionality that are simply not available in a static PDF format.

With online interactive reporting individuals and feedback providers can easily manipulate data and views according to their specific needs. They can also navigate through different parts of the report quickly. Working online also allows you to more readily integrate with other systems such as development planning, development resources and ongoing pulse checks.

The other benefit of interactive online reporting is the ability to access reports anytime, anywhere using multiples devices such as mobile phones and tablets.

There is no right, or wrong answer and it will often depend on the particular use and purpose of the 360-Degree feedback instrument. The most common scales tend to be based on an effectiveness or frequency rating. Effectiveness ratings ask feedback providers to evaluate how competent someone is.

Frequency scales ask respondents to provide feedback on how often and consistently they see the behaviours demonstrated. Effectiveness ratings are often used when assessing competencies ahead of a development program.

This allows the individual to determine their strengths and opportunities for improvement leading into the program. This helps to facilitate a more focused development experience.

 A frequency scale may be used to periodically assess an individual’s performance and development opportunities based on competencies relevant to their current role. This allows an individual to obtain feedback on how consistently they demonstrate job relevant competencies. Remember someone may be competent in a particular area but not always display the relevant behaviours. Most scales are presented as a Likert scale based on 5-7 rating options.

An alternative approach is the use of 'levelled' competency statements. This involves creating a framework that shows a series of descriptors for each level of proficiency. For example, descriptors may show a competency at basic, intermediate, advanced, and expert level.

The respondents simply select the level that best describes the capability of the individual being assessed. The drawback with this approach, is that it doesn’t provide the same level of detail as a Likert scale (i.e., specific behavioural indicators) and therefore may be more difficult to work with in terms of development.

As a guide, surveys should take around 15-20 minutes to complete. This equates to around 50 survey items including some open-ended questions.

While it is tempting to include several competencies and related items, try to focus on those that will have the most impact and relevance for the participant, team and organisation.

As a guide 10-12 competencies with 4-5 behavioural indicators/items per competency is about right. If you need to include more competencies and items, make sure to set the expectation up front with participants and respondents.

An anonymity threshold is used to protect the anonymity of feedback providers.

It refers to the number of respondents within a particular stakeholder group who must respond before their results are shared with the person receiving feedback. In most cases the anonymity threshold is set to three with the exception being the individual’s direct manager and their own self-assessment. If a particular stakeholder group does not meet the threshold, the individual data is still counted in the summary of all other data.

It is tempting to use benchmarks and norms to compare individual and organisational results against others. Afterall, organisations want to strive for excellence within their market or industry. However, the use of external benchmarks and norms may not always be appropriate and in some cases may cause individuals and the organisation to focus too much on comparative results rather than the absolute performance of individuals and the team.

The other challenge is the validity and reliability of the benchmark. If you are dealing with organisational cultures and competency framework that are identical this may be OK but that is rare in today’s work context. A set of competencies and statements might appear to be similar, but small differences mean that comparing results may not be appropriate.

If external benchmarks are important to you, we recommend working with a framework and set of items that have been validated across different industries over time.

External benchmarking can be useful but it needs to be considered in context and organisations need to be cautious about putting too much weight on the comparative results.

Sometimes, it is far better to build up benchmarks over time within your own organisation, rather than using industry benchmarks without knowing the full detail.

Reinforcing Feedback and Development

Pulse surveys allow individuals to assess progress, typically in a subset of behaviours over time. They are most commonly used as a follow up to a more comprehensive 360-degree feedback process and/or to check progress on specific development priorities after a training and development initiative. Pulse surveys provide a powerful mechanism for bringing focus and accountability to development actions and performance improvement.

We are often asked how frequently someone should be reassessed using a 360-Degree feedback process. The answer is ‘it depends’ but, in our experience, the best timeframe is somewhere between 12 to 18 months after the initial assessment. This gives the individual, manager, and organisation sufficient time to create and execute the development plan and activities identified in the initial assessment. It will also allow for any changes to the role and competencies that might impact the role and individual. An effective reassessment projects will also provide reports that allow users to see change in their levels of proficiency over time. At an organisational level, data insights can then show changes in group capability which can help evaluate the impact of various learning interventions.

While reassessment every 12 to 18 months is ideal - a full reassessment using a 360-Degree process may not be practical. This is where a scaled down version of the assessment or Pulse Survey might be more appropriate. The scaled down version might be a 180-Degree feedback process against the original competencies or a progression assessment. A progression assessment is a 180-Degree process, but only a reassessment at the competency level. For example, if the original assessment is a 50-statement survey measuring eight competencies, then the progression assessment process involves only the re-assessment of the overall competency level scores, making it essentially a re-assessment with only eight questions.

The world of employee feedback and competency assessment continues to evolve and as such this resources page will continue to grow. Check back frequently for new resources and if you have any questions or suggestions for new resources feel free to contact us at info@profilingonline.com. New email domain needed

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