Investment in 360° feedback

Alison Wheatley offer advice on making the most of an investment in ‘360-degree feedback’ tools

Within the industry, it is widely accepted that the 360° feedback, can be an invaluable resource in an organisation, to objectively assess many aspects of performance and support development.  Implementing the 360 can be a significant financial investment, which is why it is key to get the right 360 product; one which is welcomed by colleagues, valued for its quality and most importantly one that is used!  Here are eight key considerations for HR and OD teams, who may be tasked with sourcing and implementing a 360.

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1. Be clear in what you want to achieve

Taking the time to ask questions of colleagues at different levels of the organisation will identify the likely respondents. After which comes the consideration of how precisely the 360 would help them and provide an indication of what to measure in terms of potential progress. For example, do colleagues want to gather feedback to improve performance, encourage a culture change, understand skills gaps or perhaps a combination of all three?  The answers to these questions will help determine whether to assess skills (what someone is good at) or behaviours (how someone approaches their work and relationships). 

2. Ensure the 360 will have longevity

Before starting to procure a 360, the organisation needs to be confident in the areas to be measured and that those are current and future-proof, for at least the medium term.  Further, that built into the specification, is the ability to tweak the 360 product over time, thereby saving time and money in starting from scratch.

3. Look for an administration-light system

Of the several 360 systems available, one that is highly automated and not dependent on HR/OD completing the administration is preferable. Whilst HR/OD may want to keep an eye on the users, they will not want to be inputting details of respondents and emailing hundreds of 360° feedback reports! The process should be walked through from the perspective of the colleague, their respondent, the HR/OD/manager who is setting it up, and the level of manual intervention required checked; ensuring that the final report is available to download at the push of a button!

4. Ask your end users to test the 360 product

The look and feel of 360 systems varies widely. If a short list of providers has been drawn during procurement, colleagues who will be carrying out the 360, should be asked to test the products.   

Whilst the measures on the 360 might be generic, their feedback will evidence the experience of setting up the 360 campaign and completing the questionnaire. What did they think of it? Was the language clear? Were the screens easy to move through? A slow system coupled with a clunky feel is a real deterrent to completing any questionnaire.

5. Avoid the ‘Not Applicable’ from the outset

When the question does not seem relevant it is easy to select ‘not applicable’, or go for the middle response, so as not to overly praise or criticise. Questions should be written carefully and tested out on the different types of respondents (e.g. peers, customers) to check the relevancy. It is best to look for a 360 product where different questions can be inputted for each type of respondent, thereby increasing the relevancy and accuracy of the responses.

6. Invest time in getting the 360⁰ feedback report right for your organisation

Typically, colleagues will keep their 360⁰ feedback report for quite a while, dipping into it as a source of reassurance for their strengths and building their development plans from it. It’s therefore very important that the report is easy to understand, interpret and learn from. A simple layout that considers strengths, development areas and allows for anecdotal feedback works very effectively.  As a rule of thumb, a report needs to be picked up and understood on the first read. If a training session is required to interpret scores and graphs, then the report is overly complicated.

7. Think through the positioning of the 360 in your organisation

Increasingly in organisations, colleagues are being encouraged to take responsibility for their own performance and development, focusing more on regular, constructive conversations between colleagues, over formal appraisals. Applying this sense of personal responsibility to a 360, the colleague completing the 360 is likely to take ownership of their feedback report. Whilst a conversation regarding the results with someone may be welcomed, an organisation working towards a culture of personal responsibility, does not want to introduce a sense of the 360 as something being ‘done to’ colleagues. Positioning the 360 as a voluntary tool to support development, or linking the tool to a training programme is typically more effective than insisting on completion at appraisal time.

8. Make the most of the feedback conversation

Feedback conversations from the 360 are most effective when there is an opportunity for the colleague to share their reflections on the report and move onto a ‘so what?’ conversation, which then shapes development plans. Careful consideration has to be given as to who would be the best person to have this conversation. Perhaps the line manager, as they know the colleague well, but would they be objective enough? Maybe HR/OD? Or the report might be clear enough to be interpreted without the need for any formal feedback. Most importantly, anyone involved in feedback must have appropriate coaching skills and have the best interests of the colleague at heart. As must a 360 provider, who can identify and develop the right product for the organisation. By selecting a credible provider with experience in HR/OD, an organisation can be confident that their world is understood and the focus is on precisely what they want to achieve.

Testimonials and demonstrations should be requested to ensure monies spent on a 360 will actually deliver exactly what is required to ensure the 360 is an investment for the organisation and colleagues alike.


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