What is 360 degree feedback?
360 degree feedback is a process of comparing self-perceptions of skills, performance or personality attributes to those of others who work closely with the individual. The invited feedback typically comes from direct reports/subordinates, peers, colleagues, managers in the organisational hierarchy and in some cases external sources such as customers and suppliers or other interested stakeholders. The goal of 360 degree feedback is to enhance awareness of one's strengths and potential developmental opportunities to increase personal or team effectiveness. The term "360" refers to the 360 degrees in a circle, an all-round view, and 360 degree feedback is also known as multi-rater feedback.
What are some of the major features of 360 degree feedback?
- Typically measures specific behaviours and competencies associated with job performance and success
- Provides for a confidential process to obtain feedback from others who work closely with the individual (example: one's manager, direct reports, team members, customers)
- Focuses on observed behaviours that can be modified
- Provides graphic, numerical and open-ended information to be used for developmental purposes in the form of a summary feedback report
- Provides clarity about one's strengths and insight about potential areas of improvement and development
- Is a process of improving individual or team performance by continuously providing ongoing feedback when administered over time
What are potential uses of 360 degree feedback?
- Self development
- Executive development
- Supervisory and management training
- Team building
- Performance management
- Leadership development
- Training needs assessment
- Talent management/Succession planning
What are the benefits of 360-degree feedback?
- Provides the participant with an opportunity to learn how others perceive them, leading to increased self-awareness
- Encourages self-development
- Helps increase understanding of the behaviours required to improve both individual and organisational effectiveness
- Promotes an open culture where giving and receiving feedback is an accepted norm
- Increases communication within an organisation
- Clarifies supervisory and managerial expectations
- Is a powerful initiator for individual and team change
To the individual:
- Perception is reality and this process helps individuals to understand how others perceive them
- Uncover blind spots
- Feedback is essential for learning
- Individuals can better manage their own performance and careers
- Quantifiable data on soft skills
To the team:
- Increases communication between team members
- Higher levels of trust and better communication as individuals identify the causes of breakdowns
- Better team environment as people discover how to treat others how they want to be treated
- Supports teamwork by involving team members in the development process
- Increased team effectiveness
To the organisation:
- Reinforced corporate culture by linking survey items to organisational leadership competencies and company values
- Better career development for employees
- Promote from within
- Improves customer service by having customers contribute to the evaluation process
- Conduct relevant training
Is 360 degree feedback ever inappropriate?
Use caution in utilising 360 degree feedback processes under the following situations:
- If the person participating in 360 degree feedback is very new to the organisation
- If there are not enough respondents who truly understand the full scope of the individual's responsibilities
- During a time of major change such as just before or after a merger or acquisition
- In an environment where there is a high degree of mistrust
What is the focus of 360 degree feedback?
It typically has a development focus
- Feedback is always anonymous (except for the manager)
- Feedback assesses 'perceptions' and not 'reality'
- It is comprehensive and behaviourally focused
How confidential is the process?
Confidentiality is an important aspect of 360 degree feedback to both participants and respondents to ensure everyone participates and feels able to answer honestly and candidly. If there are any doubts around confidentiality then people will feel anxious about completing and unsure of the purpose of the 360 degree feedback process and the use of the data.
If respondents are not guaranteed that their responses are anonymous they may not provide accurate responses (in fact, research suggests that ratings are inflated when raters do not perceive their input is anonymous). To ensure confidentiality it can help to have a neutral person/organisation administrating the 360 degree feedback process.
How can I be sure that my customised 360 degree feedback questionnaire is reliable and valid?
Validity is important for 360 degree feedback questionnaires. There are many different types of "validity" so it is easy to be confused when someone says that their 360 degree feedback tool is "valid". Minimally, a customised questionnaire should have "face validity" so that participants and raters tend to believe that the questions and competencies are relevant to the purpose and goals of the feedback process.
It is possible to establish face validity by running a focus group with a representative group from within your organisation, or by piloting the 360 degree feedback questionnaire before a wider roll-out. It is important to establish whether the 360 degree feedback behaviours are clear and can be answered, that the questionnaire itself is relevant to those individuals participating in the 360 degree feedback project and that all of the organisation's key competencies are being measured.