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Leadership Development Blog

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What Is 360 Degree Feedback?

Posted by Paul O'Keefe on Mar 27, 2017 12:13:00 PM

what is 360 feedbackWhen you’re deciding to assess your employees, 360 degree feedback can prove to be helpful, particularly when you’re looking to improve upon your employees' strengths and improvement areas.

This sort of feedback style has been around for a while and has been used to support traditional forms of evaluation.

With 360 degree feedback you can give your employees quality feedback from a variety of perspectives.

What is 360 degree feedback?

360 degree feedback is a type of evaluation that draws from the input of a variety of stakeholders in the workplace in order to obtain a range of perspectives. It's also known as multi-rater or multi-source feedback and typically includes a 360 degree assessment. Keep reading for specific examples.

With this sort of assessment, individuals in various positions in a company provide confidential, anonymous feedback about an employee with whom they work..

What is the purpose of 360 degree feedback?

The 360 assessment is a departure from traditional evaluative models in which the only person doing the assessing is the employee’s supervisor in a top-down fashion. One of the flaws of this top-down model is that it's not entirely accurate because it's limited to the perspective of that employee’s supervisor. The manager only sees one aspect of the employee or a limited range of skills.

It’s entirely possible the manager doesn’t get to experience certain flaws and deficiencies, especially those that manifest in interactions with equals or subordinates. All too often, an employee can be kind and thoughtful with their leaders and rude and inconsiderate with peers, subordinates or people they’ve deemed “unimportant.” With 360 degree feedback, such attitudes and behaviors come to light via the input from different people in varying positions in the company.

Who are the respondents in 360 degree feedback?

This sort of assessment draws upon the feedback of 8-10 employees who work directly with the individual being assessed. The respondents are:

  • The supervisor
  • Colleagues or peers
  • Clients and/or customers
  • Vendors or suppliers (They're sometimes included in order to add another perspective)
  • The employee (The employee also fills out a self-assessment)

What do 360 degree assessments measure?

Most 360 degree training includes a 360 degree assessment, which measures competencies and behaviors. It's not meant to act as a performance appraisal as it is a means of discovering and working on employee strengths and improvement areas. 

It evaluates areas such as character, teamwork, leadership and cooperation along with specific core competencies for custom 360 assessments. This sort of feedback gives insight into how others perceive the employee and addresses “soft” skills such as planning, goal-setting, listening and communicating.

360 assessment pricing

Why is 360 degree feedback effective?

Several variables must be in place if you want this particular type of development to work for your organization.

  • Respondents should work directly with the employee
  • Respondents must be anonymous
  • Feedback remains confidential
  • Respondents must be honest and transparent
  • The employee and their supervisor (or coach) have to be committed to acting on what the 360 degree feedback reveals
  • A system of follow through should be developed based on the results

Errant Ethel: An example of how 360 degree feedback can drive 360 degree training

The problem:

Ethel is a mid-level trainer. She oversees the development of several hundred subordinate associates. She likes to say she is passionate about what she does when, in essence, she is rude, condescending and bullies coworkers. In staff meetings, Ethel often badgers coworkers in meetings to the point that all the other team members begin to shift about uneasily, looking toward the exit.

Additionally, Ethel likes to think she knows more (and knows better) than anyone else, including the CEO. This is problematic for Ethel’s coworkers because they like and support the CEO and his vision.

One of the biggest stumbling blocks with helping Ethel grow past these issues is that her supervisor is conflict-adverse and, thus, won't address Ethel’s glaring problem areas. She heaps plenty of praise without giving any corrective feedback.

The solution:
In this case, 360 degree feedback offers an excellent means of addressing Ethel's deficiency, while at the same time, working around the supervisor’s own problem area - an inability to confront employees. With tough, hard-to-confront employees, 360 degree assessments are a great way to uncover critical information.

When 360 degree assessments are administered properly, respondents feel safe to give their honest perspective. In Ethel’s situation, her coworkers would share about Ethel's bullying and criticizing of the CEO. Their feedback would indicate that Ethel needs to work on her interpersonal skills and her tendency toward insubordination. 

What research says about providing feedback in situations like this:
Surprisingly, research argues that Ethel would appreciate the critical feedback, even though her supervisor is too uncomfortable to do it.

In fact, one study found that 92% of employees asserted that corrective feedback, “if delivered appropriately,” would be effective in improving their performance.

360 degree feedback can help your employees grow

Choosing to implement 360 degree feedback, if done properly, can be a great help to your employees and your organization. It expands the range of perspective so that you and your employees receive a more complete view of their strengths and areas of improvement.

That is why 360 degree feedback provides an excellent means for growing your your employees and ultimately your company.

360 assessment pricing

Continued Reading: How To Work 360 Assessments Into Your Leader Development Program

Call Edge Training Systems at 800-305-2025 to learn more about adding custom 360 assessments to your organization's leader development program.

Topics: Employee Development, leadership development, Employee management, employee training, leadership training, 360 assessments, 360 degree feedback

how much will 360 assessments cost? Click for pricing

Edge Training Systems

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