360 assessments are a helpful addition to any organization’s set of evaluation procedures and professional development.
Deciding to use 360 assessments can be a step off the beaten path of what your company is used to, especially when you first get into them. Luckily, 360 assessments have been around for a while.
Should your company decide to give 360 degree assessments a go, you'll notice plenty of generic 360 assessments available. But even better, you can also have an assessment created specifically to meet the particular needs and attributes of your company with a custom 360 assessment.
What Exactly is 360 feedback?
The 360 degree feedback model is based upon the Johari Window, which was devised by psychologists Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham in 1955. The Johari Window is a communication tool that's used to improve people’s understanding about themselves and, in turn, increase understanding and communication between them.
The two main premises of the Johari Window are pretty straight-forward:
- When you share about yourself, you build trust with others.
- Individuals can learn about themselves and work on personal issues via feedback from others.
For these reasons, 360 feedback is a great way to help employees, particularly through increased self-awareness. In a sense, the process of 360 degree feedback is like holding a mirror up before an employee. It provides a more complete, well-rounded picture for them to see themselves.
When applied for leaders or employees, 360 degree feedback is a type of multi-source feedback that is intended to provide a range of perspectives into their behavior and performance. With this sort of feedback, an employee’s supervisors, subordinates, peers, and possibly clients provide insight into their behavior and performance.
With this method, a leader or employee should receive real, in-depth, well-rounded insight into their strengths as well as their improvement areas, particularly into areas that may be unperceived or unknown.
What is a 360 Degree Assessment?
The 360 degree assessment - or simply 360 assessment - is the actual evaluation, survey or rubric that is used with leaders and employees in the 360 degree feedback process. You can have 360 degree assessments for lower-level employees, mid-level managers and upper-level executives. What those particular assessments look like is up to you. This is where custom vs. generic assessments come in.
Custom vs Generic 360 Degree Assessments
What works best for your organization depends on what you want out of the assessments, how much your company is prepared to invest in the process, and how long you're willing to invest. Let’s take a moment and delve into these questions.
What does your organization want out of a 360 degree assessment?
Of course, evaluations are always instituted with a purpose. However, it's often observed that the purpose for an evaluation or end-of-year review is because “we’ve always had evaluations, so we keep on doing them.” We do what we’ve always done without giving it a lot of thought. When you start thinking about the nature of your evaluations and the purpose for them, that’s when the ballgame changes.
Are you instituting assessments, evaluations and/or observations because that’s what’s always been done? Or are you wanting to grow your employees?
To be clear, some assessments are purely evaluative in their nature and are meant to score and/or rank your employees, not grow them. Other evaluations are meant to grow your employees and are used in conjunction with professional development as a way to develop your team.
How much is your company willing to invest in 360 degree assessments?
Is your company committed to growing its employees and willing to invest the time and energy that will be needed? For a 360 degree assessment to be most effective, it should be embedded within a structure of strong support.
You will need a strong professional development program. You will need strong coaches or mentors to help your employees grow from the feedback and facilitators who can move the process along. You will need the staunch backing of your leadership, who will support the 360 degree training program.
But, perhaps the bigger question is how much is your company willing to lose because of the existing development programs. If you do not have a solid leadership and/or employee development program in place then you're leaving opportunity on the table and limiting your organization's growth potential.
How long are you willing to invest in your 360 degree assessments?
If you want real results, your organization should invest time into the full 360 degree training process. Your company will need to invest the necessary finances as well. Often, the danger of companies is to start with an innovative idea, only to watch it die within a year. You don't want your 360 degree feedback to be just a good idea.
Comparison of Generic vs. Custom 360 Degree Assessments
|A Generic 360 Degree Assessment...||A Custom 360 Degree Assessment...|
|Will take less time for your human resources or professional development department to implement because it will already have been created.||Will take more time for your Human Resources or Professional Development department to create and implement. Upside: Once the customized assessments are created, you'll have tools that are tailored to improving your leaders or employees.|
|Will be provided by an outside organization. They will score it and send your results back to you. If you want your company’s “business” to remain in-house, this is not the route to go.||Will be provided by an outside organization, unless your company has a HR or PD department that can create, score, compile and interpret the results.|
|May be a better choice, if you don’t have a lot of time to invest in having an outside company create a 360 degree assessment for your organization.||May be for you if you have the time needed to create a 360 degree assessment and prefer assessments that are most relevant to your company.|
|Is a general, catch-all assessment. It won't be specifically designed for your company.||Will be designed specifically for your company and account for its idiosyncrasies. It will be designed to address issues specific to your particular niche.|
|May be for you if your company provides a common product or fills a popular niche.||Is a better choice if your organization fills a very particular niche or has a unique structure. If you want answers tailor-made to your organization’s needs then a custom assessment is your better bet.|
|Addresses issues, concerns and behaviors that are common to most workers.||Will be designed to discern issues, concerns and behaviors that are more particular and individualized.|
|May be all that's needed, if you are only wanting to institute 360 degree assessments with your lower-level employees.||Will best suit your organization, if you're wanting to use a 360 assessment on your upper-level management and leadership.|