360° feedback is a multi-source form of feedback aimed at improving performance in the workplace and can be used in a number of contexts in the organisation.
The source of the feedback is meant to provide a balanced view of performance from superiors (N+1) (N+2), subordinates (N-1), (N-2), peers (N+0), which can also be extended to include suppliers and clients, which is sometimes called 540° Feedback – although, I don’t see why it should be termed anything else but 360° Feedback.
360° Feedback can be used for a variety of contexts:
1. To consolidate and support Learning and Development in organisations.
2. To aid appraisal processes.
3. To identify high potentials
4. To support succession planning.
5. To support team management and integration.
6. To heighten self-awareness
7. To improve motivation and communication
8. To aid performance management issues.
9. To support leadership development
10. Support a climate of organisational learning & continuous improvement
Some companies use it to support the decision-making process linked to rewards and pay – although this is perhaps an area of contention.
Turnow (1993) suggested that the use of 360° Feedback is, “(1) That awareness of any discrepancy between how we see ourselves and how others see us increases self-awareness and (2) that enhanced self-awareness is a key to maximum performance as a leader, and thus becomes a foundation block for management and leadership development programmes”.
The 360° Feedback process involves a questionnaire which focuses on skills, competences and behaviours, typically under headings such as:
Technical / specific expertise
Learning & development
The questions are rated on a scale of 1 to 6 and usually presented in graph form for ease of understanding, respondents give their ratings anonymously.
The data is compiled and fed back to the person who underwent the 360° Feedback, with a focus more on the differences of perceptions and usually shared with their manager by the person or in the presence of the coach.
The purpose is for the person being evaluated, to gain insight as to how they are viewed by others and can form an excellent springboard for either a learning or coaching programme to work on issues that may have been, up to that point unknown.
The value of feeding back with the person’s manager is that a joint action plan can be conceived to support any learning and development that emanates from the 360° process.
Before implementing the 360° process, there are certain criteria that nee to be fulfilled:
1. It has the full active support and participation of management.
2. The benefits are clearly explained to all participants before the start.
3. The process is for people development – not as a way of getting things off one’s chest.
4. The questions are designed to reflect desired behaviours and tailored to the industry sector, which can be related back to respondents realities.
5. Respondents are clearly briefed beforehand on what the process is and how it will be used, both during and after the process.
6. A third-party facilitator is used to deliver the feedback and monitor the process.
7. Questions are easy to understand, unambiguous and easy to answer.
8. The person being assessed is responsible for choosing the respondents.
9. Administration is kept to a minimum – i.e. Online questionnaires.
10. Feedback must be frank, honest and spontaneous from respondents
11. The process must be followed-up with a clear action plan.
12. The process is totally stress and blame free – it is an L & D tool
Successful Implementation of the 360° process must focus on :
1. Who – is going to be assessed?
2. What is being assessed?
3. Who will give the feedback?
4. What areas of the specific work / role will be assessed?
5. How will the data be collected?
6. How will the data be analysed and presented?
7. Who will present the results to whom?
8. When will the process be implemented?
9. How will the process be monitored?
10. Who will support the follow-up development program?
A well thought out, planned and executed 360° Feedback process is, potentially, a very powerful tool that can be harnessed as a great tool in the Coach’s toolbox.
However, it is not to be approached lightly – it can so easily backfire if it has not been clearly presented, utilised and fed back on – not really a tool for amateurs!