When it comes to employee development, sometimes it can be hard to know where to start. What are your learning objectives? What skills do your employees need the most? What kind of tools will you use? There are many ways to help team members learn and grow but one of them involves using 360 degree feedback tools. If you've never used a 360, they're a good way to gain insight from multiple parties at once about the skills of an individual. Plus they can be an effective way of improving an employee's awareness of self and others. So let's explore what 360 degree feedback really is and how it can help your team.
When should you use 360 degree tools?
It's most common to see 360s come up in conversation about development or performance reviews. 360s are multi-rater feedback tools that asks a number of people to score an employee on a number of traits or behaviours. Usually raters are a range of peers or bosses in order to have a good cross-section an employee's work life represented. The data is then compiled so the feedback remains anonymous which is part of the strength of these tools. When used correctly, 360 degree feedback can be the catalyst for change as employees realize how others truly see them and what the perception of their abilities really are. This can be particularly useful when trying to develop employee's leadership traits as it can give employees more confidence in their skills and a better sense of what they need to continue working on to succeed.
What are the benefits of 360 feedback?
There are many reasons HR professionals or team managers would turn to 360 tools. Some of the benefits include:
Candor: Think about the last time someone asked you for your opinion face-to-face versus in an anonymous survey. Even when you're comfortable giving in person feedback, sometimes there can be some areas that are difficult to talk about. 360 tools are able to solicit a more candid kind of feedback because everything is anonymous and collected with other raters within a particular category. This allows respondents to be open and direct about their insights which in turn can lead to greater learnings for the subject of the 360.
Insight: When feedback comes from multiple sources, you increase the chance of getting honest insights. Often the structure of these tools helps to reduce discrimination or rater bias because of the size of the pool of information being pulled together. Combining the information that is provided helps certain common opinions or areas for improvement to emerge. Those insights might not have been gained if only one or two people were asked their opinion.
Increased self-awareness: When you have the collected insights of those you work with in front of you, it's hard not to take a good look at what people are saying and really think about those opinions. Going through a 360 can be a revealing process as there is nowhere to hide. And not all the insights you gain may be positive. But facing and internalizing the information learned from a 360 can help employees develop a better understanding of their own abilities and where they fit into the fabric of their team or company. Improving your own self-awareness can help you see any blind spots you may not have been aware of, which can make you a better team member and colleague.
Increased employee engagement: One of the benefits of going through a 360 is you may find your employee or team gets re-engaged. The process itself is simple enough to do and it often creates a feeling of camaraderie or team building to go through one together. Asking for honest feedback is also a great way of establishing an open team culture. You're telling your team mates that you value their insights and contributions. This can even lead to improved team communication as employees become more motivated to work and grow together.
Future growth: 360 tools are also good for figuring out next steps and how to follow up effectively. No development activity should ever be done and then forgotten. Instead, you want to use a 360 tool to start a conversation, rather than end it. The tests are a good starting point to discuss where an employee might be going within the company and what skills they need to improve on in order to get to the next step. 360s can be especially useful to managers when pulling together a learning and development plan for the employee.
360 degree feedback can make a difference
Whether your developing your employees to help them become better leaders or to improve team performance, 360 tools can be a great way to gain a deeper sense of an employee's true abilities. They're also useful to strengthen working relationships and to create a culture of openness and honesty. Keep in mind, however, that the feedback process can be intimidating for some so its best to take the time to explain the process to employees and win their buy-in before rolling the assessments out to everyone. But once employees are onboard, 360s can be a powerful tool for collecting a wealth of information at once and can help guide employees toward the next steps in their personal or career development plans. So next time you're considering the best way to develop your employees, think about using a 360 tool and what your team could achieve with that feedback.