Most companies have some sort of appraisal process in place. Appraisals are important to measure success and achievements against pre-set targets, and they usually help inform decisions regarding promotions and changes to compensation. While appraisals involve an employee and their direct manager, a 360 requires feedback from multiple individuals who work with the person being assessed. When used correctly, 360-degree assessments can be the catalyst for substantial changes in leadership effectiveness, resulting in higher employee performance, improved team dynamics, and more effective communication. Some of the content that I’ve come across suggests doing away with appraisals altogether, and going all-in with 360-degree feedback tools. They really are that powerful.
Before I tell you more about what a 360 review is, let me tell you what it is not. A 360 is not an appraisal. One cannot replace the other. While appraisals are all about measuring success, a 360 is about one thing only: development! Like I mentioned in another post, a 360-degree feedback tool should never be used as the basis to make decisions surrounding compensation or promotion. Feedback is in the name: use feedback to gather insight that can translate into actionable steps towards professional development for the person assessed.
Who’s Involved in a 360?
The reason why it’s called a 360 is that your employee (the person being assessed, or the subject) is not just getting feedback from his or her supervisor – that would be a 180. Instead, they get feedback from a selection of people all around them – hence, 360 degrees! Typically, the subject will do a self-assessment and then invite their boss, a selection of their peers, and a selection of their direct reports to also complete an assessment. Some organizations also ask for clients or customers to provide feedback on the subject.
How Does a 360 Work?
A 360-degree assessment looks at the competencies that are relevant to leadership in your organization. Traditionally, 360s required participants to assess how the leader performed against a set of competencies. But as Marcus Buckingham observed in an article for the Harvard Business Review, this method said more about the participants giving feedback, and less about the leader themself.
More modern 360-degree feedback tools ask for participants to rate how they feel about the leader’s behaviour in a given context. That way, the focus is always on the subject of the 360, instead of subtly comparing participants against the leader. The results are often more relevant and actionable, compared to traditional 360s.
Participants are also given the opportunity to leave comments. Responses should always be confidential, and it’s important that this is communicated to everyone who’s asked to participate. Since a 360-degree assessment is all about development, it’s important that the subject is invested in the idea of becoming better at what they do. It’s also critical that everyone understands the importance of honesty and openness from all who participates – without honesty and openness, the results won’t be as effective.
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Once all the feedback has been collected, there will be a lot of information to review. Unlike a performance review, which should remain completely objective and measurable, the feedback given in a 360 will contain a fair amount of subjective and anecdotal information. Because of this, the best way to share the results is by facilitating a conversation to discuss the report in detail. From there, stakeholders can work with the subject to create a clear plan of action, and everyone ends the process looking forward to the future.
A 360-degree feedback tool can be highly impactful for the leaders in your organization, but it’s important to introduce it correctly, and to facilitate a meaningful and positive conversation once the responses are in. If your organization implements a 360 correctly, the results can be surprisingly powerful.