How should we position the 360 degree feedback process?
Positioning is key. Where 360 degree feedback has been misused it is often behind why people say they have previously 'had bad experiences of 360'.
We advise that 360 degree feedback be used as a developmental tool. Some companies use it as part of their appraisal process, but we think the downsides of that outweigh the benefits (read our thoughts on that here). Similarly, we have had some companies ask us to run 360 degree feedback for someone they have performance concerns around. They want to use the feedback as a way to 'get through to them' with a view to making the person understand the nature of the feedback. This is possible, but we would advise against it as it often feels like the process has been manipulated in order to 'get at someone'.
All in all, we recommend that 360 degree feedback be positioned as a developmental process that is designed to identify strengths and areas for development.
How do we choose which questions to include?
360 degree feedback is most effective when the questions ask raters to provide an indication of how much they observe specific behaviours. The start point is to consider the broad areas that you want to give feedback on and then elaborate on that by considering what someone who does each thing really well actually does in practice. Conversely it might be useful to consider what someone who you do not consider to be strong in each area does, or doesn't do.
There are three rules we adhere to when it comes to defining questions:
- Firstly each question should contain one behaviour rather than multiple.
- Secondly the behaviour should be observable. 360 is less effective where people are asked to rate how much they believe people think or understand things.
- Thirdly, the behaviour should be worded succinctly and clearly so raters know what is meant.
We will work with you to define these things as we have lots of experience of translating your thoughts into good quality questions. We also have our own question library that we can share with you to get things started. Many organisations also have their own competency model or values that can be a useful starting point.
Can we define our own questions?
Absolutely! If you have used 360 before and want to use the same question set, or you have clearly defined values and behaviours then we will just incorporate your questions into the 360 questionnaire.
Can we include open text questions?
Yes. In fact open questions can be really useful when it comes to adding more detail to help the person understand the reasoning behind their feedback scores. We would recommend limiting the number of open questions though as people tend to make their points quite quickly - if you ask lots of open questions we tend to find that results in repetition. Raters also get frustrated at the extra time it takes to complete the questionnaire.
How many people should we ask to give feedback?
A good number of people to ask is around 8. Once you go beyond 8 the nature of the feedback rarely changes. Some people will also not complete the questionnaire so asking fewer than 8 risks the person not receiving much feedback in the first place. Of course, there are always variations to this depending on the number of direct reports etc.
Indeed, we recommend asking all direct reports of the person receiving feedback as it can appear divisive to only invite some and not others. We also recommend inviting the person's manager to provide feedback as they often have a different view and also different expectations.
When it comes to colleagues, they (or customers or any other group for that matter) can add value, but we strongly recommend that only people who work closely with the person receiving the feedback are chosen. Where people do not work closely then they find it difficult to answer the questions in the 360, which causes frustration on their part.
How should raters be chosen?
We advise against the individual who is to receive the feedback from choosing their own raters as, for obvious reasons, most people will choose people they feel will give them the most positive feedback! Having said that, dictating who should be invited to provide feedback can result in a little resentment.
A good middle ground is to dictate some rules such as the need to invite the person's manager and all direct reports, but then invite them to propose who else might be useful to invite.
What rating scale should we use?
There are broadly two types of rating scale - scales which invite raters to give an opinion on how good someone is, and scales which invite raters to say how much they observe the individual demonstrating the specific behaviour.
When it comes to an individual's performance, it is really only the manager who has the ability and the right to do that so we advise using scales that ask how much the individual demonstrates the behaviours in the 360. Scales of this type are along the lines of 'Never does this......Always does this'.
How long should we give people to complete the questionnaire?
Less than two weeks. We actually advise giving people only a few days as we tend to find that the longer people feel they have to do something the more likely they are to park it! Having said that the time of year can have an impact if there is a chance that raters could be on holiday or travelling etc.
When should we provide the feedback report to the person receiving the feedback?
We advise that the first time the person sees their results is at the feedback session itself. In this way the messages can be delivered in a constructive way. Without this structure people will naturally want to know 'how they did' and they tend to then either dismiss the things that could be better if the results are generally positive, or they focus on the things they consider to be the most negative and fail to look at the broader picture.
Who should deliver the feedback?
Ideally, we recommend that the person delivering the feedback should be impartial (i.e. not the person's boss). They should also obviously be skilled in facilitating feedback. In most organisations the people giving feedback tend to be HR Business Partners or learning and development professionals. In other organisations they retain external coaches. We can of course also deliver feedback for you where you have limited resource.
How do we ensure people do something with their feedback?
This starts with the feedback discussion. The feedback should identify things the person should continue doing, but also things they need to start doing, stop doing or do differently. Skilled facilitators will move into coaching once the feedback messages have been understood and the purpose of this is to encourage the individual to define specific learning actions. One of the strengths of our platform is that it has a dedicated action planning section.
If we are doing 360 for a group of people do you provide a report showing the results for the whole group?
Yes, we can do. Where you have a group of people going through the process (eg as part of their attendance on a leadership programme) it can be really useful for the company to have an understanding of where the group's relative strengths and development needs are.
Where you opt to use our online platform you will actually be able to filter the data and compare between individuals.
We have someone who is underperforming, could 360 help?
This is a tricky one. We strongly recommend that you only use 360 as a developmental tool rather than a performance management tool. In these cases 360 helps by raising the individual's awareness of the issues, but it often tends to come across as quite heavy handed and the individual can feel like the 360 is being used to make a point and catch them out. As such, they are rarely in the right frame of mind to explore how they can do things differently and they often end up denying, defending or deflecting the feedback.
What are the costs?
Ah, the magic question. For obvious reasons we don't want to give the game away to our competitors, but suffice to say we endeavour to be competitive on cost.
There are a number of variables that impact cost:
- Setup costs. There may be some cost involved where it looks like there could be lots of time required to define and refine your 360 questionnaire content. If you have some clarity of the areas you want to include and are happy to use our library as a start point then we can minimise or even avoid setup costs.
- Report content. Our standard report is generated through our online platform so there is no additional cost for that. For some clients though we generate entirely bespoke reports that are much more 'glossy' in nature. These are a lot more costly.
- User access to our online platform. Some companies just want us to produce traditional reports, but others see the value in providing people with access to their data through our platform and all of the functionality that brings.
The best thing to do is to have a chat so we can understand what will work best for you.