What is 360 degree feedback?

Imagine being a contestant on America’s Got Talent. You step out into the spotlight, microphone in hand and pause, waiting for the music to begin. As you start to sing the audience responds and is warm and appreciative. You finish the song, pleased with your performance. Then you turn to THE judge for comments who provides luke warm feedback. What? Only one judge? Imagine facing feedback from one person only – just one point of view.

That’s the situation many people faced in the early days of performance management. It’s still how it happens in many organizations today.

360-degree feedback, sometimes referred to as multi-rater appraisals or multi-source feedback is a tool designed to address the problem of bias. Instead of relying on the feedback of one person, with 360 feedback a person gains feedback from peers, reports, managers and even internal and external customers. This removes the problem of bias and provides a person with valuable insight into how others see them.

Multi-dimensional

Peers, reports and customers are all exposed to a person in different ways. Feedback is no longer one dimensional. This multi-dimensional approach often provides great insights into how different groups see a person. For example leaders really need to understand how their reports see them, just as much as they need to understand how their own boss sees them.

Trust

It’s important that a person have some degree of input into who provides them with feedback. Research has shown that a person will act more on feedback if it comes from a person they trust. It stands to reason that if you don’t believe a person is credible, you wont give their feedback much credibility either.

360 Degree Feedback diagram

Motivation for change

Just as different groups such as peers, reports, managers and customers can see a person in different ways, they are also often very consistent in how they perceive a person. For instance, a person may receive feedback similar feedback from their manager, peers and reports that they are great at public speaking but need to listen more in face to face communication. This is powerful because the person receiving the feedback can be more sure of the accuracy than if the feedback comes from one person. This is a much greater motivator for change – one person’s feedback can be easily discounted, many people saying the same thing can’t be easily discounted.

Strengths and improvement opportunities

The results of 360-degree feedback reveal new information to a person and also reinforce things they already know.

ReinforcesReveals
The strengths a person knows they haveStrengths a person didn’t know they had that others can see in them
The areas a person already knows they need to improveAreas a person didn’t realise they needed to improve but which others can see

Revealing strengths that a person didn’t know they had helps them understand they can achieve more than they currently thought possible. In comparison, reinforcing areas they already know to be strengths may not seem valuable, but the knowledge that others perceive these strengths gives a person confidence.

Revealing areas for improvement provides considerable value to a person. It’s the first step of learning a new skill or capability. Without this information, a person is unwittingly limiting themself. Likewise reinforcing the areas they already know they need to improve, provides a catalyst to develop them.

  • Employee Benefits

    See themselves

    Understand how others view their performance and behaviours

    Know their strengths

    Builds confidence in abilities by understanding their strengths

    Improvement opportunities

    Gain valuable insight into golden opportunities for improvement

    Be a star

    Improves capability to perform in their role e.g. improved customer service

  • Benefits for your organization

    Better bottom line

    Improved financial performance by boosting individual and collective capabilities

    Orchestrated, not haphazard

    Fair, consistent and systematic process that keeps everyone on track

  • Team Benefits

    Save money

    Reduces training & development costs by identifying common development needs

    Knowing me, knowing you

    Improves the ability of team members to understand how others see them

    Builds team capabilities

    Builds on the teams capability to contribute to the organization’s goals

Behavioral skills

The other area of performance management that 360 degree feedback addresses are behavioral skills such as communication, team work and leadership. How do you go about determining how well a person communicates or how good a leader they are? This can be a difficult thing to do, particularly because one person’s assessment of another can be highly subjective.

360 degree feedback addresses this by using a range of people who are very familiar with a person. The importance here is that if a group of people perceive a person in a similar way, that perception matters.

A golden opportunity

For example, if a person’s manager perceives them as a good leader, but the person’s reports do not, there is an issue. This is a golden opportunity to find out why the reports don’t perceive the person as a good leader. It could be that people aren’t given recognition for their contributions. Improving this would ensure the team’s performance and lead to higher retention rates.

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