To achieve great 360 degree feedback a comprehensive, inclusive approach, with proper attention to detail is required. The key to making it work is to make sure you’ve got everything covered and leave nothing to chance when going into the process. With a bit of planning and a supportive supplier, it wil be an easy and simple process to implement. This blog guides you through the 10 key considerations that will make your programme straightforward and effective.
Imagine the difference you could make to your peoples' performance, relationships and teamworkwith a cost-effective 360-degree feedback programme!
1. Make a Plan
Know what you want to achieve at the outset. It’s essential that you have a clear purpose and that objectives are set and aligned with organisational strategies. 360 degree appraisals can be conducted at all levels in an organisation. They are certainly used effectively as stand-alone interventions for individual coaching but are even more powerful when they are part of an integrated, comprehensive people management and development strategy. Organisational strategies vary but include using 360 degree feedback:
- as part of a Talent leadership or management development programme. You can run a 360 report prior to training and development and then maybe a year after to measure the learning “distance travelled”. This is also a great way to evidence the return on investment of your programme to your organisation.
- universally across the organisation to shift culture to a more open and honest, collaborative style culture or to achieve a specific cultural / organisational goal in prep for change management.
- to improve self-awareness amongst existing leadership and management and make the team more effective and gain competitive edge
- as part of appraisal
- to improve specific team performance and create role model teams
Be aware of the time and resources needed to implement a 360 degree project. Consider whether you can manage the process yourself or need to appoint external consultants to help with planning, design, implementation and / or follow up.
Think about how you want to use the findings and design the process (and the questionnaire and report(s)) to support your intentions. It’s wise to be guided by Stephen Covey and ‘start with the end in mind’. It’s important that you consider at the outset exactly what you want the report to tell you and build it accordingly.
Consider how many people you will involve in the process. 6-10 assessors per candidate usually provide sufficient, high quality data, anonymity and broad feedback. Also consider the categories you want e.g. Self, line manager, peers, reports, stakeholders? Decide who is going to have access to the results and how feedback will be given. We’re always happy to discuss this with you to add some value here.
Although sometimes overlooked, effective coordination and administration is essential for success, just like any other internal projects. It may be worthwhile considering running your first project with an independent expert so that all stakeholders get a feel for the process and how it works in your organisation.
2. Secure a Senior Level Sponsor
The more senior the sponsor, the more likely the project is to be taken seriously and supported throughout the organisation. In addition, it’s important that senior management are committed and actively involved and that they show their support for the project. Involve key stakeholders in the design of the project and it’s more likely they’ll help drive implementation.
3. Get commitment from management and involve people up front
360 degree feedback projects are certainly effective in organisations that a have a culture of openness, trust and honesty and a genuine desire for improved performance. But we have often seen it taken up enthusiastically by leaders in more top-down or entrepreneurial organisations when you explain to managers that its a tool to help empower staff more and let them take accountability for their own development. Take the current organisational climate into account when you start planning your 360 degree implementation.
360 Feedback is a comprehensive process that encompasses all levels of staff. For this reason, its important that management personnel are behind the process and actively involved. 360 Feedback isn’t effective without commitment from all parties.
Select your coaches. Its important to decide on who will be coaching your employees on their feedback report. These people can be managers or HR representatives. If your managers haven’t coached someone before, they may need some training before taking on the task. Let us know if you need help from an independent coach and we will be happy to advise.
4. Use (or develop) a clear question set framework
360 degree evaluations can be powerful tools to change behaviour, so it’s important that you’re measuring the competencies, attributes or behaviours that matter to your organisation. If you don’t have a competency framework in place or can’t articulate exactly what behaviours you want to reinforce or eradicate, take the time to clarify these issues upfront. There are useful generic competency sets available which can be easily adapted to your organisation.
Utegra has our own best practice template available from many years of field work with big brands and research by our PhD Psych colleagues. Independent consultants who have experience setting up 360 processes can also help you to establish an appropriate framework for your organisation.
Remember to consider how well the 360 degree process integrates with your other HR policies and processes.
Many organisations have had success with involving (carefully selected, relevant) participants in a consultation and design phase prior to implementation. Not only can this contribute to a more robust programme design, it also strengthens buy-in by helping to build trust and minimise initial fears about the process.
6. Communicate, communicate, communicate
The success or failure of the introduction of a 360 appraisal process can be directly related to how well prepared the organisation is for it. The more participants understand the purpose, benefits and timelines of the process and what is required of them, the more effective the take up and roll out of the process will be.
Explain simply, clearly and often what’s going to happen when, to whom and why. Give participants a chance to resolve any concerns they may have about the process before implementation.
Clarify how the process will impact participants and be clear about exactly how the information gathered during the process will be used. Employees may feel uneasy giving feedback, especially if they are rating their manager, or the evaluation is related to pay increases and rewards. Set a clear anonymity / confidentiality policy, communicate it clearly and always respect these rules.
Explain who should be involved in the feedback and who is mandated. For example, it is usual to have Self, Manager and reports but for people to nominate which peers and stakeholders they may wish to involve also.
Remind individuals to seek permission in advance from those they wish to provide them with feedback, at the same time explaining why their feedback is important to them in order to gain buy-in. A launch event or series of events to different groups before the process begins is a good idea. Employees need to have confidence in the reasons for conducting 360 Feedback and may have useful input on process or questions needing evaluation – it all helps with buy in.
7. Select an appropriate tool / system
Online systems are more freely available now than they were when 360 degree feedback projects were first introduced. These save time, reduce the administrative and logistical burden and make 360 degree appraisals much easier to implement. It is important, however, that you choose a system that’s appropriate for your project. Draw up a list of selection criteria that are relevant for you and evaluate your supplier against the criteria.
8. Test and test again
Testing the design of the process, the questionnaire and the report pays big dividends and can help to avoid disappointment later. Investing a little extra time upfront in testing can help to identify problems that could affect the overall success of the whole project.
Running a pilot allows early process participants to build up enthusiasm and support for the process, which may be very useful during implementation. Success in one part of an organisation can be a valuable catalyst later. Use the pilot to help you assess if all the steps in the process flow as planned.
9. Keep it simple
Regardless of whether you’re considering the questionnaire, the report, the logistics or the process as a whole, simplicity is key. Steer clear of overly complex systems. The simpler the 360 system the easier it is to manage your assessment projects and the quicker you can implement and run them. Avoid superfluous detail. In your questionnaire, for example, only ask questions you really need answered. Design reports so they are easy to understand at a glance.
10. Keep it real, review and follow up
There’s little point in conducting a 360 degree performance review process if it isn’t going to result in action afterwards.
All participants should receive clear, properly structured feedback in a report. The reports must be clear and engaging to provide the individual with a good understanding of their feedback. The responses within the reports are generally aggregated to protect anonymity and ensure an individual’s responses can’t be attributed to specific individuals. It’s important to let people know in advance that it will be non-attributable but to consider when providing feedback that verbatim comments will appear verbatim and therefore consider how they are worded if people don’t wish to be identified. It may surprise you to know that its not uncommon for people to be happy to be identified however! Manager feedback, however, is not normally given anonymously.
Make sure participants have the tools to use the feedback they receive productively. Feedback is usually given to the individual face to face, sometimes by an external facilitator or coach but often by internal trainers or partners. Develop clear action plans. Monitor the progress of their implementation. Follow up.
Review performance against objectives, at an individual and organisation level. Adjust elements of the process as appropriate. Repeat the process (usually at a 12 month interval) to check on progress and make sure your report measures learning “distance travelled”. This makes it easy for you to track trends and identify benchmarks over time.
Ask your supplier for whole Group reports also so that you can see how teams and the organisation as a whole is getting on and you can see trends for training and further development.
360 degree feedback can have a transformational effect. It’s almost a cliché that People are our greatest asset, but it happens to be true. If through 360 degree feedback people can develop better, be better managed and learn to collaborate more effectively, then you can improve job satisfaction, so reducing staff turnover and improve performance and competitive edge. However, it just needs to be done right! If you follow these 10 tips you’ll be well on the way to running an effective 360 degree feedback programme. But if you have any further questions at all, please don’t hesitate to get in touch and we will be happy to advise you. 🙂
Imagine the difference you could make to your peoples' performance, relationships and teamwork with a cost-effective 360-degree feedback programme!