What is 360 Degree Feedback?

Spectiv’s 360 feedback platform helps business leaders and employees improve and grow through the effective use of 360 Degree Feedback. Everyone has blind spots in their performance at work. Our platform helps employees see the experience they create for others, understand what’s next in their professional development, and then take the necessary steps to thrive in the modern workforce. Spectiv’s approach is based on a Listen – Understand – Act framework.

Creating Self Awareness

Human beings have long struggled to develop healthy self-awareness. Thousands of years ago, the maxim “know thyself” was carved into the Temple of Apollo at Delphi. 360 Degree Feedback is the modern approach to help leaders and employees develop this vital attribute of self-awareness. This guide explains the power of 360 Degree Feedback and covers the history and uses of 360 Degree Feedback from its origins to modern theory. In this guide we will cover the following topics:

  • The History of 360 Degree Feedback.
  • How the 360 Process Works; Benefits of Coaching.
  • 360 Degree Assessments and Competencies.
  • Why is 360 Degree Feedback Important to Organizations?
  • Common Benefits of 360 Degree Feedback Programs.
  • How Technology Makes the Difference.
  • 360 Degree Feedback in Performance Reviews.

360 Degree Feedback (or multi-rater feedback) is an employee development program or tool that provides a safe and effective mechanism for a person (called the participant) to receive candid, confidential feedback from peers, supervisors, subordinates, and other individuals with relationships that are key to the participant’s success (the raters).

The History of 360 Degree Feedback

360 Degree Feedback has been in use since the 1940s and has evolved to become an effective tool in employee development and performance management. 360 Degree Feedback grew out of a training method called “T-groups” or training groups where participants met with their peers who were then encouraged to share feedback about the participant in an open session, which was facilitated by a moderator.

Over the years, improvements were made to this method and now the 360 review process is handled through modern 360 performance review software that uses individual surveys or assessments that ask raters to give feedback about the participant. Each rater’s perspectives are combined with the others to create a comprehensive report that allows the participant to see the following:

  • Perception gaps where the participant sees themselves as performing better or worse than others perceive them.
  • “Aha” moments where a participant discovers they are doing something that needs immediate attention (i.e., red flags).
  • Understanding and evaluating the experience the participant is creating for others.
  • Learning about the competencies/skills where the participant shines or where they need additional improvement.
  • Transformational change only takes place when beliefs align with expectations and desires; 360 Degree Feedback facilitates the alignment process.

Today, about one-third of all companies and nearly 90 percent of Fortune 500 companies use some type of 360 Degree Feedback to help their employees and leaders improve, grow, and thrive.

How the 360 Process Works; Benefits of Coaching

During the 360 Degree Feedback process, a participant (the person receiving the feedback) and their group of raters (those providing feedback) answer specific questions about the participant’s competencies and behaviors. Raters are chosen from those with whom the participant works day-to-day and typically include the person’s supervisor, direct reports, peers, and other coworkers.

The results are then summarized into an individual report. Scores are separated by different rater groups (self, manager, peers, direct reports, etc.). Only the self-scores and the results from a participant’s manager are broken out individually. Scores from peers and direct reports are averaged together to protect confidentiality. A report generally shows summary results for each competency.

The most significant insights can be found by comparing self-perceptions to the perceptions of others. This way, an individual can clearly see their strengths and areas for development. Also, responses to open-ended questions are randomized and listed verbatim so the participant can see additional tone and context.

Ideally, a report is given to the participant during a coaching session with an internal or external coach who helps them interpret the results and create a personal development action plan. Research shows that individuals who receive some type of coaching on their feedback, and set goals for development, experience significantly greater improvement than those who simply participate in the 360 review process and receive no coaching.

360 Degree Assessments and Competencies

Instead of open sessions moderated by a facilitator, modern 360 Degree Feedback programs now use instruments called assessments, which are much like regular surveys, but which have been designed by industrial/organizational psychologists to measure a person’s workplace behaviors. Today’s assessments are designed and delivered using software, with many individuals choosing to provide their responses on mobile devices.

An assessment is organized into competencies, and each competency is then defined by a series of behavioral statements. A competency is the combination of knowledge, skills, attitudes, or other characteristics needed for effective job performance. Competencies are measured by designating those behaviors that are vital to each competency. We measure a person’s mastery of a competency by the absence or presence of the associated behaviors. For example, competencies may include: Results Orientation, Collaboration, Leadership, Communication, Adaptability, etc.

In addition to competencies, raters are asked about a participant’s derailers, which can often be overused strengths or behaviors that get in the way of a person’s progress. A derailer is a weakness that will limit a person’s growth and upward progress if not addressed. For example, one potential derailer is volatility – loses temper or patience quickly; irritable or lacks composure. When a leader is passionate about their work this virtue in extreme situations might be felt by others as volatility. Derailers add to balance to the areas of competency in the report.

Finally, most 360 Degree assessments include open-ended questions to collect qualitative feedback, as well. A typical 360 Degree assessment will take between 8-15 minutes to complete depending on length.

  • In the workplace, a competency is the combination of knowledge, skills, attitudes, or other characteristics needed for effective job performance.
  • In a 360 Degree assessment, a behavior (or behavioral statement) is a specific, measurable, and observable action that is associated with a competency and reflects an employee’s level of mastery within the competency.

Why is 360 Degree Feedback Important to Organizations?

While 360 Degree Feedback is designed to support change at the individual level, it provides many ancillary benefits to the organization. These benefits include:

  • Employees that are growing and developing.
  • Insights into the characteristics of what makes someone successful within an organization.
  • Data to inform succession plans.
  • A culture that values data-driven decisions, self-awareness, and promotes the effective use of feedback.

The heart of any good employee experience is the ever-important experience that happens at the team level coupled with the one-on-one relationship between manager and employee. Employees join organizations, but they quit managers. 360 Degree Performance Appraisals are the most effective, proven strategy to both understand the micro employee experience as well as providing actionable feedback that can make a positive difference.

Organizations can build their next generation of leaders by using 360 Degree Feedback programs. Also, as leaders and employees rise through the ranks of their organizations, they tend to receive less feedback about themselves and their performance. This dynamic occurs as colleagues and associates are often afraid of displeasing those in positions above them. Therefore, we give less than frank feedback regarding a person’s performance, and the feedback we do provide tends to be shallow and superficial. 360 Degree Feedback is the confidential process that overcomes this phenomenon that exists in many organizations.

Common Benefits of 360 Degree Feedback Programs

Here are common benefits of 360 Degree Feedback programs:

Increases Self-awareness: Self-awareness means understanding one’s personality, working style, leadership and management approaches, including strengths, weaknesses, beliefs, motivations, thoughts, and emotions, all of which have a dramatic and significant impact on a person’s overall effectiveness.

Clarifies Behavior: The very act of evaluating and measuring a person’s behaviors helps convey what behaviors and skills are important to the organization. In addition, honest and reliable feedback is necessary to test perceptions and expose blind spots. 360 Feedback is a positive disruptor that forces individuals to examine how others experience them in the workplace.

Measures “The How”: In addition to measuring “what” gets done, 360 Feedback helps organizations, leaders, and employees consider how things get done. 360 Feedback Assessments measure skill and style. By focusing on both the outcome and the process, leaders and employees are giving themselves the best chance of creating successful outcomes.

Promotes Constructive Conversations: Eye-opening conversations are often the first step in moving from stagnation to improvement. Ideally, a two-way dialogue with a coach or mentor will help explore strengths and weaknesses and help a person establish goals and build a comprehensive plan for improvement.

Improves Working Relationships: Feedback is something that is often one-sided or altogether missing. By introducing a reciprocal exchange of feedback into a relationship, an implicit message is sent that the participant cares about their co-workers and associates, and they value their opinions and perceptions.

Increases Accountability: The enemy of accountability is ambiguity. It is hard to tell someone to “be a better leader” without providing specific advice. 360 Feedback clarifies behaviors and provides specific feedback that goes well beyond “nice job” or “try a little harder.”

Increases Employee Engagement: Establishing a culture of feedback is essential to employees feeling heard. Asking leaders and employees to engage in the feedback process helps reinforce organizational values of fairness, respect, belonging, and psychological safety.

How Technology Makes the Difference

Helping leaders and employees grow and improve is only one part of the equation when it comes to effective 360 Degree Feedback programs. 360 Degree Feedback can be hard to gather, tabulate, and then distribute the insights to the right people. Technology helps solve these difficult logistical problems.

360 Degree Technology should help administrators in the following ways:

  • Help manage the process so it is easy to find potential raters, have raters approved (if required by the organization), invite raters to participate, and remind them in appropriate ways to provide their feedback without annoying the raters.
  • Help administrators create workflows that help them manage all aspect of their programs.
  • Collect and tabulate feedback results.
  • Provide dashboards so administrators can see what is happening at each stage within each of their 360 Degree Feedback programs.
  • Help data users understand the feedback and results with effective data visualizations and report flows.
  • Organize and collect data for deeper analytics and research to help talent professionals optimize and improve growth and development efforts.
  • Provide prescriptive recommendations so participants have an idea of how to get started.
  • Facilitate the use of coaches so that individuals are effectively supported during the 360 Performance Review process.

Using 360 Degree Feedback in Performance Reviews

  • Over the years, organizations and management experts have experimented with using the 360 Degree Feedback process as method for assessing performance. The challenge is that performance reviews attempt to measure a concept that is far different from what is measured when using a standard 360 Degree Assessment.
  • In the performance review context, we are evaluating whether an employee or business leader is meeting expectations. Are they doing the “right” things as part of their job performance? On the other hand, a typical 360 Degree Assessments focuses on “how” an employee or leader undertakes their job. Is the individual accomplishing their tasks in the “right” way? Hence, traditional 360s are primarily focused on the “how” and performance evaluations are mostly focused on the “what.” Of course, there is crossover between the how and what in both contexts.
  • While these two measurement objectives are different, a carefully designed 360 Degree Feedback program can be very effective in measuring both contexts. In fact, employees far prefer performance reviews that utilize the 360 Degree process because more voices are captured in evaluating their overall effectiveness. Instead of focusing on just one person’s perspective, the supervisor, we invite others to provide their perspectives, and, in some cases, the employee has a say in who makes up their various raters.