Outcomes and Methods for Your 360 Degree Feedback Process

The Great Debates about 360 Degree Feedback Continue

Two business people using computer and comparing notes on the 360 degree multi-rater feedback they've received.
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360 Degree Feedback Process - Recommended Methods

One of the great debates about 360-degree feedback is how to collect the data, administer the chosen method of data collection, and provide feedback to the participants. If you are offering a 360-degree feedback process, the method you use to collect and share the information will make or break your process.

There are several important questions to ask and answer regarding the method used to provide multi-rater feedback.

  • Will your organization use an anonymously filled out instrument or promote face-to-face, or known rater feedback, or a combination of these?
  • Who will select the raters?
  • How much training will raters receive about filling in the instrument and how to provide meaningful feedback?
  • What code of conduct regarding feedback given will the organization espouse?

The 360 Degree Feedback Process Overview

Most organizations opt for an anonymously filled out 360-degree feedback document. The collected data is then tabulated in a confidential manner.

Then, the results of the 360-degree feedback are shared with the person whose skills and performance were rated. The individual's boss is often part of this meeting so he or she can support action planning and development.

Occasionally, organizations set up facilitated meetings to share the 360-degree feedback results with the person whose performance was rated.

If the employee is a manager, for best results, the manager needs to then share and discuss the results with his or her team.

These meetings can be facilitated or not. The best method depends on the relationship the employees of the department have developed with each other over time.

The 360-degree feedback process steps are detailed in 360 Degree Feedback: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

Selection of Raters in 360 Degree Feedback

Jai Ghorpade, a professor of management in the College of Business Administration at San Diego State University says that "involving multiple constituents broadens the scope of information that is gathered. However, a mere increase in the scope of information may not necessarily yield data that are more accurate, impartial, and competent than those provided by the individual manager…"

Consequently, it is important that organizations allow employee input into the rater selection process. Perhaps the employee selects several peers, customers, direct reports and knowledgeable coworkers. Then the manager selects several more.

The manager of the employee and the employee who is receiving feedback should always fill out the 360-degree instrument. The individual’s rating of her own performance is important for later comparison with the rater group’s feedback.

And, the boss's feedback is important, too, especially since, in most instruments, the feedback of the direct manager is not averaged with the rest of the feedback from other raters. Rather, it receives its own column and stands out.

In developing your 360-degree feedback process, I recommend a shared process of selecting raters, always.

Additional Recommendations for Successful 360 Degree Feedback

These points will help you make the methods you use to administer your 360-degree feedback process most effective. All employees need training in the following and more.

  • understanding that the process is confidential, and the meaning of this confidentiality,
  • goals of the 360-degree feedback process,
  • methods used in administering the process,
  • understanding and filling out the instrument,
  • what the organization will do with the data collected, and
  • expectations of the employees involved in the process.
  • I prefer instruments that allow for examples and comments about each question. This allows the person who is the subject of the feedback to better understand his or her ratings.
  • In an organization with a culture that promotes feedback, openness, and trust, I am opposed to secret surveys. I’d like to see more organizations that introduce 360 feedback, aim over time, for a completely open process. This, of course, requires the work on the culture and climate described in  how to change your culture.

    Outcomes Depend on Your Stated Goals

    The outcomes you experience from your 360 feedback process are dependent on the decisions you make about the goals you want to achieve. The most important outcome of the 360-degree feedback process is personal and career development for the staff person whose skills and performance are rated. And, these decisions have sparked more debate in organizations about 360-degree feedback.

    You will experience more success with multi-rater feedback when the results do not impact the compensation of the person receiving feedback. If you require the feedback to impact the compensation, you set up several possible scenarios.

    People may be unwilling to give accurate feedback because they are concerned about the impact the feedback will have on raises. In a negative environment,or in an environment in which people compete for raises out of a limited pool of money, people might collude to assure that the individual receiving feedback is ineligible for a raise.

    Employees are also always concerned, that on some subliminal level, the feedback will influence the manager's opinion of the employee's performance. Even if the feedback outcomes are not supposed to influence appraisals, raises, and promotions, employees believe that they do.

    Allow the Employee to Own the 360 Degree Feedback Data

    To counter these employee concerns, in my work with companies, I have found that people overwhelmingly prefer that the individual owns the data from the 360-degree feedback. In this scenario, the individual shares the information with the supervisor as she chooses. The supervisor and other members of the organization have no access to the data.

    When the organization owns the data and the supervisor has access to the information, too often the feedback becomes directly or inadvertently, part of the individual’s appraisal. This negates the developmental goals of the process. Few individuals will openly discuss the aspects of their work needing improvement when they believe the information will become part of an appraisal impacting compensation.

    I have been challenged about these outcomes by individuals who ask me why to bother with the assessment if the supervisor has no access to the data. My response has generally been that if the supervisor is truly looking out for the development of the employee, the employee will share the data.

    In a performance management system, the employee uses the feedback to set up a performance developmental plan; thus the supervisor indirectly has access to the information.

    In an environment of trust and cooperation, you can establish a norm that the employee shares the data with the supervisor.