So you’re an experienced HR or L&D Manager and you’re pretty sure that 360-degree feedback is the way to go. Maybe you’ve used it already and you can see the potential. But you’ve got limited resources – you’re stretched almost to twang - and yet you believe that this is one investment the organisation cannot afford to pass up.
Despite all that though, you face a senior management team that is at best sceptical when it comes to the value of developing its leaders and at worst sees training as an activity reserved for knowledge and skills development and maybe to address regulatory and/or compliance needs.
They still see this sort of development as the ‘soft’ stuff, although you and I both know this is much more like the ‘tough’ stuff.
Well here are ten reasons why your Exec Team should get on board with 360-degree feedback. Sell this right, and you could have them going through the process first…modelling the way!
Oh…and by the way, sorry if you were expecting the voice of the lovely young lady in the picture, this is Colin Newbold the founder of TLC Online and the chief architect of the click-360 brand! My company’s been involved with 360 degree feedback since the millennium and we’ve got a lot of data to draw on.
It’s All About ‘Me’
These are the ten reasons to support a 360 implementation that we’re going to cover on this short vlog. All of these are in some ways linked, they form a three-dimensional matrix that means that the sum is greater than the parts. They are independently vital, but together they form an interdependence that forces a significant uplift in business results.
Of course, if the senior team really believes that business results will improve by some margin as a direct result of 360, then they will support your efforts to implement it – they will make the resources available.
So here’s your sales pitch…!
Let’s take each one of these in turn…
#1 It’s All About ‘Me’
Whether you’ve got one leader or ten leaders going through 360-degree feedback, the whole point is it’s personal. The outcome is personal. It’s bespoke, it’s tailored. The 360 focuses on them…their levels of self-awareness…and the impact of their behaviours on others.
And so is the action plan. Better still if you can run to the cost of a coach that works with each one to embed the learning and support their development journey. It takes 100 days to change a behaviour the psychologists tell us.
So 360 is legitimately ‘all about ME’!
Why are we focusing on ‘Development’ as a reason for gaining senior management buy-in for 360? Because we need to separate 360 from performance assessment or performance management.
For 360 to be most effective, it should be distanced as far away as possible from assessment measures. It shouldn’t even be part of the performance appraisal process. It might inform the appraisal – to some extent that’s inevitable - but it should be divorced from that process. Even consider running it at a different time of year. And don’t even think about using it to fix a poor manager or a dysfunctional leader…there are other mechanisms to deal with that.
The 360 report should be ‘owned’ by the participant – that’s the person whose report it will be, the subject, the person at the centre of the 360. They should be encouraged to share the report, especially with their line manager and of course with the coach if they have one. But it’s their report. It may be paid for by the organisation, but it doesn’t belong to the organisation. The senior management needs to trust that by developing leaders individually, they in turn develop the organisation.
#3 The ‘How’
What do we mean by The ‘How’? Most objectives focus on the ‘What’ – the task, the outcome, the destination. But 360 is a behavioural questionnaire. Whatever the questions, they are about how something is done or achieved. That’s why it’s generally easier for raters or respondents – the people providing feedback – to contribute…because they have observed the participant behaving in that way… or not.
And very often, it is how something is done, or said, that makes the difference in whether people follow the leader or not. The ‘How’ can be a real motivator, especially when the work itself is not very inspiring. The opposite is also true of course, the ‘How’ – if done really badly – can be a huge turn-off.
By defining the way you want things done around your organisation, you slowly change the culture. Because a 360 touches so many people throughout an organisation, and even a few outside of the organisation, the questionnaire itself is reinforcing ‘what finished looks like’.
Senior managers are always crying out for measurables. So give ‘em some! 360-degree feedback results in lots of graphs, bar charts and numerical tables. Never mind that it’s subjective, it’s a collection of people’s perceptions. It’s measurable.
After a few cohorts have been through, your provider should be able to give you organisational insights that show your strongest competencies or behaviours and those that need developing. Maybe the data will highlight an organisation-wide development opportunity. These organisational insights will provide rich data that can inform your succession plans and your general talent management processes.
Repeat 360s within 18 months will show individual and organisational progress. There’s not too many L&D initiatives that can be so closely monitored.
Self-awareness is an immediate by-product of 360 degree feedback. Would it help the organisation to have leaders and managers who are self-aware? If you’re familiar with the concept of emotional intelligence or EI you’ll know that much of it is to do with how self-aware the leader or the manager is. And EI is increasingly being cited as the missing ingredient in so many leaders’ capabilities.
Many leaders are too dismissive of EI or are too arrogant to accept its value. Whatever the questionnaire being used, 360 allows you to get in through the back door, so to speak.
Being more self-aware opens up new learning opportunities for leaders and managers, they recognise that they’re all ‘work in progress’, every day’s a school-day.
Why does 360 make leaders and managers more accountable? Firstly, they get involved in selecting the people they want feedback from. Or at least they should do. This immediately increases their accountability to those people for something to come out of it. Why would a feedback provider give up their time to help the 360 participant unless they felt there was something in it for them too?
It all about ‘Me’ remember? So if I’m going to enter into this process, I want to see a result personally. I’m going to analyse the results, gain endorsements and acknowledgements around my strengths and maybe get clarity on some areas for development. I’m then going to build an action plan around it and undertake the necessary development activities. I own my report…if it’s to be, it’s up to me.
And if you implement 360 following our guidelines, you’ll encourage those 360 participants to check out their feedback with selected raters and to check back in again in 3 months or so. To see what they’ve noticed. Can’t get much more accountable than that.
What do we mean by dialogue? Why would that be a reason for the Exec Team to buy into the concept of 360. I once heard the Global VP for Learning and Development inside one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies say that having analysed hundreds and hundreds of performance appraisal results, no matter where she was in the world, you could distil the essence of what wasn’t working to the quality of the conversations that were taking place. Or that weren’t taking place. The dialogue was generally non-existent or of a poor quality.
Poor performance was often being brushed under the carpet. Or difficult conversations were happening but they were being done so badly that people were left feeling bruised and wounded.
360-degree feedback starts promoting dialogue through the written word, in the many comments that are given in participant reports under heading like ‘does well’ or ‘could do differently’.
Again, if you implement 360 following our guidelines, you’ll encourage those 360 participants to check out their feedback with selected raters and to check back in again in 3 months or so. Now we’re talking verbal dialogue. Feedback becomes accepted, both giving and receiving. This can change your culture. In a really good way.
#8 Embed Values
A lot of organisations we work with are in the process of building or refreshing their competency frameworks. And very often that is driven by the need to weave into those frameworks the golden thread of organisational values. This is a fundamental part of the organisation’s strategy…it already has the attention of the senior management team.
Once those values are integrated, senior managers want them promoted in every way possible and at every opportunity. What better way to embed those values than by building your 360 questionnaire around them.
Because the questionnaire touches so many corners of your organisation, right down to individual contributors who are providing feedback to their managers, those values are being reinforced as raters read them and think about the person they are rating in that context.
And if your rater categories include external partners, customers and key stakeholders, you are effectively advertising what you stand for to those groups as they interact with your 360 questionnaires.
Can you see how a 360, properly implemented, will bring down the silos that may be operating within your organisation? That’s gotta be welcomed by your exec team, hasn’t it?
360-degree feedback asks the participant to select feedback providers from several rater categories including Peers and usually other key stakeholders. If your 360 implementations follow our guidelines about verbal invitation conversations, then some of those barriers are coming down even before the first email goes out.
Asking someone from either of those groups to contribute to your feedback is a very collaborative thing to do, them providing the feedback even more so. Generous too. And very often it’s reciprocated in a subsequent cohort, where the roles are reversed.
Introducing the checking out and checking in processes into your implementations will further strengthen these relationships.
And what about the relationships closer to home – with your manager and your direct reports? 360 is a massive relationship builder and can be the real catalyst to understanding why someone hasn’t gelled with you up until now, which gives you the option to make that different. You’re accountable for that.
#10 Business Results
Does 360 really improve business results? We would say that wouldn’t we? Well here’s the thing…if 360 implementations could be tied directly to business results, in other words the case for return on investment could be proven, do you think that at least one person in that Exec Team might be interested? Out of all ten reasons that we’ve offered, might this ultimately be the one that sells it for you?
Ok…try this. Here’s a really simple mission for you. Type into your favourite search engine the words “Can 360 degree feedback improve business results (question mark)” you can even open up another tab while this video is playing and do it. In less than a second your search engine will likely return between 1 and 2 million results. Now go beyond all the paid-for ads, and just look for independent research…I promise you it won’t take you many seconds to find it.
In case you’re not doing this as I’m speaking to you…here’s a list of journal references I found on the internet.
Antonioni, D. (1996). Designing an Effective 360-Degree Appraisal Feedback Process. Organizational Dynamics, 25(2), 24-38.
Carson, Mary. (2006). Saying it like it isn’t: The pros and cons of 360-degree feedback. Business Horizons, 49(5), 395-402.
Dominick, Peter G., Richard R. Reilly and Jack W. McGrourty. The effects of peer feedback on team member behavior. Group & Organization Management, 22(4), 508-520.
Foster, C. A., & Law, M. F. (2006). How Many Perspectives Provide a Compass? Differentiating 360-Degree and Multi-Source Feedback. International Journal of Selection & Assessment, 14(3), 288-291.
London, Manuel and Beatty, Richard W. (1993). 360-Degree Feedback as a Competitive Advantage. Human Resource Management (1986-1998), 32(2-3), 353.
Mamatoglu, Nihal. (2008). Effects on organizational context (culture and climate) from implementing a 360-degree feedback system: The case of Arcelik. European Journal of Work & Organizational Psychology, Vol. 17 Issue 4, p426-449, 24p, 2.
Morgeson, F. P., Mumford, T. V., & Campion, M. A. (2005). Coming Full Circle: Using Research and Practice to Address 27 Questions About 360-Degree Feedback Programs. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 57(3), 196 -209.
Peiperl, Maury A. Getting 360-degree Feedback Right. Harvard Business Review, Jan2001, Vol. 79 Issue 1, p142-147, 6p.
Polzer, Jeffrey T. and Kind, Liz. National Semiconductor’s India Design Center. Harvard Business Review, Jan2005.
Simon Hurley. (1998). Application of team-based 360[degrees] feedback systems. Team Performance Management, 4(5), 202.
Waldman, D. A., Atwater, L. E., & Antonioni, D. (1998). Has 360 degree feedback gone amok? Academy of Management Executive, 12(2), 86-94.
I promise you this is just scratching the surface. One hour of your own research will flag up sufficient metrics that were improved by 360 to melt the heart of even the hardest-nosed business person.
And the other important benefit about doing this is that it will also reveal a lot of the pitfalls to avoid, 360 is not all plain sailing.
Of course, there is a down side to this…but that only applies to me and my company. Doing research like this will also reveal a number of our key competitors! Well, you know what…so be it. We stand or fall on the quality of our product, our people, our service and above all what our clients say about us.
You can check all that out on our website www.click-360.com or contact us for more information using the details on screen (firstname.lastname@example.org / +44 (0)845 313 3357). Be sure to watch out for the sequel to this vlog which looks into some of the factors we investigate when checking out a prospective buying organisation’s readiness for 360 degree feedback.
I encourage you to offer your comments, your questions and your suggestions below…meantime, thank you for watching…