4 Steps to a Rock Solid 360* Feedback Process.
360* survey processes have been in use for many decades and are widely used across all industries and organizational levels. Unfortunately, not all organizations realize maximum benefits from developmental aspects of their 360* survey processes. Feedback is provided, development plans are created and some managers proceed to develop their skills and abilities; however, most managers’ plans are placed in a file and largely forgotten.
At Learngage where we have been working with our clients to drive best-in-class evaluative or developmental processes, we believe evaluation of well defined, discrete behaviours provides participants with clarity and is valuable for redirecting or developing performance.
Given my 30 years of talent development and assessment experience across virtually all levels of management and industry types, i have outlined four steps that are critical. If you take the time to consider and implement these, you’ll be on your way to truly delivering an exceptional 360* development process – a process that is on par with best-in-class organizations:-
1. Secure Executive-Level Sponsorship/Organizational Support
True talent development is increasingly viewed as a competitive advantage by c-level executives. Therefore people development, and management development processes in particular, are strategic objectives for many companies. Hence 360* surveys can be an excellent tool for gathering great information to drive best-in-class people developmental processes.
- Tie development processes to key business objectives. For example, if future growth goals are heavily dependent on the availability of experienced managers, the organization will place a priority on assuring needed development occurs.
- What is important gets measured. Measure and demonstrate value for people development initiatives and the tools that drive and support them.
- Create realistic goals for development initiatives. Even the best processes are not 100% effective.
Too many organizations focus on delivering 360 *assessments and believe participants will begin aggressive development on identified needs once they receive feedback on survey results. 360* survey tools are valuable diagnostic instruments for identifying potentially needed behavioural change. However, achieving actual behaviour change is often a significant undertaking. Survey results should be viewed as a first step in a longer-term and concerted process to build skills and knowledge.
- When selecting a 360 survey partner, look beyond platform technology and content issues. You need to also consider the provider’s ability to guide and potentially support post-administration activities such as class-room interventions, mentoring, feedback sessions, etc.
- Carefully consider the availability of post-survey development resources to address and support developmental efforts – what interpretation assistance will focal participants and immediate managers require, what will be the development planning process, how will development efforts be reinforced and sustained over time, how will effectiveness of developmental efforts be measured, etc.
3. Dig Deeper – Understand the “Whys” Behind Developmental Needs
Feedback sessions are often limited to simply assuring participants understand the basic information contained in reports. Feedback largely focuses on identifying rating “gaps” among the focal manager’s ratings and other respondent groups – i.e., “You see yourself as highly effective in giving performance feedback, but your direct reports rate you significantly lower.” Though such insight is useful, it is insufficient to drive meaningful change.
Feedback agents must explore the behavioral gaps underlying numeric rating gaps. 360 survey results should be viewed as a starting point for identifying why a performance gap is occurring – and the “whys” will differ across focal participants who evidence the same numeric gap. In turn, sound performance development strategies can only be implemented after the causes of the performance gap are identified. In short, feedback sessions need to be much more than simply assuring the focal participants understand the basic information contained in feedback reports if meaningful development plans are to be developed.
- Feedback agents need to understand the underlying behaviours that constitute effective performance of competencies and individual items comprising the survey. This need may limit options for internal feedback agents and develop planning resources.
- On-the-job and other development tactics/strategies for addressing underlying performance gaps often require considerable thought and should be pre-determined in advance of the survey process.
4. Create a Plan to Measure Effectiveness & Demonstrate Value.
Meaningful measures of implementation effectiveness and development progress are often lacking for many 360 survey processes and people development initiative in general. As a result, few processes can demonstrate tangible benefits; make meaningful significant procedural adjustments, etc. Given the high visibility of the survey and development initiatives and their expense, greater attention should be given to obtaining both qualitative and quantitative measure of their effectiveness.
Sample measures to consider include the following:
- Focal participant’s & immediate manager’s evaluation of feedback and developmental process.
- Respondents’ feedback on content and process considerations – i.e., time to complete ratings, relevance of survey content, comfort with confidentiality, etc.
- Qualitative analysis of a resulting development plan
- Percentage of focal participants actively engaged with development plan at 90 days, 6 months, etc.
- Performance improvement in areas recommended for development via re-administration of 360 survey process, evaluation by immediate manager, etc.
- Impact of people development results on key business metrics
Wrapping things up.
Despite their widespread use for development, only few organizations realize maximum benefits from their 360 survey processes. Considering the following issues in advance of implementing your 360 survey process will significantly improve your organization’s probability of doing so.
- Tie development processes to key business objectives.
- Avoid the tendency to position 360 surveys as a standalone development activity. Conceptually they are primarily measurement tools to identify development needs, drive development plans and measure developmental results.
- Carefully consider the availability of post-survey development resources to address and support developmental efforts. The survey administration process will constitute 10% of the ROI on development efforts; post survey process and activities will constitute the other 90%.
- Feedback and developmental planning activities need to focus on performance gaps underlying numeric rating gaps – not just a restatement of information contained directly in feedback reports.
- Time commitments and required skill sets may dictate that immediate managers need third-party assistance to drive and sustain development efforts with focal participants across time.
- Strive to actively demonstrate value for participants through development initiatives and the tools that drive and support them. Doing so increases the overall sustainability of your processes and tools.
I hope this guide has provided some helpful insight as you move forward with your next 360* process. Do reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org to explore a dialogue on how we can demonstrate value from our developmental tools and post-360* learning interventions to organisations like yours.
Dr. Jaffee is an advisor and board member at Learngage, driving the people development and advisory practice. He is a recognized expert in the field of assessments, and has created valid HR Solutions used by hundreds of clients across the globe over the last 30 years. His core areas of expertise include talent development, organisational design and thought leadership.