Category Archives: competency management

12 steps to a great 360 degree feedback process

Want to implement 360 degree feedback? Here’s my quick guide to make it happen.

Step 1 – what is the purpose of the feedback
Why do it in the first place? What do you want out of it? The answer to those questions will affect the way you set-up your 360 process, how you communicate about it with your people and how you review the process down the track.

For example, here’s two common reasons:

1. As part of an ongoing performance management process.

  • Making sure your people have the capabilities needed to achieve the corporate goals.
  • Developing people to improve performance.

2. As part of a leadership development process.

  • Targeting development for participants.
  • Providing a post measure of the effectiveness of the program.

Check out my previous post – Why use 360 degree feedback in the first place.

Step 2 – gain commitment from management
Management need to be committed to the 360 degree feedback process for it to work. If they aren’t committed, your people will see this and the process won’t be effective.

Getting management to buy into it comes down to why you are doing it in the first place. A direct financial argument also helps – this’ll be the subject of a future post.

Step 3 – involve your people up front and pilot the process
Involve your people in the design of the process. Use a nice cross section of people – the ones who’ll be affected by the process.

You need:

  • To get them to buy into the reasons for doing 360.
  • To get input on how to run the process to make sure it’ll work in the real world.
  • To get input and feedback on the competencies (see step 3).

Implement 360 with a pilot group first. Get feedback and make any changes needed before going out to the wider group.

Step 4 – what competencies or values will be used
You can get feedback on almost anything including your new hair style, but the most common things are:

  • Competencies.
  • Values.
  • Behaviours.

Many organisations have a core set of competencies or values. Some also have leadership specific capabilities. And those who have advanced to Jedi level use role specific competencies.

Where do you get the competencies from? There’s heaps of libraries. And if you use a software package to do your 360s it may already have one.

Choose the competencies that will support your corporate goals. Use around seven competencies all up.

The competencies will form a questionnaire that feedback providers will complete. Decide on a rating scale to use with the questionnaire. The competency library you use will probably suggest one.

Step 5 – who will provide coaching – they may need to be trained
When your people eventually receive their feedback they’ll need someone to help them understand it and to create a plan to develop areas needing improvement. This person needs to be skilled at coaching. It is usually a person’s manager, someone from HR or a coaching professional.

If you want your managers to provide coaching and they aren’t skilled in this area, they’ll need some training.

Step 6 – communicate with your people – let them know why and how
Let your people know these things:

  • That a new process called 360 degree feedback is being implemented.
  • Why it is being implemented – see step 1.
  • What it is.
  • How it will work.
  • What they will get out of it.
  • What they need to do.

Step 7 – who will receive feedback and who will provide it
Alright now you need to determine who is going to receive feedback – the people being reviewed. Once this is done, the feedback providers need to be selected. There are two ways this is typically done . . .

  1. The employee nominates their own reviewers and gets their manager’s approval.
  2. The manager nominates the reviewers.

Employee nomination is better – why – because people take more notice of feedback from people they know well and respect. At first your people may not get the whole idea of what the feedback process does for them. So the manager approval process is needed to make sure people don’t kid themselves by choosing buddies to give them feedback.

Step 8 – ask people to provide feedback
The next step is to ask the reviewers to provide feedback. They do this by responding to a questionnaire and providing any written comments.

It’s also essential that a person completes a self review. This really helps a person identify gaps between how they see themselves and how they are perceived by others.

Step 9 – follow-up and collate feedback
Collate responses for each person receiving feedback. Follow-up with stragglers to make sure they respond before the deadline.

Step 10 – produce reports
A report is produced for each person receiving feedback. This helps them understand the feedback provided by each of their reviewers.

Responses from each of the reviewers, except managers, are generally aggregated. This protects anonymity and makes sure that an individual’s responses can’t be identified. So for example, instead of seeing each direct report’s individual response, you’ll see an average of all direct report responses.

Manager responses aren’t normally anonymous. In other words a person would be able to see exactly what feedback their manager provided.

Step 11 – provide coaching
The report is provided to the person receiving feedback as part of a coaching and development process. This should be done by someone skilled at coaching – this could be the person’s manager, someone from HR or a coaching professional.

The report is used to help the person identify, understand and gain confidence in their strengths. It’s also used to highlight opportunities for improvement and areas for development.

The coach helps the person create a plan to develop their capabilities. The person undertakes the development with progress being reviewed as part of the coaching process.

Step 12 – post implementation review
After your pilot program and after the first full 360 degree feedback process, conduct a post implementation review. The purpose of this review is to determine:

  • Whether the feedback is producing the result you wanted.
  • Where improvements can be made to the process.

And finally . . .
360 degree feedback can be a time consuming process if done manually. So how do you get the benefits without the admin overhead?  The answer is technology.  Cognology have developed a simple to use online 360 degree feedback system that automates the process so you can focus on the results.

In the next set of posts . . .
I’ll continue my exploration of 360 in order to fully respond to David’s questions. We’ll look at:

  • What is 360 degree appraisal.
  • The best time to run 360.
  • Setting SMART objectives when there’s little clarity of business goals.

Thanks to Edylyn for the questions to my post – what is 360 degree feedback. Look forward to hearing how it all goes.


Why use 360 degree feedback in the first place

The need for 360
An organisation starts off with a goal to achieve something. To reach that goal they need a plan. Turning that plan into action and achieving the outcome requires people. But not just any people. The organisation needs people with specific capabilities. And the more capable they are, the more capable the organisation is!

By capabilities I mean both technical skills and things like the ability to lead and communicate well.

Alright, once the organisation identifies the capabilities needed to achieve its goals, the next question is . . . do we have those capabilities? This is actually an ongoing question – people leave, retire and are promoted.

There’s a number of ways of answering this question. All with varying degrees of accuracy. Some very inexpensive and some very costly.

For example, you could ask managers to assess their staff as part of the annual review. This is inexpensive to do, but suffers from quite a few problems – the biggest of which is that it’s one perception and potentially highly inaccurate as a result. What a manager sees an employee as being able to do (or not do) could be very different to what the person’s peers, customers and direct reports see.

Enter 360 degree feedback. It’s inexpensive and is a lot more accurate. That’s essentially what it comes down to – it’s a good tool for the job.

So once the organisation knows what capabilities it does and doesn’t have, it needs to fill the gaps. There’s two ways of doing this:

  1. Recruit people.
  2. Develop people internally.

Buying in skills can work well, but is difficult when there’s a shortage of skilled people. Plus it can be costly for new recruits to build the knowledge of internal systems within a company. So a combination of the two approaches is used.

It turns out that 360 degree feedback is also really useful for developing people. It identifies precisely where the development is needed so you don’t end up wasting a huge amount of money on training that people don’t need. And it also provides something that’s needed for effective development – a measure of progress and achievement.

David’s questions
This is the third post to answer the questions asked by David in response to 5 tips for writing objectives that produce results.

There’s a few of reasons for going into detail on 360:

  1. To make sure we’re talking about the same thing.
  2. To describe it for others who may not be familiar with it.
  3. To provide the foundation for my suggestions for David.

So what are those suggestions at this point?

  • From the previous posts and this one, something really stands out – his organisation needs a clear set of goals for the year.
  • These goals then drive employee objectives and the competencies used in the 360 process.
  • David may not be able to persuade his organisation to do this on his own – but he can develop some goals for his group.
  • SMART objectives can be used to lift performance and remove annual review headaches.
  • The 360 degree feedback process needs to be done at a time other than the end of year review.
  • The results of the feedback should not affect pay/bonuses.
  • Open-ended questions can be used to get some useful feedback on areas that need to be developed.

From the comments to the previous post it’s clear that David’s company needs to review their reasons for doing 360 in the first place. It’s not being used to address the need described in this article.

In the next set of posts . . .
We’ll be looking at:

  • How 360 degree feedback works.
  • What is 360 degree appraisal.
  • The best time to run 360.
  • Setting SMART objectives when there’s little clarity of business goals.