About 360 feedback

Introduced in its current form in the 1970s (there is some evidence to suggest it was initially used as far back as the 1940s), it is now most commonly referred to as either ‘360 feedback’, ‘360 appraisal’, ‘360 review’ or 360 degree evaluation and is predominantly used as either a leadership development tool (91% of our clients use it for this) or as part of an annual review / performance appraisal process.

Whilst there are many 360 feedback definitions (the Wikipedia one is good), the underpinning concept is to provide participants with feedback (often anonymised) from a range of sources (normally their manager, colleagues, direct reports etc.) on how they are seen to lead and manage others. The feedback is then collated into a report that can be used for a variety of purposes.

Pros and Cons

Some of the most commonly cited advantages and perceived pitfalls of 360 feedback are:

    Pros - Advocates (as we are) say that it...
  • enables greater self-awareness / understanding of strengths and development opportunities as seen by others
  • provides a more rounded view of performance
  • positively supports the implementation of the organisation’s values and expected working behaviours
  • provides feedback about the organisations leadership and management strength.
    Cons - Sceptics say...
  • it is a subjective process that doesn’t take into account natural biases or personal interpretations of the questions / rating scale etc.
  • the confidentiality / anonymity is such that results can be skewed by ‘grudge’ or ‘halo’ ratings.

How it is used

360 feedback can be linked to many development and performance measurement interventions. When considering its use, bear the following principles in mind:

360 feedback is... 360 feedback is not...
Designed to measure behaviours and competencies Designed to measure delivery of objectives or such things as attendance, technical skills etc.
A process for gathering other people’s perceptions / opinions A psychometric profiling tool
A disciplinary monitoring / evidence gathering tool

The following provides a breakdown of how our clients used 360 feedback in 2014:

For Development For measurement
  • Manager development (42%) – Used as a general development tool for middle / senior managers.
  • Management Development Programmes (22%) – Used normally at the start (some of our clients also use it at the end) of the programme to identify individual development goals and collective group themes
  • Behavioural alignment (9%) – To help leaders / managers understand how their working behaviour aligns to the organisation’s competency framework / expectations
  • Annual development planning (18%) – Used as part of an annual development cycle
  • Performance review (9%) – Typically used to provide input into ‘how’ the person achieved their goals / worked

Benefits

When used for development purposes, 360 feedback can provide the following benefits: For the individual:

  • greater self-awareness
  • discovering the blind spots
  • better understanding strengths and development opportunities
  • taking control and ownership of self development
  • supports leaders to 'get it right'
  • provides the foundation for development conversations.

For the organisation:

  • reinforces a culture of constructive feedback and open communication
  • builds leadership/ managerial capability
  • embeds the organisations values and expected working behaviours
  • further develops a culture of continuous performance improvement
  • provides feedback about leadership and management 'strength'.

Implementation

Whilst the basic concept of collating feedback from a range of people and presenting it back in a report remains the same for both development and measurement implementation, the practicalities of implementing it as a performance measurement tool require a different approach to that used for development.