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360 FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)


The Questions


The Answers

What is 360-degree feedback?

The process in which you evaluate yourself on a set of criteria, your manager evaluates you, as do your peers and direct reports. You receive a gap analysis between how you perceive yourself and how others perceive you. Effective 360-degree feedback processes also include develop planning and coaching sessions.

How can I easily refer to ratees and raters?

The terms ratee (the person being evaluated) and rater (the person doing the rating) can be cumbersome. Team Builders Plus utilizes the phrase "feedback recipient" instead of "ratee" and "respondent" instead of "rater".

What type of information should be targeted in the survey?

  • Knowledge - familiarity with job, industry, company
  • Skills - task proficiency
  • Behaviors - patterns in relating to the environment (energy, optimism)
  • NOT personality traits or styles

What are the benefits of 360-degree feedback degree feedback?

To the individual:

  • Perception is reality and this process helps individuals to understand how others perceive them
  • Uncover blind spots
  • Feedback is essential for learning
  • Individuals can better manage their own performance and careers
  • Quantifiable data on soft skills

To the team:

  • Increases communication between team members
    higher levels of trust and better communication as individuals identify the causes of breakdowns
  • Better team environment as people discover how to treat others how they want to be treated
  • Supports teamwork by involving team members in the development process
  • Increased team effectiveness

To the organization:

  • Reinforced corporate culture by linking survey items to organizational leadership competencies and company values
  • Better career development for employees
  • Promote from within
  • Improves customer service by having customers contribute to the evaluation process
  • Conduct relevant training

How has 360-degree feedback changed over the years?

  • Participants: Then: Executives Now: Individuals at all levels of organizations
  • Medium: Then: Paper or scan forms Now: Paperless, web-based surveys
  • Design: Then: Rigid, fixed surveys Now: Locally customized by the user organization
  • Feedback: Then: Numeric ratings only Now: Targeted comment provided for each survey item
  • Output: Then: Fixed reports Now: Design your own reports
  • Cost: Then: Expensive Now: Affordable

How do I know if my organization is ready to conduct a 360-degree feedback?

By conducting a 360 readiness survey, you can determine if your organization is ready to conduct 360-degree feedback. The survey should include topics such as:

  • 360 awareness - understanding of 360 and how it works
  • Support - belief that the organization and manager would support development processes
  • Feedback climate - I trust that the information would be used for development purposes and that people would be fair (belief in confidentiality and usage)
  • Openness - willingness to give and receive feedback

How is 360 different from personality or style assessment?

  • Styles tools measure traits or behavioral preferences, while 360 measures competence
  • Style explains how you are likely to behave, while 360 explains how you actually behave

How many companies are using 360?

While there’s no ‘master list’ or way to know for sure, given the anecdotal evidence gained through the many articles on 360 published over the years it would seem likely that by now nearly all Fortune 1000 companies have either already implemented a 360 process or plan to shortly. The increasing affordability of 360 has allowed many small to mid-size companies to undertake 360 for individuals and groups within their organizations. In fact, 360 has become so well established that often individuals in companies without a formal process in place will seek outside means to run 360 on themselves.

How often should 360 be rolled out?

Given that people need time to make changes and then, it takes a little while before others perceive that change has taken place, we have found that nine to twelve-month intervals are most appropriate. This allows people to create change and then get feedback on their progress so that they can develop next-level goals and action plans. However, some organizations prefer to conduct surveys of just ten to fifteen questions, focusing on a specific topic, such as Running Effective Meetings. These mini-360s are done monthly in conjunction with training on that topic.

What are the criteria for selecting raters (respondents)?

  • Length of time the respondent knows the feedback recipient
  • Amount of contact with feedback recipient
  • Understands the full nature of what the feedback recipient does
  • Select some individuals who work well with the feedback recipient and some who do not

In what media is 360-degree feedback conducted?

There are a variety of methods to gather data but primarily this now a web-based process. However, it is also possible to utilize paper surveys and face-to-face interviews to gather data.

Who gets a copy of the feedback report?

The feedback recipient is the only person who gets a copy of the report. The manager gets group and organizational data, but no individual data.
While giving the data does increase accountability and allows the manager to quantifiably track progress, there are a variety of pitfalls to giving the manager a copy of the report, such as:

  • People will fear the process
  • Feedback comments will not be as constructive
  • Scores may be higher
  • Data can become a weapon, not a development tool
  • Manager may lacks the ability to interpret the data appropriately
  • Manager may reprimand the employee for not doing well

Participants must share goals and action plans, not actual survey results. In this way, managers can act as ongoing coaches, guiding the individual to higher performance levels. When managers get the reports they often miss underlying core issues by focusing too intently on the lowest rated items or may act as judges, focusing on specific scores and comments and using them as a weapon during the performance review.

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How long should the survey be?

To ensure that people take an adequate time to consider each question and provide positive and constructive feedback, the survey should be contain as few questions as possible. If survey items are carefully researched to ensure relevance, the number of questions should not exceed 50.

Is it necessary to customize the survey or are standard questionnaires acceptable?

A standard survey can be utilized effectively if all of the questions are relevant and all of the critical behavioral areas are included. On average, it takes one minute to answer each question and provide comments. If questions are not appropriate given the organization's culture or individual's role, the respondents waste much time. If someone is being rated by twelve people and five questions are not relevant, one hour of time is wasted. Now, consider a project in which 200 people are rated. A custom-designed survey will fit your needs and support the organizational culture and mission. Pre-work in designing an appropriate survey pays-off in the long-run.

How can I ensure confidentiality?

Confidentiality is important to both the feedback recipient and the respondents. If the feedback recipient is not guaranteed that the results will remain confidential, they will tend to feel anxiety about the purpose of the process and the use of the data. If the respondents are not guaranteed that their names will not appear on the report or be linked to specific comments or ratings, then they may not provide accurate responses and be completely open. To ensure confidentiality:

  • Select a neutral administrator (e.g. an external consultant or human resources representative)
  • Print only one report per person
  • User-names & passwords should be required to access the survey and the response data should be encrypted
  • Ensure that online systems are encrypting the data and storing the results on a secure server

Should 360-degree feedback be linked to performance appraisals?

360-degree feedback and performance appraisals can complement each other, but should not be linked. If 360 is linked to compensation decisions, it loses its power as a development tool. When compensation is the outcome, individuals will quickly learn how to play the game, "I'll scratch your back, if you scratch mine." Further, if people do not get satisfactory ratings, morale can decrease when 360 is linked to performance appraisal mode, but low scores when 360 is used purely for development tend to be viewed as constructive feedback.

Is 360-degree feedback data legally defensible if linked to performance appraisal and utilized for merit increase, bonus, promotion or firing decisions?

As William Swan & Philip Margulies summarize in their book “How to Do A Superior Performance Appraisal”, EEOC guidelines state that "an org. must demonstrate that its appraisal process is valid, that it is job related, and that it accurately measures significant aspects of job performance. The organization must demonstrate that the appraisal system is the best available method, that no other system is less discriminatory." This in turn requires that the raters can be identified with the ratings they provide. Given that raters are anonymous in the 360-degree feedback process, revealing raters would violate confidentiality. Ultimately, organizations could be at risk if 360-degree feedback scores are utilized for decisions arising from an appraisal process.

How can you verify the validity and reliability of a 360 survey?

Questions about validity are most important with instruments that were developed in the tradition of psychological tests with the purpose of measuring things that cannot be observed directly, such as values, attitudes, styles and traits. 360-degree feedback survey items should always be based on concrete, observable behaviors.

To establish face validity, show the survey to a representative group of people who will be giving and receiving feedback and ask the following questions:

  • Are the questions clear or ambiguous? (Have each person restate the questions to see if interpretation is consistent)
  • Are the questions relevant to the feedback recipient's job?
  • Are the major items addressed?

Just because a survey was validated in the context of another population, does not mean that it will be valid for your organization. For this reason, customizable assessment platforms are the state of the art, because they can be adjusted to align with local conditions.

How do I write good questions for the 360 survey?

There is a checklists of 7 criteria used in constructing a good 360 survey:

  • Does the item utilize an ACTION VERB?
  • Does the item describe an OBSERVABLE behavior?
  • Does the item describe ONLY ONE behavior?
  • Is the item described in CLEAR LANGUAGE?
  • Is the item described as a POSITIVE, desired behavior?
  • Does the item describe an IMPORTANT behavior?
  • Does this item, taken together with all of the other items, SUFFICIENTLY DEFINE the category?

How important are national norms?

Every organization, even those within the same industry, has a distinctly different culture and set of values. What important in one organization may be relatively unimportant in another. Additionally, most participants affirm that comments, not numeric ratings, give the most meaningful feedback. For these reasons, we have found that comparing individual results to national norms, while indeed is interesting to consider, is not as relevant as comparing one's scores to local norms (the scores of one's direct peers and organization as a whole).

What size scale should I use?

We have found that scales of five-points or less are too small to provide a clear delineation between core strengths and behavioral challenges. Raters should have access to at least seven rating options, and a ten-point scale provides for an even greater spread of responses. Further, raters should be encouraged to utilize the entire range.

How do you introduce 360-degree feedback to a potentially resistant organization?

  • Start at the top with the most senior management
  • Conduct a pilot
  • Directly address, up front, the issues that are at the source of the resistance
  • Focus on the benefits for the individual or group
  • Utilize an external consultant to minimize fears of confidentiality and inappropriate data usage

Is 360-degree feedback ever inappropriate?

Yes, when:

  • The person receiving feedback is too new to the group or organization
  • There are not enough respondents who truly understand the full scope of the individual's responsibilities
  • During a time of major change such as just before or after a merger or acquisition
  • In an environment where there is a high degree of mistrust

Does 360-degree feedback really generate results?

Lyle Spencer and Charles Morrow in The Economic Value of Competencies: Measuring ROI, found that 360-degree feedback systems could yield a Return on Investment as high as 700 percent.

How can I get more information on the 360 process?

Check out the 360 Process page on this site, submit a question to the 360 Coach, check out the 360 Services offered by Team Builders Plus, or call us at +1-856-596-4196, 9-5 Eastern (-5hrs. GMT).