As organizations place more emphasis on their human aspect of performance, the 360 feedback process becomes an integral part to gain a deep understanding on their employees’ capabilities. Organizations are increasingly making the 360 feedback process a key ingredient within their overall strategy, seeing it as a tool to achieve their long term objectives.
Since 2002, the 3D Group, a 360 feedback focused consulting firm, has conducted periodic studies on the most up-to-date 360 practices based on the experiences from a variety of participating organizations. The findings from the latest edition was discussed during the 2023 Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology Annual Conference with a panel made up of Dale Rose (3D Group), Allan Church (Maestro Consulting), John Fleenor (Center for Creative Leadership), and David Bracken (Keiser University).
For the purposes of this discussion, the panel defined the 360 feedback process as:
A process for collecting, quantifying, and reporting co-worker observations about an individual (i.e., a ratee) that facilitates/enables three specific data-driven/based outcomes:
- The collection of rater perceptions of the degree to which specific behaviors are exhibited
- The analysis of meaningful comparisons of rater perceptions across multiple ratees, between specific groups of raters for an individual ratee, and changes over time
- The creation of sustainable individual, group and/or organizational change in behaviors valued by the organization
This post looks at the biggest trends in 360s, from the process’s start to finish, based on the findings from the study and the discussion during the panel.
DEVELOPING AND ADMINISTERING THE SURVEY
The 360 feedback process begins with the development of the survey itself. In terms of the survey’s focus, organizations largely choose to probe through behavior related items as opposed to job-specific performance, workstyles, or personality items.
While the number of questions may vary between organizations, 41-60 tends to be the most popular range – a drastic change from just 6 years ago when the most popular range was 1-20 questions. What hasn’t changed is the overwhelming preference for a 5-point rating scale with over 92% of organizations choosing this option. Open ended questions are used by the vast majority of organizations, but sparingly so with nearly 70% of companies only adding 2 of these questions.
The role of external vendors and consultants have grown with most organizations either purchasing an already built survey off the shelf or enlisting the help of a consultant to develop the survey. Additionally, external organizations are largely trusted with the administration of the survey. This is often the case as these external actors are trusted to bring a level of confidentiality that cannot be as established with an internal member of the organization.
Raters can theoretically come from every direction in the participant’s professional life. However, the most accessible sources of feedback come from peers, direct reports, and the manager. Additionally, most organizations see the value of having the participant rate themselves. Not only does this further develop buy-in and transparency from the participants on the 360 feedback process, it provides a glimpse of how they view themselves as compared to those around them. This can either confirm or challenge the notions the participant would have about their performance.
While there is no majority opinion on the rater selection process, the most popular method is to have participants select the raters themselves with their manager’s approval. This finding suggests the importance of balancing the need for both acceptance and accountability in rater selection. And while participants are given a level of autonomy in selecting their raters, most organizations require at least 3 raters per category (outside of self and manager) to be selected – a trend that has been and continues to be enduring. Having the 3 raters per category requirement establishes the anonymity that is needed for accurate ratings and optimal feedback.
The process does not end once the 360 surveys are filled out. The vast majority of organizations do not just send the reports to the participants. They see the strategic value in providing a fleshed out follow up process. While creating a plan with the manager has historically been the most popular debriefing method, nearly 88% of organizations have opted for investing in 1:1 feedback coaching.
Organizations consider many factors when deciding whether to use internal or external coaches. The most popular choice for organizations is to rely on external expertise in this area due to the coaches’ experience, objectivity, and greater capacity for confidentiality. While a smaller, though sizable, number of organizations utilize both internal and external coaches, trends have suggested that the decision to go exclusively external is dramatically increasing.
As these findings suggest that external coaches may provide higher quality services, other reasons may also contribute to this trend. In prior years, organizations preferred coaches to provide sessions to the participants in-person. However, with the clear rise of video conferencing, external coaches do not face the same barriers to entry they once did. This is among the most dramatic of changes in the 360 feedback process with 84% of organizations preferring video call sessions in 2022 as compared to the 96% who preferred in-person sessions in 2016.
FUTURE OF THE 360 FEEDBACK PROCESS
Looking towards the future of 360s, there is a clear area for improvement. Within the last 5 years, more than 70% of organizations have not conducted a truly thorough Return on Investment (ROI) analysis to illustrate the financial gains that can come from the 360 feedback process. The findings suggest that this deficiency may not be due to the lack of interest in conducting this analysis, but the challenges in doing so. Innovations in accurately quantifying the results of the 360 feedback process will be the key to filling in this gap.
Organizations must consider how they can integrate 360s into their larger strategic objectives in order to stay competitive in tomorrow’s market. This process is no longer just an HR ad-hoc tool or one that is only initiated by a few driven employees. The 360 feedback process will play a larger role in achieving both individual career goals and wider market based aims.
360 PRACTICES AT E. ROGERS
At E. Rogers, we provide 360s to our clients with the most up-to-date practices. As an external consultant, we are able to provide the confidentiality and administrative experience needed when delivering the 360. We push to ensure the 3 rater per category threshold is met through a hybrid selection process that involves both the participant and their supervisor.
Once the 360 report has been developed, our team delivers the results to the participant in the most comprehensive and relevant way. We conduct a deep analysis in order to extract the participant’s biggest strengths and opportunities for growth – especially highlighting areas where the ratings of the participant and their raters diverge substantially. Our coaches are also able to sit down with the participant and go over these results in addition to providing them with a developmental plan so that they can leave the engagement with insight into their best path forward.
We understand the value of a validated and effective 360 process and we will continue to provide the best quality service as the market and its demands continue to evolve.
Rose, D. S. & Biringer, J. C. (2022). Current Practices in 360 Feedback. 3D Group, 7, 1-48.
Rose, D. S., Church, A., Fleenor, J., & Bracken, D. (2023). 360 Feedback Benchmarking vs. Best Practice. 2023 Society of Industrial and Organizational Annual Conference.