360 Degree Feedback: Goals and Philosophy

The 360 degree feedback process serves four key purposes: 1) Increases an individual’s awareness of managerial and leadership behaviors, strengths & weaknesses; 2) It sets a baseline measure of skills; 3) It establishes areas of focus for subsequent training and coaching ; and, 4) It can be repeated later to measure changes in behavior (i.e., how well participants address weaknesses or transfer training from the classroom to the workplace).

It is critical that 360 degree feedback be used in a constructive manner. At Calibra our 360 degree feedback process is based on the following premises:

  • Participants have a clear understanding of the purpose of the tool and how results will be used.
  • 360 degree feedback is for development purposes only. It is not a performance appraisal.

Results are usually delivered to the recipient only. While giving the data to the participant’s manager 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 may fear the process.
  • feedback comments may not be as constructive.
  • scores may be arbitrarily higher.
  • data can viewed as being a weapon, not a development tool.
  • manager may lack the ability to interpret the data appropriately.
  • manager may reprimand the employee for not doing well.

We have found that some organizations have created a culture where they are successful delivering the report/results to both the participant and the participant’s boss.  This can be done successfully if there is an environment of openness and trust and if the expectation is clear at the beginning of the process.  We have witnessed more success, however, if the emphasis is on sharing developmental goals, not actual results. In this way, managers can act as coaches, guiding the individual to higher performance levels, not judges, focusing on specific scores and comments.

Recipients must clearly understand how to interpret the results. We can share feedback results in either a workshop setting, provide one-on-one feedback to each participant, or train your organization’s HR staff how to provide feedback to participants.

Is 360 degree feedback ever inappropriate? Yes, when:

  • there is no clear purpose for the 360 process.
  • it is not fully supported by the leaders in the organization.
  • individuals have not been in their roles long enough to provide valid feedback.
  • there are not enough respondents who truly understand the full scope of the individual’s responsibilities.
  • the group or organization is experiencing or just experienced major change.
  • there is a high degree of mistrust or cynicism in the organization.
  • the goal for the process is not development focused.

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