360 degree feedback

So, you organization is interested in 360 degree feedback training?

There’s a variety of directions you can go with it – there are a range of assessments and training programs at your fingertips via the web. 

You can also design a 360 degree feedback training program that meets the specific needs of your company.

Here, we’ll delve into the various applications for 360 degree feedback tools, but first let’s look at it’s history because that plays an important role in its application.

The Origins of 360 Degree Feedback

The foundation of 360 degree training goes back to the work of Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham. In 1955, these two psychologists created the Johari Window model for personal use and corporate application.

Their interpersonal, relationship-building model was designed to meet two goals:

  1. Improve an individual’s understanding and insight into themselves
  2. Improve understanding and communication between individuals in the interest of improving relationships between them

johari window for 360 degree feedback

When properly applied, the Johari Window would cause three things to happen within and between individuals:

  1. It would cause a person to share of themselves, which would push the Open Area (everyone knows this information) into the Hidden Area (you know, but others don’t).
  2. It would cause others to share what they perceive in you, which would push the Open Area into the Blind Area (others see, but you don’t).
  3. These two working together would, hopefully, then cause everyone to move into the Hidden Area (that area no one knows) in a healthy way.

The overarching goal of the Johari Window is to grow honesty and trust in a safe environment where people can take emotional risks without fear of repercussion, judgment or retaliation. The more individuals can share of themselves in a safe environment, the more trust and openness are created. 

The Johari Window Model Led to the 360 Degree Process

It’s important to understand that the purpose of the Johari Window model was to increase personal awareness for growth and to build relationships between people. The intent was to bring a means of increasing personal awareness and improving communication and relationship into the workplace.

The Basics of the 360 Degree Feedback System

360 degree feedback is also referred to as multi-source feedback, multi-source assessment, multi-rater feedback and multi-rater assessment.

That is because it takes the responses of a range of people who work with an employee to provide a variety of perspectives about that individual’s performance, behaviors and attitudes.

Only those individuals who work directly with an employee provide feedback, such as: 

  • Supervisor(s)
  • Colleagues
  • Subordinates
  • Possibly customers, clients and vendors
  • The person also takes a self-assessment

With this range of feedback, an employee receives a well-rounded view into themselves in the workplace.

What is a 360 Degree Assessment?

The 360 degree assessment is an anonymous and confidential survey that’s completed by those people who know the employee. Generally eight to twelve people respond.

There are assessments for lower-level employees, mid-level management, upper-level leadership and even completely custom 360 assessments. Assessments vary according to an employee’s placement in the organization to accurately capture the variation in duties, responsibilities, etc.

What is 360 Degree Feedback?

The 360 degree feedback is the report that’s created once all assessments have been completed and compiled. It’s through the report that an employee can gain insight into their strengths and weaknesses.

In order to have the most effective 360 degree process, it’s important to have facilitators who train respondents in how to respond without showing bias, trying to hurt the individual or being vindictive.

What is 360 Degree Training?

Most commonly, 360 degree training is a general term that refers to many different possible types and applications of the 360 degree feedback approach. 

This is where an organization develops a plan of action for meeting the conclusions that come from the 360 degree feedback. To conduct a 360 degree assessment and give your employees a report without a follow up plan is doing them, and you, a disservice.

A comprehensive professional development program needs to be in place in order to follow through on the feedback. To grow strengths and improve weaknesses, you must have a long-term training plan in place.

Thus when the report comes back, an employee can sit down with the facilitator, their supervisor and mentor/coach to develop the path they want to take to grow personally and professionally.

360 Degree Training: A Break from Tradition

The 360 degree feedback process is a clear break with the traditional models of evaluation. With these top-down models, the employee’s supervisor did the evaluating. Many organizations wanted to move away from this method because it often provided a skewed, inaccurate view.

Types of 360 Degree Feedback Training

A handy way to look at 360 degree assessment, feedback and training is on a continuum. This continuum flows from left to right. 

Bare-Bones 360 Degree Assessment

The simplest, bare-bones application is to just use the assessment as a stand-alone evaluation. If it’s done in this manner, it’s more of a rating-scale, measurement-only instrument than a growth model.

This doesn’t really capture the purpose for which the 360 degree system was created. 

360 Degree Feedback With Report

Next on the continuum is to administer the assessment and then compile the feedback into a report. No facilitator is used to administer the assessment nor to compile the report. This method doesn’t use the system to its fullest potential but this approach is more effective than simply using a rating scale.

360 Degree Feedback With A Facilitator

The next version is to administer 360 degree assessments with a trained facilitator. This facilitator instructs participants in how to go about responding to the 360 degree assessment.

The facilitator ensures that the integrity of the process is maintained and that no one is dishonest, spiteful or vengeful. The facilitator generates the report, which is then given to the employee without any follow up. 

360 Degree Training With A Mentor

The fourth place on the continuum is a partial implementation in which a facilitator conducts the assessments and compiles the feedback. Then, mentors help employees understand their own 360 degree assessment results.

It’s best if the mentors have long-standing relationships with the individual employees and aren’t pulled in just for the assessments and feedback. Mentors work with the supervisor and facilitator to ensure that an employee receives the information positively.

Comprehensive 360 Degree Training Program

Finally, on the right side of the continuum, is a full 360 degree training program in which mentors and facilitators work with all employees to ensure that they’re well-trained and ready to positively participate in the process.

After the facilitator compiles the feedback, the mentor, facilitator and supervisor sit down with the employee to work through the feedback and design a plan of action.

The organization has a long-term training process already in place to assist their employees with growing and fulfilling their plans of action.

What are Some Applications for 360-Degree Feedback?

The most effective applications are those that are focused on the personal and professional growth of employees, improving workplace relationships, creating trust in a positive work environment and improving the culture within the organization.

Following are the most effective uses of 360-degree feedback:

Using 360 Degree Feedback to Increase Employee Self-Awareness

Of course, one of the main objectives behind Johari’s Window, and subsequently 360 degree feedback, is to increase the self-awareness of the individual. Once the 360 degree feedback has been compiled the employee is given a thorough report.

This report details their strengths, weaknesses and areas of which they are unaware and offers the employee deep insight into how they’re perceived by others in the organization.

With a comprehensive 360 degree process, the mentor and supervisor take the time to discuss the report to the employee. This eliminates misunderstanding, hurt and speculation.

The employee must be walked through the report, both the good and bad points.

During this process the worker can compare the feedback of the respondents with their self-assessment. This can prove fruitful in illumining areas of which they’re aware and areas of which they’re not.

Using 360 Degree Feedback to Create a Balanced View

Oftentimes, people have distorted views of themselves.They think they are one way, and everyone knows them to be another way.

Everyone knows that coworker who thinks everyone likes them; but in actuality, everyone runs from them because they’re mean, unlikable, pessimistic, etc.

A well-administered 360 degree assessment, followed up with a feedback session in which the facilitator, mentor/coach and supervisor share the results and help the employee see in a more balanced way can divest that person of their erroneous views. 

If it’s well done, the 360 degree feedback will provide fair and honest input from a variety of people who work closely with that individual. 

This aspect of the 360 degree process needs to be done within a training program. The employee is going to need a strong, helpful mentor and a real-talking, yet empathetic facilitator who can deliver the information.

Further, the employee should have a professional development plan that assists them in working through the points that demand growth.

Using 360 Degree Feedback to Identify Strengths of Employees and Grow Them

So often in industry, we overlook strengths in an attempt to address weaknesses. Performance reviews point out areas of need. Action plans target weaknesses and deficiencies.

However, it is in their strengths that employees excel. Seeing and acknowledging strengths grows them and benefits your company.

Do you have an employee who is incredibly creative? Embracing and encouraging that creativity will lead to innovation.

Is one of your workers organized and efficient? Recognizing and placing that employee in a position that demands these traits will only benefit your organization.

The only caveat is: You have to see these strengths in the first place. With the 360 degree assessment, these strengths come to light. 

This is where you can set the employee up with a professional development plan that grows and strengthens those areas. This will help the employee in the long-run as well as benefit your organization.

Using 360 Degree Feedback to Identify Employee Weaknesses and Improve Them

Because 360 degree feedback is based on a range of perspectives, it’s one of the best means for showing an employee their blind spots.

In a feedback session, a well-trained mentor can introduce the responses of the respondents and show the employee their blind spots. Then, a well-designed 360 program will have a plan to help that employee work on those spots.

Using 360 Degree Feedback to Develop Employees

Using 360 degree feedback is necessary if you want to create a strong professional development program. With this method, companies can identify general skills, traits and attitudes that need attention and/or areas within the organization that require improvement.

Using 360 Degree Feedback to Develop New Skills and Capabilities within Your Workforce

The 360 degree assessment will reveal areas in which an employee doesn’t have any real skill, capability or aptitude. With a strong mentor and facilitator, an employee can be set on a path of developing news skills and capabilities.

A well-designed training program can deliver the professional development necessary to ensure all your employees are grounded in these skills and capabilities.

Other Long-Term, Organizational Applications for the 360 Degree Process

There are other uses for 360 degree feedback that are often not considered. These applications require a much longer time span and far-reaching planning than those mentioned previously. These applications generally affect the entire organization and all its employees. 

Organizations that are focused on continuous improvement are always on the lookout for areas needing growth and improvement. This often involves being proactive with change and shifts.

The 360 degree process is the best way to make these changes and ensure continuous growth for the entire organization. These organizational uses are:

Using 360 Degree Feedback to Create Organizational Change and Paradigm Shifts

A comprehensive 360 degree training process is a useful tool for creating organizational change. When companies are looking to create real internal change and shift culture, all levels within the organization must take part.

Further, in order for it to be effective and lasting, all employees at all levels must feel as if they are truly valuable stakeholders within the organization. Garnering feedback from all employees is an excellent way ensure this.

It’s a good idea to set in motion a cycle of recurring feedback that allows for the open communication of new ideas, thoughts and opinions. Real, lasting change won’t come any other way.

Using 360 Degree Feedback to Ensure Successful Succession Planning and Legacy Follow Through

The 360 degree system can help with succession planning and legacy follow through when experts retire and you need to identify new talent. It’s a useful tool for identifying and training those younger employees who have the skills and aptitude to step into positions that will one day be vacated.

It’s so effective because it provides the up-and-coming talent with well-rounded insight about their performance and behavior from a variety of people.

Less Effective Uses of 360 Degree Training

The following uses are outside the scope for which 360 degree assessments, feedback and training were intended. If you use a 360 degree assessment in the following ways, you will not achieve the maximum benefit of its implementation.

Using 360 Degree Feedback to Appraise Employee Performance

The 360 degree assessment can be used to appraise employee performance. In its most simple terms, this would mean that the assessment is administered to the supervisor, peers and subordinates of an employee. The report is given to the employee, so that they can see their performance, and that’s the end of the process. 

Let’s be honest: This is a superficial usage. There is no interpretation, explanation or discussion of what the feedback means or how to grow. 

Using 360 Degree Feedback to Manage Employee Performance

Similar to using the 360 degree assessment to appraise employee performance, this sort of assessment can be used to manage employee performance.

Again, this is not the intended use of such an assessment and when used in this manner is also likely to lead to problems.

It’s Your Choice How Your 360 Degree Feedback Training is Implemented

Generally evaluations and assessments can go in one of two directions: They can be used to measure employees or to grow them. The 360 degree assessment and feedback is designed to work within a training program that is focused on growing employees.

One of the strengths of the 360 degree process is that it is designed to be fluid and flexible. It can be, and should be, honed to suit your company’s specific set of needs.

Embarking on the path of 360 degree assessment, feedback and training can only benefit your organization, particularly when you fully and properly implement the feedback and training portion of it.

More resources on 360 degree feedback: 

For more information, contact Edge Training Systems, Inc. at 800-305-2025.