The 360-Degree Feedback Tool and How It Benefits Leadership

To appreciate the recent rise of 360-degree feedback in today’s workplaces, we must first understand the factors that led to the decline in its reputation. With roots in the industrial era and often referred to as a multi-rater assessment, 360-degree feedback rose in popularity and became mainstream. It became so mainstream that organizations slowly lost sight of its purpose. Frequently used to evaluate an individual’s professional performance, organizations often missed developmental opportunities for business growth. They also missed an alignment of key leadership behaviors that cultivate a strong organizational culture.

Several factors contribute to the decline in the perceived value of 360-degree feedback, including the impression that the 360s are:

  • Focused on individual performance evaluations rather than ongoing development. Mixing individual performance management with development in a single 360 assessment created distrust and undermined employees’ willingness to respond truthfully.
  • A one-off measurement tool with no monitoring of the development of progress over time
  • A complex and time-consuming process that made data collection and analysis harder to complete promptly
  • Inconsistent and riddled with subjective bias as poorly written questions, lack of benchmarking, and some skewed data undermine efforts to reach objective results
  • “Read-only” – A lack of action in response to data resulted in employee frustration since the process didn’t yield tangible effects beyond a performance evaluation.

Consequently, traditional 360 assessments often suffered reputational damage from misapplication and participant frustration. However, when used correctly, a well-calibrated 360-degree feedback measurement provides a high-definition feedback mirror. Also, it provides an opportunity for continual learning and development. The key is leveraging a well-validated measure of leadership success that predicts real behavior change. And it needs to be supported by a holistic development plan for achieving meaningful insights on individual strengths, overall business performance, and career growth.

Skill Gaps and the Art of Upskilling

In collaboration with the Boston Consulting Group, The World Economic Forum (WEF) highlights that technological changes affect almost all jobs. This makes digital literacy and human-centric skills indispensable. There is a need for company-wide investments in employee upskilling, engagement, and retention to overcome technological disruption. The McKinsey Global Survey on the future of workforce needs shows that 87 percent of executives and managers believe their organizations already face skill gaps. Or that they expect such gaps to develop by 2025. Also, less than 50 percent of these leaders know how to address the problem and build their future leadership pipeline.

The sense of urgency to strengthen leadership pipelines across the world is supported by Gallup’s research findings. They conclude that managers account for 70 percent of the variance in their team’s employee engagement. This makes them the linchpin for team effectiveness and retention. Moreover, Gallup found that when managers can drive high employee engagement during times of economic disruption, their teams respond with resilience. Business performance is also strengthened and outpaces their competition.

Despite today’s uncertain business climate, leaders have taken steps to identify vulnerable areas and offer their staff stability and direction to move forward. Thus, developing leaders who are trained to navigate change, difficult circumstances, and continuously build stronger teams is imperative for cultivating future-ready leadership.

The Business Case for Alignment Between Manager and Employees

Leadership development is never easy and never a destination. Recognizing your strengths and opportunities for improvement is a difficult task for individuals. Most of us have heavily biased opinions of ourselves, making it difficult to constructively self-reflect and receive feedback. We struggle to cut through all the “noise” around us that provides clues to our performance and potential.

Proven 360 feedback tools are powerful means for helping leaders reflect on their behavioral tendencies. They also provide insight into leaders’ performance from the lens of their colleagues. The very best feedback tools don’t simply provide insights into leadership behaviors. They also help leaders explore how to use their unique talents and strengths to act on feedback.

A global meta-analysis of 49,495 business units and teams, 1.2 million employees, and 45 countries empirically demonstrates that a strengths-based approach to development leads to substantially better performance and business outcomes, including:

  • 10 to 19 percent greater sales
  • 14 to 29 percent higher profitability
  • 9 to 15 percent higher employee engagement
  • 26 to 72 percent lower turnover in high turnover teams

Simply put, a strengths-based approach to 360-degree feedback is an accelerator for development. It helps participants take an individualized approach to how they can achieve their desired outcomes. In addition, it helps them embrace and maximize their natural talents and apply them to tackle new goals.

This approach is very different from a traditional 360 assessment, designed solely to evaluate employee scores, usually with spectacularly little detail and advice on how to improve. With over 50 years of research, Locke and Latham conclude that significant performance progress is much more likely to transpire when goals and feedback are specific, appropriately challenging, and routinely discussed.

A note on the authors:

This piece was co-written by Ben Wigert, Director of Research and Strategy, Workplace Management at Gallup, and Jennifer Balcom, Director of Consulting at Explorance.

How to Hire & Develop Better with Assessments

With thousands of assessments available from hundreds of publishers, it can be a daunting task to choose the ones that yield the best results for your organization.  Maybe you have made the decision to use pre-employment testing as a part of your hiring practices, or to use assessments to develop your employees (woohoo!).  But now, how do you decide which type of assessment to use?  On your quest to select and develop better talent, understanding different types of assessments can offer insights into which are best suited for specific job roles, levels, and overall business needs and goals.

At PAN, we tend to think that there are nine popular assessment types for selection and development: Cognitive Ability, Skills and Knowledge, Personality, Integrity, Values, Biodata, 360-degree Feedback, Structured Interviews, and Situational Judgment. Let us dive into the foundation of each type:

  • Cognitive Ability
    • Cognitive Ability tests are some of the strongest predictors of job performance. Usually they assess critical thinking abilities, such as verbal and mathematical ability.
  • Skills and Knowledge
    • Skills and Knowledge assessments are also strong predictors of job performance, and they are inherently job-related. These tests essentially measure how much job-relevant knowledge the test taker has at the time of test completion.
  • Personality
    • Personality assessments are extremely popular and are useful in assessing an individual’s motivations, preferences, interests, emotional make-up, and style of interacting with people and situations. These assessments can be either general or job-specific.
  • Integrity
    • Integrity tests assess character such that employers can screen out test takers with “red flag” characteristics (safety infractions, dishonesty, absenteeism, etc.) who may be a liability to the company.
  • Values
    • Values assessments attempt to match individuals to organizations with which they will fit well, based on personality, interests, and organizational culture preference.
  • Biodata
    • Biodata assessments inquire about past events that are telling of an individual’s personality, attitudes, experiences, interests, skills, and abilities. Overall, they rely on the assumption that certain aspects of someone’s past may be some of the best predictors of someone’s future job performance.
  • 360-degree Feedback
    • 360-degree feedback instruments rely on evaluations of an employee from two or more sources, giving a more complete view of the employee’s abilities and predicted performance. 360-degree feedback instruments are designed explicitly for developmental purposes only.
  • Structured Interviews
    • Structured Interviews employ standardized questions to ensure equal opportunity for all candidates, and reduce the possibility of bias that can often creep in during unstructured interviews. Items often include behavioral interview questions which assess a candidate’s communication skills and job-related competencies in real-life situations.
  • Situational Judgment
    • Situational Judgment tests (SJTs) present test takers with a hypothetical (but realistic) workplace scenario and several plausible actions in response to the scenario. Respondents are then prompted to either indicate which actions they would most likely endorse, or to rate the effectiveness of each action.

For more information on assessment types, plan on  How To Hire & Develop Better With Assessment Tools, Kelsey Stephen’s upcoming webinar on Thu, Jun 29, 2017 from 2PM – 3PM EDT.

Attendees of this free webinar will walk away knowing the following details about each assessment type:

  • A clear definition
  • The pros and cons
  • The best use cases

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