Building Leadership Bench: Junior Employees Deserve 360-Feedback too!

360-feedback surveys have long been hailed as a cornerstone of leadership development within organizations. Yet, they have predominantly targeted mid to upper management, leaving junior staff out of the equation. It’s no secret that 360-feedback surveys are a key ingredient in developing managers into great leaders and refining great leader’s self-awareness. However, the lack of application to junior employees remains a mystery. Organizations seem to think that 360-degree feedback surveys are only applicable for leadership competencies. But that’s only because other providers have only ever created static 360-feedback surveys for management.

Why perform 360-feedback surveys on junior employees?

The oversight lies in failing to recognize that the leadership competencies and behaviours included in  360-questionnaires are the very bedrock of a junior staff member's professional journey. Initiating them early in this feedback process lays the groundwork for fostering a robust leadership pipeline within organizations. While technical skills naturally develop over time, especially during the formative years when junior staff are deeply entrenched in hands-on tasks, the development of their people and early leadership skills often takes a backseat. Practically, this makes sense, but organizations can, and should do more.

A critical problem here is that organizations tend to overlook the leadership potential inherent in junior staff members. Most organizations don’t invest the time and effort into their current staff and developing them into future leaders. Here’s a couple of stats for you.

  • Only 11% of surveyed organisations believe they have a “strong” or “very strong” leadership bench (DDI World, 2021).
  • Most CEOs rank “Developing the next generation of leaders” more important and a higher concern than Economic and Business concerns (DDI World, 2023)

And here’s the simplest solution. We know that leadership development programs in early career, and even as far as college students can lead to more capable leaders in the future (Boone & Monica, 2008).  Furthermore, we know the early predictors of strong leadership skills. Emotional intelligence is one of them, and the other? Empathy. And how do we know if an individual is displaying high emotional intelligence & empathy? 360-Degree Feedback Surveys.

All of this and we haven’t even touched on current impacts of talent. When individuals feel their growth is stagnant or unrecognized, they're more likely to seek opportunities elsewhere. This not only results in the loss of talent but also incurs significant costs associated with recruitment and onboarding.

How to perform 360-feedback surveys on junior employees?  

It’s straightforward. Simplify and adapt the existing leadership 360-capability framework to suit the day-to-day of junior employees. A big part of this is shifting the focus from managerial responsibilities to skills crucial for effective teamwork, and personal growth of soft skills.

Competencies such as delegating responsibilities, coaching & mentoring, and people management isn’t exactly relevant to junior staff. However, competencies like communication, motivation, influence, relationship-building, integrity, and trust are indispensable irrespective of one's hierarchical position within an organization.

By soliciting feedback on these competencies early in their career, organizations not only pave the way for future leadership success but also demonstrate a proactive commitment to nurturing the talent pipeline. This proactive stance underscores to junior employees that they are valued stakeholders in the organization's long-term vision, instilling a sense of belonging and investment in their career progression.

Additionally, integrating 360-feedback into the developmental journey of junior employees fosters a culture of continuous improvement. By receiving constructive feedback from peers, supervisors, and even subordinates, these individuals can identify areas for growth and take proactive steps to enhance their skills. This not only benefits the individual but also contributes to the overall effectiveness and cohesiveness of teams.

Take Home: 

In the pursuit of grooming future leaders and establishing a healthy leadership bench, it's imperative to extend the benefits of 360-feedback to junior employees. By recognizing and harnessing their leadership potential early on, organizations not only fortify their talent pool but also cultivate a culture of continuous growth and development. Embracing this inclusive approach ensures that every individual, regardless of their hierarchical standing, can thrive and contribute meaningfully to the organization's success.