The 360-degree review process is one of the most powerful tools for gathering comprehensive feedback on leadership capabilities. Obtaining subjective feedback from peers, supervisors and direct reports offers valuable insights for a leader’s personal and professional development. However, this process isn’t without its dangers and challenges. As organizations seek to leverage the potential of 360-degree reviews, they must beware of the pitfalls that will not only render their efforts ineffective but could also cause participants to lose trust on future survey efforts. Our team at MultiRater Surveys have gathered the five traps to avoid in order to maximize the benefits from your feedback programs.
1. Avoid using general “holistic” 360-degree review programs:
Challenge: While it may be true that these one-size-fits-all programs are well-researched and have statistical backing, they are a one-size-fits-all and ultimately lack the customization required to measure the competencies that are most relevant to your organization. This generally results in non-relevant and generic feedback that do not fully address individual strengths and developmental areas.
Solution: Aim for 360-degree review tools that allow for customization based on business type, roles, department goals, and responsibilities. Focus on the specific competencies that are most relevant to the participants’ role and the organization’s values. If the success factors of their role are largely based on how well they people manage, then allocate more importance on that area. This ensures feedback is targeted, actionable and aligned to their development trajectory.
2. Stay clear of questionnaire overload:
Challenge: It’s not unusual to want to create a 360 questionnaire with an extensive amount of competencies and questions. From a practical standpoint, because 360’s don’t happen every other month and can sometimes take organizations awhile to set up, it’s easy to be lured into overloading it with competencies and questions. There are two main issues:
- Participants fatigue could result in less than accurate results
- The volume of feedback will be overwhelming and there will be insufficient resources to tackle development areas
Solution: Prioritize quality over quantity. From your understanding of the participant and their responsibilities, create a questionnaire that covers key competencies and behaviours. Only competencies that have a direct impact on the leadership quality experienced by those around them. When you streamline your questionnaire, you maximize the opportunity to receive direct, well-considered responses – resulting in meaningful and actionable insights for development.
3. Be sensible when selecting respondents:
Challenge: While it is true that a 360 will necessarily involve those that work with the self-participant, not everyone who falls under that category should be selected for the review. The general rule of thumb is that all respondents must have direct experience or significant interactions with the self-participant.
Solution: Only select respondents who have regular interactions and a clear understanding of the self-participant’s performance and behaviour. This will mainly include their peers, direct reports, managers, and in certain instances can also include the CEO, other department heads and the Board of Directors. It is critical however, that participants are internal, and does not include any external participants such as clients, suppliers, etc unless there is a very good reason.
4. Inadequate Preparation:
Challenge: This one is for the HR team. Do not rush into the review process without notifying and preparing all participants as to what’s to come. Regardless of how many 360 review cycles the organization has been through, you’ll want to provide participants with a notification that clearly outlines the process, dates and the benefits to all respondents involved.
Solution: Develop a communication document that goes out to all participants at least a couple of weeks before launch. The document should clearly highlight:
- Purpose of the survey
- Who is the self-participant
- Criteria for feedback and how it will be used
- Reinforce confidentiality and promote candid, honest feedback
5. Feedback – Implementation Gap
Challenge: Gathering actionable insights is one thing, actioning on the insights is another. Once the results from the 360-degree reviews are received, translating them into practical development plans can oftentimes be a stumbling block. It’s easy to lose momentum at this point as it can be overwhelming when creating personal development plans.
Solution: As suggested earlier, the 360 questionnaire should have been set up so that the feedback received is concise, targeted and timely. As such, as the surveys are being completed, you’ll want to set up a few things to ensure there are no roadblocks when it comes time to implement the development plans.
- Ensure the leader/consultant that is charged with debriefing the survey results also has experience facilitating the development of Leadership Action Plans
- A library of learning resources that include relevant online courses and reading materials.
- Provide access to coaching and mentoring opportunities that align with the developmental needs.
Implementing 360-degree reviews is a must for all organizations, however, it isn’t without its challenges. Unclear and unrealistic expectations, questionnaire overload, participant selection, and the implementation gap can hinder the processes’ success. To fully benefit from the 360 process, organizations must consider tailored approaches, transparent communication and most importantly, follow up with the provision of sufficient and necessary resources. An organization’s ability to address these challenges is what separates a feedback-gathering process from a growth strategy.
If your organization is feeling stuck on any of the above, contact us at email@example.com.