What Makes 360 Degree Feedback Effective?
For 360 Degree Feedback to be really effective, the process must deliver certain elements to different groups, the 360 participants, their colleagues who are providing feedback, the project sponsor and the organisation as a whole. Overall, the 360 system must also be easy to complete, robust and reliable, and have anonymity and confidentiality built in.
Those key elements should be part of the 360 process, and the 360 Degree Feedback system you use should provide and integrate all those key elements.
For 360 participants and their raters, an effective 360 software system should:
Provide clear and transparent information to the participants, what they need to do, when they need to do it, and what will happen at each stage of the process.
Give access to a personal portal that allows both participants and their raters to log in and provide feedback for the right colleague easily and without confusion – a single portal is preferable to a different email for each online form, which can create frustration when raters need to complete multiple feedback questionnaires.
Provides easy-to-navigate online questionnaires and menus that clearly show the user where they are in the system and how much of the questionnaire they have completed – and how much more there is to complete.
For participants and their line-managers, coaches or mentors, the way in which the consolidated feedback is reported is critical to their understanding and engagement with the 360.
The 360 online tool should easily generate clean, clear reports with graphics and charts that provide summary information (i.e. that flag up key feedback messages). The reports should also provide a more granular level of data to encourage more in-depth discussions and support the key messages. A good report format will also provide the ability to reflect on the feedback, set goals and create a practical development plan for the participant.
360 reports should not contain too much statistical data and jargon as this can be confusing for participants and they may spend more time trying to calculate the stats than thinking about the feedback they have received.
For HR and Training/Talent professionals, the 360 Degree Feedback system must:
Enable the creation and editing of 360 using templates, so that you don’t have to start from scratch each time.
Make communication to participants, raters and other stakeholders consistent and easy to do.
Provide the ability to create both rating and free text questions, and to place these where required within the overall online questionnaire. The system should also provide flexibility in reporting relationships (e.g. peers, boss, reports etc.).
Give lots of flexibility in the process to suit different groups and programmes, for example, allowing some participants to choose their own raters, whilst others may have their raters chosen for them.
Allow the administrator to view progress and completion easily and in real time, quickly send reminders where questionnaires have not been completed, and deal with forgotten passwords and incorrect emails automatically, rather than manually.
Project sponsor and organisation
For the project sponsor, the ability to run a smooth efficient 360 process will be a key requirement. A robust software tool that has a track record of reliability, as well as fast and professional help-desk support, are essential.
Remember that a good 360 tool that is fast and uncomplicated will encourage more people to engage with the process and provide higher levels of completion. These in turn create a more positive outcome and an appetite for more learning and development.
A system that gives the ability to tag participants and their raters with organisational categories, and create group reports, is also a system feature that will help project sponsors to report in detail on individual, departmental and with organisational feedback, and be able to measure ongoing change and ROI.
Essential technology for successful implementation
There are different options for 360 Degree Feedback systems available on the market:
Some 360 software programmes, although they are accessed online by participants and their colleagues, they still require the administrator to load a programme on to her or his PC or laptop. This can create difficulties in organisations where downloads are not permitted, and also means using more computer resources, potential memory issues etc.
A more effective way of running online 360 is by using systems that are fully online, that is, both the user and administration screens are accessed completely online with usernames and passwords.
This is a much more flexible and easy option as there is no requirement for downloads. It also means that upgrades and new features are automatically loaded when they become available.
Software As A Service
Running your 360 using Software As Service has a number of benefits including speed, flexibility, the ability to access new tools and features online, and a much more cost-effective 'cost of ownership'.
Security and confidentiality are both critical features of any 360 Degree Feedback system
To be secure, your 360 system should Security is about making sure the system is only accessible by authorised people. To be as secure as possible, a 360 Degree Feedback system should be hosted on a professional, secure website, allow access to users through system-generated usernames and passwords, provide usernames and passwords on request (not in bulk emails), and limit administration access to a small number of authorised users in the organisation. It is also a good idea to limit personal data of participants and raters only to that required for the 360 Degree Feedback exercise, for example first name, surname and email address. Other information should be kept to a minimum, and should only be used for a clear reason, e.g. department, grade or location to support aggregate and group reporting.
The 360 Feedback system should contain integral features to Keeping the feedback confidential is an important factor in the take-up of the 360 by participants and their colleagues, and ensuring people trust the system in the future: participants should not have instant access to their reports and administrators should be able to review the reports before they are provided to the participants and their coaches.
The organisation should ensure that the only people who see the individual’s 360 report are the participant her/himself, named HR or Training professionals (as part of the 360 debriefing or coaching), and the line manager, again if this is relevant to how the feedback is going to be used. This is an important part of the communications about the 360, and should also be reflected in how the online system itself is designed and operated.
Related to this is the concept of anonymity, i.e. not attributing feedback to specific raters.. In practical terms, this means that 360 Degree Feedback process, online screens and report should be designed in such a way that anonymity of reviewers is protected (apart from line manager’s feedback which is normally attributable to the line manager). Whilst there are some organisations who allow some or all raters’ feedback to be identified, it is more common and best practice, especially when first introducing 360 Degree Feedback, to provide anonymity in the process and in the feedback reports.