Implementing an Effective 360 Feedback Program

By Posted in - 360 Feedback on May 1st, 2013 0 Comments

Implementing an effective 360 feedback program is not an easy task. There are a number of key components such as preliminary implementation planning, making program design decisions, and ensuring effective feedback and developmental planning sessions. In this blog, I want to outline the key features of each of these components.

Implementation Planning

An effective program starts with preliminary implementation planning. The following are key features of this component:  

Define Objectives – An effective 360 program should have clear objectives. In a well-designed 360 program, there are objectives for both the organization as well as the individual participant. Here are some examples of possible objectives:

  • Identify Top Performers from a Competency Perspective
  • Training Needs Analysis to Target Training Dollars
  • Inform and Drive Individual Development Processes
  • Strengthen Organizational Capabilities Key to Strategic Direction
  • Identify Top Performing Business Units from a Competency Perspective

Prepare the Communication Plan – This plan would include the program objectives but also would describe the 360 process that will be followed, project timelines and how success of impact will be measured.

Integrate with Other Talent Management Programs – An effective 360 program should have clear ties to other talent management programs. Developmental planning is an obvious process tied to a 360 program. However, other possible ties could exist with succession planning, performance appraisal and even compensation.

Establish Senior Sponsorship – Effective 360 programs should have the visible support of senior leadership. This support should be reflected both in key leadership communications as well as direct involvement in the 360 process and follow up actions. Here are some examples of how senior leaders could show support:

  • Participate as a participant
  • Participate as a rater
  • Participate in subsequent developmental planning meetings
  • Discuss in group meetings
  • Include in organizational communications

Specify Roles and Accountability for Implementation and Follow Through – There are several key roles and accountabilities in a 360 project. One or more individuals should be identified as project managers. These individuals are responsible for executing each of the elements that we have discussed so far. Another key role is that of a rater. Effective raters should have ample opportunities to observe the participant’s work behavior and be motivated to provide objective evaluations. There should also be qualified individuals to facilitate individual feedback and developmental planning sessions.

Program Design Decisions

This next component focuses on the content and processes of the program. Key features include:

Content – Typically a 360 survey is focused on job relevant competencies and their associated behaviors. A key decision is the selection of an appropriate competency model. Ideally, one would use a fully defined competency model with associated key behaviors and performance standards. It also would be ideal to provide an appropriate orientation to the model for participants and raters. 

Inclusion of Perspectives – There are different possible types of raters to include in a 360 project. The simplest project would only include the participant and his or her manager. Other rater types include peers, direct reports and customers. Including different rating perspectives allows a participant to see if there are differences in how different types of raters view their performance.

Rater Identification – There are two different possible procedures for selecting raters for participants in a 360 project. The participant can select their own raters if preferred or you could have the manager select the raters. The manager option helps ensure that raters are selected that will provide a balanced and objective perspective of performance.   

Individual Report Distribution – There are three different possible procedures for distributing reports for participants in a 360 project. You can send the report to the participant alone if the purpose is to provide input for self-managed development. You can distribute the report to both the participant and his or her manager to provide input into performance discussions and formal developmental planning. The most common option is to distribute reports to HR representatives to facilitate developmental planning with both the manager and the participant.

Elements of an Effective Feedback Session

A key component for actually producing a positive impact in a 360 program is how feedback is delivered. The following are key features:

HR Involvement – HR involvement is a key component. A qualified HR professional can facilitate an objective review of the assessment results and engage the participant in a non-threatening discussion of possible development needs,  HR also is a key resource for providing various developmental resources such as coaching, training, or ongoing feedback.

Soliciting Reactions and Insights – The feedback session often starts with an overall review of the participant’s reactions and insights to the 360 process. This is a good way to break the ice, build rapport and identify opportunities for process improvement.

Exploring and Identifying Themes – The next part of the feedback session should focus on a review of the results of the assessment. First go through the competency results to identify overall strengths and development needs. See if there are any patterns or relationships in the strengths or weaknesses. Is the individual strong in interpersonal skills? Decision-making skills? Next, examine if there are any patterns in how different perspectives view the individual’s performance. Do direct reports consistently report higher results? Is the self-rating consistently too harsh or too lenient? Finally, examine whether a given perspective might be better than another for certain competencies. For example, direct report ratings should be given more consideration for a competency like “Developing Talent”.

Identifying Developmental Targets – The final step of the feedback process should be identifying those areas that the individual is committed to working on to improve performance. You should explore the individual’s career aspirations and interests to identify which possible developmental targets have the most relevance to the individual’s goals. You also should explore which competencies are going to be most relevant for helping the organization or business unit reach current objectives. A final consideration should be to what extent does the individual commit to the need for improvement and how much opportunity or resource is available for improvement. Usually, two to three development targets are identified in the final stage of the feedback session.

Elements of an Effective Developmental Planning Meeting

The final component is where the rubber meets the road. The process has to produce strong and actionable developmental planning. Key features include:

Plan Preparation and Review – A good practice is to have the participant prepare a draft of a development plan. Provide the participant with a suggested structure for this plan. Often organizations have adopted a standard form. If not many forms are available on line. This draft plan should be reviewed by HR prior to presentation to the manager. This step helps ensure a quality presentation.

Presentation and Finalization of Plan – The next step is to have the participant present the plan to the manager.  HR should be present for the discussion. Often a slide show format is used. The presentation should include the participant’s reactions and insights to the 360 process and results as well as a review of the identified development targets with supporting rationale. The participant should also cover any resources or support needed. After the presentation, HR should facilitate a discussion of the manager’s feedback and inputs. The goal is to reach agreement on a finalized plan.

Tracking Progress – The final element of the developmental planning meeting is to decide on how to provide appropriate follow up on developmental activities and progress. Tracking methods should be discussed. A variety of methods could be used including regular feedback sessions, review of work outputs, or re-administration of a 360 survey at a future point in time. Timeframes should be discussed. Based on changing circumstances and priorities, the development plan may be revised during the review discussions.

Patrick Hauenstein, Ph.D.

About Patrick Hauenstein, Ph.D.

Patrick Hauenstein is the President and Chief Science Officer for OMNIview. During his free time Pat likes to cook. He is particularly fond of traditional southern cuisine. Pat is also an animal lover ...
Read More About Patrick