The 360 degree feedback report is the most important element of the whole process. It is what the recipient receives and what the conversations are formed from. Here is a simple, effective layout that gives you just what you need for the behavioural element of the report
It tells you exactly what the feedback was. Look at the disparity in the direct reports. How useful to know that range, rather than know it is 3.8 on average. We use this style of reporting alot and we give 360 degree feedback debriefs from it on a regular basis. It takes a moment to understand what you are being told but then it is just what you need.
Summaries with averages, and spidergraphs, and bar charts have their place and we often use them, but give me this structure any time I’m looking to talk to someone about what peoply really said.
I will be facilitating a session on ‘How to use 360 degree feedback to help develop people" at the upcoming Talent Management forum hosted by Instep. If you are interested in attending then please visit the forum webpage and contact Instep directly. See details below
A great 360 degree feedback report always supports a great conversation with the recipient of that report – that is the purpose of the report.
We have found that in many cases there is a template for the structure of a great 360 degree feedback report. We often follow this structure
- Summary table of who has given feedback; saves looking it up
- Overall, by competency, tabular summary of feedback (not averages); gives that headline view
- For each competency, a tabular summary of feedback; start to build the detail
- Within each competency, graphical representation of feedback for each behaviour with a summary of the narrative comments received; the body of the report and where conversations are formed
We use various graphical reports to meet specific client requirements but this structure holds fairly well and supports an organised, clear debrief – which is of course the point.
Wikipedia’s entry on 360 degree feedback has a section on accuracy. I’ve copied it below
A study on the patterns of rater accuracy shows that length of time that a rater has known the person being rated has the most significant effect on the accuracy of a 360-degree review. The study shows that subjects in the group “known for one to three years” are the most accurate, followed by “known for less than one year,” followed by “known for three to five years” and the least accurate being “known for more than five years.” The study concludes that the most accurate ratings come from knowing the person long enough to get past first impressions, but not so long as to begin to generalize favorably (Eichinger, 2004).
It has been suggested that multi-rater assessments often generate conflicting opinions, and that there may be no way to determine whose feedback is accurate (Vinson, 1996). Studies have also indicated that self-ratings are generally significantly higher than the ratings of others (Lublin, 1994; Yammarino & Atwater, 1993; Nowack, 1992).
Let’s take the first item. Very interesting – now you’d love to know the definition of accuracy but that last sentence … past first impressions..generalize favourably is fascinating. Something to have in mind if you select people for 360s.
Now the second item I find to be a classic issue. It supposes that conflicting opinions implies inaccuracy. I don’t find that at all. Often two people have completely different impressions of me. That is why the emotionally intelligent among you changes the way we behave slightly to reflect the person we are dealing with. Many of the greatest insights I’ve had in debriefing 360 degree feedback have arisen when we can see a range of feedback responses and we start to discuss why half the direct reports say one thing and the other half something quite different.
This last point is why we always recommend showing all of the response from 360 rather than an average. It is the differences that sometimes tell the story.
I’ve been working on analysing how our various marketing channels work for us. It was a great reminder of the need to measure everything! Its all very well having a feel for it, but a bit (or a lot) of data is very very useful. The next trick of course is to have that data in an organised, simple, to-hand format that you can readily review and make decisions from.
Not hard to see the parallels with 360 degree feedback or performance review. If I would like to discuss performance or development of an individual, some data (not necessarily numerical) is a great starting point. Gut feel only gets you so far.
The work coincided with handing over a draft competency framework to a client. We’re putting a lot of effort in to asking the right questions of the client’s managers. They’ll be using the framework specifically for a 360 degree appraisal process and it will be more than helpful if we get the measurement framework right first.
I’ve been in Switzerland the last few weeks with my family. We’ve been staying on the border of french and german speaking Switzerland. It has been interesting watching my children (11 and 6) handling the communication. My son has made some friends in the street we are staying in. To great amusement, they have been using a form of "clangers" communication combined with much pulling of faces. But they’ve managed to play together – with a lot of smiling getting over a lot of difficulty. My daughter has bravely looked to purchase a few items, practicing her french and with the goodwill of the assistants she has come away with what she has wanted.
Kids have a natural knack of using a smile to get past a difficulty and most assistant’s can’t help but want to help a child. The boys in the street want to be able to play so they get past the communication problem. Basically, good will on most situations gets past the communication difficulty.
For any competency framework for 360 degree feedback or assessment on a performance appraisal form you can bet that communication will be a key requirement. And on a staff survey you can bet that communication is raised as an issue. Perhaps some times we should also assess people’s goodwill to each other. The manager that then struggles with communication may have less of a challenge if the people they communicate with acknowledge that they struggle with "inter-personal skills" and give them a little leeway.
Just a thought!
I’ve just completed writing our performance appraisal white paper. After a little editing from others and a lot of effort to make it beautiful this will be available to all of our newsletter subscribers. If you are interested in the white paper then please do subscribe to the newsletter from our blog or from our website.
In outline, the white paper is structured in the order that we recommend you think about performance appraisals; gives some background thinking on each topic and lays out the decisions you should be making. Performance appraisals are not an area we feel you can be too prescriptive on – what works for one client does not necessarily work for another. So, we hope this approach gives you the topic areas you need to consider and the framework to tailor your current performance appraisal forms and systems or build a new structure completely.
Get in touch one way or another (if you would like to get a previously issued 360 degree feedback white paper then be sure to use the contact us form on the website and mention it in the notes – we only need your email address if all you want is to subscribe).
A client of ours sent through a 360 degree feedback question set today for us to take a glance at. The client had run their 360 last year and following a chat we had, he was looking to reduce some of the peer questions and questions that didn’t work too well last year (we gave him some reporting that helped identify where there were significant Not Applicable answering).
In the note, he asked whether we generally saw the same questions being asked year in year out. The short answer is ‘yes’. I got to thinking ‘why?’.
First, consistency gives you the ability to compare one period to another.
Second, you would expect that the behaviours desired wouldn’t change too much from one year to another.
Third, if they do change then you would expect it to be a subset. Perhaps change management becomes more relevant one year than another. Perhaps a employee survey has identified an area you would like to research and highlight.
360 degree feedback both gains feedback for the individual – allowing them to make their great choices – and sends the signal of what the organisation values. Consistency makes sense here.
I have a number of debriefs coming up for clients. It is one of the best parts of my job. I really enjoy the conversations that I have, meeting the people behind a report, and seeking the insights that are in a 360 degree feedback report.
As I was planning my time for the upcoming weeks, I reflected on a practice that I have settled into for preparing for a 360 debrief.
A day or two before a debrief I read the report for the first time and make hardly any notes. Takes about 15 minutes.
On the day before the debrief I have an indepth read and make my notes – sign up for our white paper if you want to see our recommendations on how to do a debrief (or get in touch for one of our training courses).
Then, at the meeting, I share the report with the individual and I read it at the same time as them – keeping an eye out for their reactions as they read it.
Now, I’m not saying that you should follow this timetable, but the basic structure; scan read, detail read, review makes a lot of sense to me. I like the gaps in between because it suits how my mind works – I become familiar with the material with this structure and I start to intuitively see the links in the 360 degree feedback report.
Not wishing to be provocative – just want to make sure we ask this question every now and again. And I’m not trying to lead you to an answer of "we don’t need to do them". But, rather than just do performance appraisals every year because you always have done, just take out a 2 hour session with a couple of colleagues and write down – why are we doing performance appraisals?
We think you will come up with two distinct sets of reasons. Organisational reasons and indvidual reasons. The organisation reasons will be around monitoring performance, identifying learning needs. The individual reasons will be more about ensuring that everyone knows how they are doing, giving opportunity to describe what they would like to do in the future.
Of course the clever part is – after you have written down these reasons you have to ask. Does our performance appraisal process and system deliver against these objectives? Inevitably there will be gaps and this offers the opportunity to tweak and improve the process for all concerned. If the process and system has so evolved away from the original purpose then a complete rethink may be in order.
We often work with organisations that are in these stages – let us know if we can help you by getting in touch via the website. If you’re likely to be interested in the future, sign up for our newsletter and we’ll keep in touch that route and send you white papers as they arrive.
Across some of our clients, and across a number of sectors we are being asked to provide some benchmark feedback on 360 degree appraisal. Organisations are increasingly interested in knowing how their manager or professional compares to a peer group within the organisation or in similar industries.
We are also looking at supporting organisations in determining how their company compares to others. The aim here is to simply provide an overall benchmark "score" from a peer group.
As long as you can accept the compromise of a standard question set (or at least a core set of standard questions) then we can support this requirement. We’ll have some views on how you best use your data and we’ll also like to guide you on how you balance this numerical information with the rich narrative and diversity of 360 degree appraisal responses.
Not for the first time, we find our customers nudging us in a certain direction and we like it!
Probably the most common section on a performance appraisal form is an objectives section. Normally in two parts – review of past year, and setting of new objectives – and designed to get targets set against which the next appraisal can be assessed, I would say 90% of forms we see have this section. But why? A previous post on goal setting gives the background to how this section came to pass but we find a number of roles for which objective setting doesn’t work that well.
There are two main categories of role that don’t fit to the objectives structure. First, are constant repetitive jobs. Call centres, manual workers, programmers. Most of these roles have their objectives built into the day-to-day role. The objective is to do the day-to-day job correctly. These jobs are better assessed by competence (can I do it) and key indicators (did I do it). Objectives are useful for people who have a wider role within the organisation or have project work as part of their remit – which could of course include some of the examples I have given.
The second category is fast moving industry roles. I once ran a call centre operation. While I had an objective to answer 95% of calls within 15 seconds, frankly that was an hourly task not something I could achieve over a year – it was my job, not an annual objective.
I would rather see regular competency and indicator based assessments than force in an objectives section where it doesn’t fit. The key aim is to use the performance appraisal process to help people understand how they are performing, give guidance on improvement, and generate development plans that can be supported and implemented.
One of my professors on my MBA was very concerned by managerialsm. He had an ingrained suspicion of managers dictating what people should do. He was scathing on the topic of managers driving people’s behaviours. I always suspected that he saw much of what happened in business as a necessary evil.
One interesting area is the assessment of values during a perfomance appraisal – is the individual exhibiting the desired behaviours of the organisation? The managerialistic concern is that the organisation is trying to impose its behaviours on its people. Some indentikit indivual is turned out with individualism frowned upon and positively discouraged.
In theory I share the concern. Diversity is beneficial both as a public good and to an organisation. Identikit thinking leads to mediocrity. That said, most organisations espouse a set of values that most people can sign up to. So, as part of the performance appraisal session it strikes me as a reasonable topic of conversation. Indeed, should a manger feel that an employee is actiing in a manner that is outside of the values or is causing problems for others due to their behaviour then it is incumbent on them to raise the issue. The trick is to ensure the values are not a straight jacket.
At an organisation level it is useful to know where the values are less embedded than elsewhere. Training courses around values when done properly can ensure that the appropriate culture for that industry and this organisation are developed.
So, while I shared some of my former professor’s concerns, my practical experience with performance reviews is that including a values section is useful for all concerned.
I’m busy writing a performance appraisal white paper. It is structured differently from our 360 degree appraisal white paper. As I’ve completed my research and based on our own client experiences it has become clear that there is no right way to do performance appraisal just things you should have thought about. Ignorance is what you are trying to avoid!
So, the performance appraisal white paper is structured to make sure we hit each topic, talk about options but not prescribe the approach you should take. You’ll be able to take your own unique organisational experience and knowledge and apply it as you see fit.
If this is likely to be of interest to you then use the "sign up for free" box on the website or blog and we’ll get a copy to you when it is completed.
Here’s a quick list of items that can be useful to have to hand if you are going to start working on a new competency framework. Doesn’t matter if this is for a 360 degree appraisal, recruitment initiative, or training programme – just get this together before you start
- Recruitment literature
- Director presentations
- Strategy documents
- Brand values
- Old frameworks
- Survey results / questionnaires
- Performance appraisal documents
- Any 360 degree appraisals that hang around
- Job descriptions
- Customer brochures (particularly ones that describe service / customer ethic)
Get the idea? Just the act of collecting the information will help you start to think about the organisation and what it is to be great working here.
August is a traditional holiday period in the UK, with the kids off and most of us taking a 2 week break at some point during the month. Getting 360s completed during this period can be challenging as a balance is struck between having a short enough period over which to track progress while allowing for people to be away or busy on their return.
Assuming that you cannot avoid August (or any other holiday period if not UK based) then our suggestion is that you are flexible. The attraction of firm deadlines which you press people to complete against starts to fall apart during this period. Better to be flexible and work with people than force them to complete in a rush to hit a timetable. Schedule those debrief sessions with a bit of slack after the official close date and you take a lot of strain away.
Completion rates in 360 feedback vary widely. We see 80% completion rates as the bottom end of expectations – much lower and you can break the credibility of the process. Once you pass 95% you are often hitting diminishing returns for your effort. Some care over who you select to give the 360 feedback can save heartache later chasing down completion.
And, if you are struggling to get the 360s done? Focus on the important. So, we want the self and line manager appraisals completed together with 2 or 3 of any other groupings. Better to have good quality that great quantity. So, chase the right people rather than continued, louder, general chasing.
It goes without saying that 360 degree appraisal software is useful in supporting you with this but it requires a human to sense the subtleties of when to remind – turn off the automated renewals!