360 Degree Assessment

by Julia Miller

Introduction

So what is 360 degree feedback?

Below is one of the most frequently quoted definitions.

... the systematic collection and feedback of performance data on an individual or group, derived from a number of the stake-holders in their performance.

Peter Ward, 360-Degree Feedback

Think of it as a personal gap analysis: 360 degree feedback compares how you perceive your performance at work with the perception of those people with whom you interact regularly. It tells you what others know about you or about the impact that you have on others – things which you might not be aware of.

Used well, it can help you in two major areas:

  • If you are a manager, it can give you a lot of information about the people you manage
  • Used as a tool for individual development, it helps you to identify your priorities for improving your performance

How does it work?

During a 360 degree feedback, you are asked to rate either yourself or a colleague against a set of behaviours which have been identified as being critical for success. These behaviours are usually based on the competency framework of your organisation or department. You will be one of up to 12 ‘raters’ who will be asked to give feedback. The sum of responses from the raters generates a report, which then forms the basis for discussion at individual or team level. More and more frequently, this process now takes place on line.

Why should you use it?

Used in conjunction with well-developed competency frameworks, this technique can give you targeted feedback on those factors you have identified as being critical to the success of your team, department or organisation and can help you develop an action plan for achieving success. It not only tells you what has been achieved but also – and this is equally useful – how people have achieved it. It does this by identifying the specific behaviours people have used.

A well-designed 360 can help you and your team break down general statements of areas of competence, such as ‘Communication Skills’, into very specific behaviours against which you can be measured. The process is designed to be non-judgemental, with raters required to measure you only against behaviours.

You can then use the results to focus on key areas of change and performance improvement.

Note

You may hear other terms, such as multi-rater feedback, all-round feedback, 360 degree appraisal, peer evaluation and upwards feedback. All these mean either the same or much the same as 360, the main difference lying in the number of people involved in rating a performance.

You may also hear the term 180 degree feedback. This is slightly different, as it applies only to top-down or bottom-up feedback.

However, all of the above are based on the principles that we will be covering in this topic.