360 Degree Assessment

by Julia Miller

In a nutshell

1. The 360 degree process

There are now a large number of 360 degree instruments on the market. Many are available on line, others come as written forms, but they all use software to derive the report from the ratings.

  • A 360 degree instrument may be ready-made, ready-made but to some extent adaptable, or tailor-made to suit your specific needs.
  • You must first decide your overall and specific objectives, and whether the process is to develop individuals or groups.
  • Who will be taking part?
  • How will you design the questions, which should be clear, unambiguous and based on observable behaviour?
  • Will the rating scales be based on effectiveness, potential, ranking or frequency?
  • What do you want the final report(s) to look like?


2. Choosing raters

Normally, between 10 and 12 raters need to be chosen, though the number can be lower.

  • Choose a range of people who you work with regularly and who know enough of what you do to be able to form an opinion on the behaviours they are being asked to measure you against.
  • Choose people who have known you for at least six months.
  • If you pick too wide a mix, with too many different perspectives, it becomes difficult to identify exactly where you might need to change your behaviour.


3. Preparing for your feedback

Research has shown that behavioural change is greater when trained consultants are used to give feedback. They can ensure that the report is clearly understood and that any potential negative reactions are managed. If you have been rated, look at your report and make sure that you understand it.

  • Does the information in the report seem accurate and valid?
  • Look at the responses from different rater groups. How does the information differ between the groups?
  • Consider whether you want to change those behaviours that might have been identified as needing change by your raters?
  • What specific behaviours do you want to do more of and are there any that you want to do less or differently in the future?


4. Using 360 degree feedback

360 can be used for managing the performance of individuals at all levels of the organisation, for teams, for departments and for the organisation as a whole. Its primary use is as a measurement of skills. It can also be used as a diagnostic and as a stimulus for action.

  • Personal development: as a diagnostic for development needs and a focus for action
  • Team development: examining others’ perception of your team’s performance, measured against key performance indicators
  • Performance management: often as part of an appraisal system. 360’s clear focus on behaviours means it is often used to reinforce behavioural strengths.
  • Other in-house programmes, often as part of a culture change process
  • Measurements of customer or supplier satisfaction


5. Making 360 degree feedback work for you

To get the best out of a 360 degree, you need to do the following:

  • Use informed and skilled facilitators
  • Allocate sufficient resources to support the process
  • Always keep the end purpose of the process in mind.

And here are some tips for successful 360s:

  • Hold those involved accountable for implementing any subsequent action plans
  • Introduce a new 360 process gradually and carry out a pilot first
  • Keep your promises about the confidentiality of the report and make sure that there are built-in checks and balances to ensure honest, specific and fair rating.


6. Questionnaire and report examples

Reports will be asked to rate the participant on a scale ranging, for example, from ‘Needs considerable development’ to ‘Very effective’.

  • The behaviours under consideration will vary according to the objective behind the 360 assessment.
  • The report is usually presented as a bar chart.
  • Apart from the person’s manager, other bars are based on the average for that group.
  • There will be a bar chart for each competency measured.


7. Some case studies

Case studies of 360 instruments that have been used in real life situations illustrate the usefulness of this tool.

  • The board of a manufacturer of innovative hi-tech products decided that it needed to improve the appraisal skills and performance management system within the organisation.
  • A county council wanted to set standards above and beyond expectations. In particular, the Chief Officers Group felt that it wanted to improve performance.
  • One organisation wanted help in defining the leadership style they needed for the future.