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Top 10 tips for designing effective 360 Feedback

13th Oct 2014
CEO Track Surveys
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Bespoke 360 Degree Feedback that aligns closely with an organisation's core capabilities, values and goals can be a development powerful tool.

As well as supporting individuals with information to help them develop their key capabilities, an organisation-based 360 can also provide team, group and firm-wide data for your leadership and talent development strategy.

If you're considering designing a bespoke 360 Degree Feedback questionnaire to align with a strategic leadership or change programme, here are 10 tips for creating a questionnaire that will engage respondents and increase both the quantity and quality of the feedback:

1. Design your 360 around key groups of related behaviours, skills and capabilities (competencies or ‘dimensions’) that are critical for the organisation.  These may already be defined by competency, leadership or management frameworks, or by statements of values and principles. Alternatively, the capabilities may be grouped by professional skills, as defined by professional or trade bodies, or regulatory or ethical standards.

2. Within each set of capabilities, create 4-6 questions or statements (also called ‘items’) against which the feedback will be given.

3. Keep your statements short, and easy to understand. Consider the audience who will be answering the questions. Will the most junior respondent be clear on what is being asked?

For example, ‘appropriately applies moderately complex learning methodologies’ sounds like corporate jargon which will have the effect of excluding potential respondents who don’t understand what ‘appropriately’ and ‘moderately complex’ indicate.  A simpler way of saying this might be ‘Solves problems with the right tools for the job’ – it’s accessible to a wider group of respondents, and is more natural in tone.

4. Ask yourself, “Can this been observed and rated?” If not, you need to change your question.

For example, can you see someone doing the following: ‘Understands own strengths and weaknesses’?  Perhaps a better way to phrase this would be ‘Openly acknowledges own strengths and weaknesses’, which would enable the respondent to say that they observe this behaviour ‘Rarely’.

5. Always use an active verb in reference to a description of a trait, so instead of ‘is future focused’, we would recommend ‘develops future-focused plans’.

6. Only ask about one observable behaviour in each question or each statement. Here is a statement provided by a client: ‘Actively seeks and acts on feedback from others, reflects and acts on own learning’. In this case, a number of separate behaviours are being described. Actively seeking feedback is not equivalent to acting on feedback, therefore it is unclear which behaviour we are asking respondents to rate. This statement should be split into at least three statements: ‘Requests feedback from others’, ‘Acts on feedback from others’, and potentially, ‘Demonstrates that he/she has acted on his/her own learning’.

7. Sentences should be consistently stated in the positive sense, rather than the negative, e.g. ‘Stays on course when difficulties arise’, rather than ‘Doesn’t change direction when difficulties arise’. 

Having a mixture of positively and negatively stated questions can be confusing for respondents. If I choose ‘Frequently’ in response to the second statement above, what exactly am I saying? A mix of positive and negatively stated items can also cause the respondent to feel they are being ‘tricked’.

8. Stay away from questions that ask for an opinion or sound like a psychological assessment, e.g. ‘Demonstrates emotional intelligence’. A question like this can be widely interpreted – everyone’s criteria for EI are slightly different.  Also, many respondents will have a vague idea what EI means, but may be thinking about different aspects of their colleague. Finally, these kinds of questions can have an implicit judgement in them, and it’s therefore advisable not to use them.

9. Remember to test all the statements against the rating scale you decide to use, so that the rating statement matches what you are asking, so for example, a statement like ‘Always asks for feedback from colleagues’ will not work with a frequency rating scale like ‘Always, Often, Seldom, or Never’.

10. Finally, it’s very important to keep the questionnaire short (maximum 40 questions, including text questions), as this will encourage respondents and learners to engage with the feedback and give better quality responses.
 

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