Senior Consultant & CEO Track Surveys
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When does 360 feedback create the greatest organisational change?

19th Feb 2013
Senior Consultant & CEO Track Surveys
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From a training professional's point of view, I thought I would share with you a summary of some meta-research over the 10 years between 2001 and 2011, describing the circumstances under which 360 feedback is most likely to bring about behaviour change across a whole organisation, not just for the individuals in it.

The research shows that the key factors that need to be present are: Acceptance, Accountability and Census participation (that is, participation of all leaders and managers).  Here’s a summary:

Acceptance

Acceptance of the 360 data has been shown to have the greatest positive influence on organisational behaviour change.

To enhance acceptance, the study recommends:

1. A relevant measurement instrument that is specific and customised to the unique strategy of the organisation.

2. Credible data, that is, there must be enough raters for the feedback to be valid, and the raters must be credible from the ates’ point of view, i.e. people who are able to observe them in relevant situations, and and give meaningful feed-back.

Therefore ratees should be able to choose at least some of their own raters.

Rater training or briefings are highly recommended to improve consistency of observations and feedback quality.

Accountability:

The research indicates that building accountability into the 360 process is just as important as acceptance. 

To build accountability, at least one of the following, if not all, should be in place:

1. A minimum of one coaching session for rates on their 360 Degree Feedback

2. The involvement of the ratee’s boss in their action and development planning

3. Discussion of the feedback with direct reports and other raters

4. Consistent policies for use of 360 in other HR activities, including staffing, succession planning, high-potential selection/development, training/development selection and performance management.

The first two elements help to demonstrate the value of the feedback across the organisation, as well as the organisation's commitment to help the ratee to change. Point 3 allows for further clarification of the feedback if needed and engages raters in action planning. It also helps raters become better at rating, and calibrates their use of the 360 for the next time.

Accountability and sharing of the feedback has also been show to override resistance to behavioural change in ratees because of the involvement of other colleagues.

Census participation

The study also recommends Census participation, that is participation of all leaders and managers in 360 Degree Feedback, as this has been shown to have beneficial effect and to support behaviour change, and also to maintain the momentum and benefits of the 360 into the future.

Ideally these leaders and managers should where possible share with the organisation the benefits they have had from their 360, if not their actual feedback, which may be a step too far for some!

Adapted from The Journal of Business Psychology (2011) 26:183-192 (David W Bracken and Dale S Rose), and incorporating content from Track Surveys.
 

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