A 360-degree feedback survey is a great tool for individual development, but it can also provide a wealth of information to organization leaders about the company’s culture, training opportunities, and succession planning needs.
To be clear, I’m talking about looking at aggregate results—not individual scores—to maintain the confidentiality and integrity important to the 360-feedback process. Here are some examples:
Company Culture: Because the organization culture is typically most influenced by its leadership, group 360 survey results provide a unique insight into how leaders think and what matters most to them. For example, in one company we found that overall scores were high in the areas of results orientation and performance management. This translated into a culture where micromanagement was high, and innovation and creativity were low (also shown in the 360 results). 360 feedback can be used to help shape the company culture by measuring those behaviors most valued by the organization. As Peter Drucker would say, “What’s measured improves.”
Training Needs: When looking at aggregate results, we can easily see, for example, that managers may have scored poorly on “Delegates both routine and critical tasks or responsibilities.” However, that may not mean that leaders need training in delegation techniques, which may be a logical conclusion for many; it could actually be an indicator that managers need to learn how to better coach their direct reports, or that there is a lack of trust in general. When observing the entire 360 feedback report in aggregate, rather than simply viewing individual questions, we can start to see a story emerging. These issues can then be used to create a comprehensive training plan that addresses real problems in the organization.
Succession Planning: So, this is where it is helpful to see individual scores—but be careful. Individual 360-feedback results should only be used for succession planning if the participants understand up-front that their scores will be used for this purpose. Then, individual results should only be used as a starting point in identifying and developing high-potential leaders. Group (aggregate) results are also very useful in this scenario. With a 360 feedback group report you will be able to see the characteristics (culture) of your current leadership team, the strengths that can be leveraged, and the holes that need to be filled. For example, if your current leadership team scores low on “Managing Change,” and you have some critical initiatives starting where change management is important, promote or hire for that quality.
Many companies conduct 360 surveys, but don’t fully utilize the potential of the group results. Some of the most powerful insight comes from understanding the profile of the best leaders and what they do differently from the average group. Results from 360 feedback can also be compared to business performance metrics such as employee engagement, performance appraisals, etc.
Join the conversation: How have you used group 360 feedback data? What are some other potential uses?