When well designed, a 360-degree feedback process has the potential to create lasting behavioral change. A 360-degree feedback process simply collects feedback from all directions – i.e. superiors, subordinates, and peers – in order to present a comprehensive picture of job performance. This article discusses critical design factors of a 360-degree feedback process used to create sustainable behavioral and organizational change. The authors also provide questions for future research and practical advice for making the process successful.
Four critical design factors are discussed: relevant content, credible data, accountability, and census (organization-wide) participation.
(1) Relevant content: The authors recommend using custom surveys rather than standardized tools, but they acknowledge that there’s quite a bit of debate about this. They argue that custom surveys can increase motivation and engagement due to their meaning and relevance.
(2) Credible data: You need to have reliable data, and your stakeholders also need to perceive your data as being reliable. You should use a sufficient number of raters who have adequately observed the ratee, and the ratee should choose who will be doing the rating. The raters should receive training that helps them complete the assessments accurately and helps them understand the purpose of the feedback; otherwise, ratings may be inaccurate for a number of reasons, such as raters’ beliefs that the data may be used for promotional or termination decisions. In addition, you also need a good instrument; it should be professionally constructed with clear behavioral items, it should not be made “tricky” by using randomization or reverse wording, and the rating scale should be relevant and clear. Organizations may also push to use extremely short surveys, which may not be as valid as longer ones. In all, obtaining reliable and valid data is imperative if you want to detect behavioral change.
(3) Accountability: Accountability is how you get real behavior change to happen. One way to increase accountability is to have ratees follow up with their raters. Following up demonstrates that the feedback has value, shows commitment to change, holds raters accountable, helps in getting rater buy-in, and gives raters the opportunity to further explain their ratings. The authors also argue that the manager should be included in the feedback process.
(4) Census (organization-wide) participation: Census participation is extremely important if your goal is system-wide behavioral change; including all leaders/managers has numerous benefits.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Although we know quite a bit about how to conduct a 360-degree feedback process, many questions still remain. Future research should provide answers to many practical design questions that practitioners face.
Bracken, D. W., & Rose, D. S. (2011). When does 360-degree feedback create behavior change? And how would we know it when it does? Journal of Business and Psychology, 26, 183-192.
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