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A review of 360 research shows that when best practice approaches are used 360 programmes can lead to increased self-awareness and improved performance (e.g. Fleenor, Taylor and Craig, 2008).

However, when done poorly, 360-degree feedback programmes can lead to disengagement and a reduction in performance (Nowack & Mashihi, 2012).

In this two-part blog we use research literature and independent best practice guides to summarise the range of factors that constitute a successful 360 programme.

1. How to design the 360 survey

    • The survey must be job relevant, describing the behaviours that are needed for successful job performance, and in line with the company’s culture and values e.g. by using well-designed competency models. (Gray et al, Best Practice Guidelines)
    • The survey must be relevant to the raters and their day-to-day interaction with the individual, and offer a response option that allows them to say “I don’t know.” (Gray et al, Best Practice Guidelines)
    • There is still more research needed in terms of what constitutes the best survey rating scales, although generally using between 4 and 7 points on the scale is optimal. There is a suggestion that the inclusion of comparison data (how well is the individual doing compared to others) can be especially useful for performance evaluation, development and succession planning (Nowack & Mashihi, 2012).
    • Including open-ended questions can be beneficial in leading to improved performance (Smither et al, 2004), but feeding back lots of negative comments needs to be managed carefully. (Gray et al, Best Practice Guidelines)

2. How to communicate the 360 survey and gain commitment:

      • Gain commitment and sponsorship from senior managers, e.g. by getting them to do it first and/or running a pilot in one area of the organisation
      • If the company culture is already open, honest and based on mutual trust, and people are genuinely interested in improving their performance, it will be easier to introduce the 360
      • Give the survey a clear purpose and objectives – align them with organisational goals and strategies and link to existing processes (e.g. performance management)
      • Clear and positive communication is essential
      • Provide a point of contact for questions
      • Brief the raters on the goals of the 360 programme and tips for completing the survey, including ways to avoid biased judgements.

Gray, A., Lewis, A., Fletcher, C., Burke, E., Mackay, J., Kubelius, E., & Lindley,P. (2006). 360-degree feedback: Best practices guidelines. (From British Psychological Society website)

In part 2 we’ll share our thoughts on how designate the 360 raters and how to give effective feedback.

Sarah Clapperton is a Director at Bloojam Consulting and a Chartered Occupational Psychologist with 20 years experience working in selection and development. She now specialises in working with leaders and senior sales people.