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Five important questions everyone has about 360 assessments


Written by Ruth Neligan

The 360 assessment tool began life in the Second World War as the German military sought to appraise one another’s performance. Nowadays, it’s not (always) a case of life or death, but the idea of personalising a method of assessment to achieve an impact has remained an important one when it comes to performance management.

If your organisation’s 360 assessment tool isn’t clearly identifying areas for behaviour change and implementing an impactful plan for the future behaviour change across your organisation, it’s simply another quarterly arbitrary task. It has to offer a realistic pathway for personal development and plan of action.

We’re currently conducting a survey into 360 assessment tools, placing the tools themselves under the level of scrutiny that employees have become accustomed to. The result?  Must do better.

Here are a few common queries we’ve found that people have when asked to complete a 360 assessment:

1.       Will they know what I’ve said?

When it comes to any kind of appraisal, guaranteed confidentiality means guaranteed honesty. In her essay ‘Should 360-Degree feedback be used for developmental purposes only?’ Maxine A Dalton makes the point that often this is a key concern colleagues have. She notes that people might not want to offend their colleagues in the hope that they’ll be kind in return. Equally, if they feel that their boss is really awful, they’re unlikely to be able to deliver their feedback honestly. Either way, the bias of personal relationships will always play a role in appraisals , but there are ways to minimise its impact.

2.       Why is it still on paper?

So far, our data has shown that a surprisingly high number of 360 assessments are still conducted using pens and paper. Now that we’ve got access to so many analytics at our fingertips, there are certainly easier and more efficient ways to leverage the statistics that a 360 assessment can offer. Analysing data from a handwritten page will take time that could instead be spent formulating an action plan. We rarely use paper for anything else at work, so it makes no sense to still be using it for something that should require extensive analysis.

3.       What does this have to with anything important?

360 assessment tools may have been around for a while, but this doesn’t have to mean they’re run on antiquated systems. Integrating your 360 assessment tool into your organisation’s learning management system will enable you to formulate targeted action plans by role and integrate it with your organisational goals. If a 360 assessment is only accessible through a remote system, it’s not going to be incorporated into your colleagues’ learning processes. Being able to suggest tailored learning solutions and contents according to the results of an assessment should be the ideal.

4.       Why does it all sound so generic?

Let’s be honest. No two organisations have the same competency framework. But we’ve found that a surprising number of 360 assessment tools are still created in a way that’s not specific to their organisation. If you’re hoping to foster a culture of talent management, you need to be able to offer something distinctive. Nowadays, the phrase ‘coaching culture’ is much fêted, so it’s more important than ever to embed talent management into your organisation’s unique set of competencies.

5.       Why is it only once a year?

The hardest part of any 360 assessment is making it a truly continuous process. Is it designed and implemented in a way that’s powerful enough to trigger reflection and re-direction if required? The outcomes of a 360 assessment in particular hinge on employees placing their faith in it. For example, if they’re worried about confidentiality or whether their input will be valued, they’ll just disregard the feedback they receive straight away. Colleagues need to equipped with the tools to reflect on their own performance, construct an action plan, and integrate it into their working lives.

It’s clear that there’s room for improvement when it comes to 360 assessment tools, but we want to find out more about what 360 performance appraisals are like at your organisation. What would you like to see in future? Click here to spend five minutes telling us and you could win a Kindle Fire or two tickets to see the Challenge Cup final at Wembley!

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