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New research highlights best practice for 360% feedback


New research on 360 degree feedback by assessment and development providers SHL aims to provide an insight into best practice into delivering and carrying out a 360% feedback process within an organisation.

The two-year study carried out by SHL in partnership with the British Psychological Society, Department of Trade and Industry, CIPD and Roehampton Institute looked at 50 public and private sector organisations in depth as part of a bigger Feedback Project to establish how 360% feedback is currently used and how useful the process is.

The study found that 360% feedback is mainly used for development, although it is also sometimes used in annual performance reviews. There was no link in these case studies between 360% feedback and pay and reward structures. The study also discovered that 360% degree feedback is also starting to become used for strategic planning, e.g. by identifying organisation-wide strengths and weaknesses.

The study also looked at the specific skills required for delivering feedback effectively, finding little research had been done into identifying the skills needed to generate positive behaviour change at work, with most training being given to help deliver feedback from specific developmental tools. The studies' authors say 'it is time to put traditional feedback skills under a critical microscope', by aiming to identify a list of key skills and processes involved in giving feedback.

As a result of the study, best practice guidelines have been produced for 360 degree feedback. Examples of best practice findings include:

  • The best feedback providers focus on facts, not personal strengths and weaknesses, back opinions with evidence, link past assessment to future improvement
  • Important personal skills include listening, building empathy, engaging in a genuine dialogue
  • Feedback should be given in private, at the right time, and include objective setting and an action plan
  • Those who struggle with feedback focus on personal strengths and weaknesses, not tasks, avoid difficult issues, find praise difficult or embarrasing or don't believe feedback to be that important or influential
  • Feedback must be anonymous and feedback reports confidential if people are to trust the processes, although sometimes respondents can be identified e.g. in cross-functional team assessments

The study also looked briefly at attempts to measure feedback effects on performance, finding that behavioural change resulting from feedback was reported as slight to moderate by both those being given the feedback and those delivering it. It also found that informal feedback may be as important as formal feedback, even though this may mean it is not properly recorded.

For a full list of the best practice guidelines for 360% feedback published as part of the Feedback Project, telephone 020 8335 8000 (main switchboard). A number of best practice guides are available to access free on the SHL website.


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