The biggest challenge for anyone working in learning and development is aligning your people with your organisation’s goals, and ensuring the way they contribute will help you achieve them.
360-degree feedback tools can play an important role in this. It helps people gain a better understanding of how they are performing. It brings things to the forefront that they might not have been aware of. And this self-awareness is the starting point for unlocking behaviour change.
The role of 360-degree feedback
360-degree feedback provides individuals with feedback – on their behaviour, skills and competencies – from others they work with. Typically, people will receive feedback from their manager, peers and people who report directly to them. In some cases, external customers are also asked for their feedback.
Though 360-degree feedback tools can be a great method for creating behaviour change, organisations don’t always see results.
But in their research paper, ‘How does 360-degree feedback create behaviour change? And how would we know when it does?’, David Bracken and Dale Rose identify four characteristics of a 360-degree process that are required to successfully create behaviour change.
So, how can we ensure results?
Bracken and Rose identified that behaviour change is more likely to be achieved when the 360-degree feedback tool is tailored to the specific objectives, values and people strategies of the organisation.
This is why customised tools are often more effective. However, well-designed off-the-shelf tools can be valuable, as long as they are relevant and valid. Most consultancies will offer both off-the-shelf and customised tools.
This is reliant on a number of things, including:
Having a sufficient number of raters respond, all of whom have had a sufficient opportunity to observe the individual, i.e. they work closely with them
Having the person choose the raters (with manager approval)
Using a professionally constructed feedback tool with clear behavioural items
Using a rating scale that is relevant, clear and reduces errors
Making sure raters are appropriately guided in how to provide feedback.
Individuals need to be made accountable for their own behaviour change. And follow up plays a key role here. Having a manager or coach regularly checking in with the individual will increase their sense of accountability, as will discussions with raters about the feedback they gave. In fact, this is a key element of the non-anonymised Truth Teller format. The actions that come out of the feedback should be built into a personal development plan that is continually followed up.
But follow up isn’t just about accountability. The involvement of a manager, rater or coach also helps the person to understand the feedback they have been given and identify the things they need to act on in the first place. It gives the individual a proper chance to discuss the feedback and the support they need in developing strategies to achieve behaviour change. We would recommend at least one session is delivered by an accredited coach.
Whole organisation participation
All leaders in the company need to take part in the process. This helps demonstrate that leadership take behaviour change seriously, thereby increasing employee engagement with the process. And as everyone gets used to both giving and receiving feedback, the quality and reliability of the feedback will improve.
Or, is non-anonymity the best answer?
360-degree feedback is usually given anonymously. However, some organisations are starting to move towards a more open approach, where feedback is attributed to the individual who gave it.
These organisations are finding that taking away the anonymity makes it easier for people to act on the feedback. It opens up an opportunity for people to discuss the feedback they receive with the individual who gave it, so they can better understand exactly what they need to change or work on. And perhaps this non-anonymity is the real key to unlocking behaviour change.