Is 360 feedback THE key development tool post-pandemic?

360 feedback on demand concept

Is 360 feedback THE key development tool post-pandemic?

Full disclosure time – we LOVE 360 feedback. We have long advocated its use and value in supporting personal and organisational development. And yes, we do sell 360 feedback tools too. That notwithstanding though, we want to explain why 360 may become an even more important development tool for businesses and individuals in a post-pandemic world of work.

1. Appetite for feedback

The growth in demand for feedback was already snowballing well before Covid-19 proved the ultimate workplace disrupter. Employees are hungry for feedback that aids their personal and career development, and organisations are eager to foster cultures where such feedback flows freely to further overall organisational effectiveness.
As such, there was more interest in ‘always on’ platforms or free-to-all 360 degree feedback platforms enabling both push – the organisation to setup feedback cycles to support specific development of specific groups, and pull – making it easy for individuals to invite feedback based on competency or cultural frameworks on an ad hoc feedback.
So, in a world where we are even more geographically dispersed, and with the very real probability of many more of us working remotely the majority of the time, we expect people to be even more eager to utilise tools such as 360 to gather developmental feedback.

2. Managing in the ‘new normal’

These same trends of course mean that many managers were already finding they have far fewer opportunities to observe team members ‘in person’ and to provide developmental feedback. And in a ‘new normal’ that is expected to look quite different for many of us – certainly predominantly office-based workers – managers and organisations need to make sure they are still promoting a feedback culture and enabling feedback to be given and received. And this should happen through both formal and informal channels.

3. Feedback from multiple sources

But with feedback, it isn’t just about that employee-manager axis. We have already outlined the limitations of relying just on this. We can also benefit from receiving feedback from multiple sources, be it peers, suppliers or customers as well as our manager. From people that we interact and communicate with in different forums and in different ways. Doing this can be hugely powerful in giving us a more rounded picture of how we are perceived by others. It is instrumental from a personal development perspective in highlighting blind spots and informing training needs and priority areas.

4. Organisational development insights

Meanwhile from an organisational point of view, aggregate level 360 feedback data can provide crucial insights for business leaders. At a time of unprecedented change for organisations, and as they set out plans for the months ahead, some of the skills and competencies they now need from their employees and leaders will change in order to deliver their strategy. Many of us will need to work in different ways, to flex and adapt ourselves.
Group 360 degree feedback findings can therefore shine a useful spotlight on trends and possible skills gaps, allowing organisations to address early on where they need to focus development efforts in order to prepare for the new normal.

Examples showing how feedback is changing (case studies)

Of the organisations with whom we work on feedback initiatives, a number of them have already been adapting 360 feedback programmes (before Covid-19 arrived) to better promote an open feedback culture and enable more ‘in the moment’ feedback. Here are a few examples of how they’re doing this:

Global insurance firm: Using a short/qualitative-based questionnaire

This firm wanted a shorter and qualitative 360 questionnaire. Their people felt much of the value of the report came from the qualitative comments so, they want to make the process much simpler and quicker, whilst not compromising on quality.
But in adopting such a shift, there are a few considerations:
Communication: In adopting this employee-driven change, make sure to tell people so they know they’ve been heard. Some could even be invited to support the design or validation of the new process.
Content: It can be tricky to decide on what to include in a shorter questionnaire. We suggest starting by revisiting the purpose of your 360 process by asking yourselves these questions:

  • Why are we running a 360 process for this population?
  • What do we want to achieve through the 360 programme/ what will success look like?
  • Which behaviours/competencies really align with the current strategy and will take us forward?

Quality of feedback: With fewer questions and a qualitative focus, offer guidance to feedback providers before rollout on how to give quality written feedback.
Best practice: It is essential that all quantitative question items reflect single, observable behaviours, and are actionable. Qualitative questions should encourage feedback providers to give examples to back up their feedback.

Financial services firm: Project-based feedback

This is a very matrixed organisation, which is heavily project based. They were keen to run a project-based online feedback programme. The process sees all managers and heads invited to provide feedback on the team they’ve worked with on a project, within four weeks of it ending.
When introducing a similar programme, considerations should include:
Rater fatigue: You’ll want to manage how many 360 surveys are sent out in any given period to avoid ‘over-load’ for employees.
Process initiation: Consider how this will fit into the existing project management cycle and who’ll be responsible for initiating the feedback process at the end of it.
Data: How will the ad hoc 360 data feed into the appraisal process and existing report? You’ll want to strike a balance between having trend data over time and regular feedback, and not overloading employees with information.
Communication and support: Keep employees informed and provide clarity on what happens with the feedback. Consider who can help employees digest regular feedback, when and how.
Culture/feedback maturity: Is your organisation ready for this? Having a strong feedback culture in place is fundamental to the success of this type of approach to achieve the necessary buy-in and uptake.

Global manufacturing firm: ‘Always on’ feedback

This organisation identified a need for an ‘always on’ assessment system that would better stimulate personal development and employee learning across the entire organisation, and on a self-initiated basis.
We created for them a 360 platform that featured a functional competency assessment. It is accessible to 50,000 employees across 150 sites worldwide. This has quickly become a key tool for employees who use it to:

  • Assess themselves against their current or future job roles
  • Inform personal development plans
  • Run a self-assessment, 180-degree or 360-degree assessment, on demand.

In addition, group management or central teams can also use the platform to ‘push’ assessments out to particular populations.