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Human Resources
Apr 5, 2018

What is a 360-Degree Assessment and Why Should You Be Interested?

Sponsored Content provided by Dave Hoff - Chief Operating Officer and Executive VP of Leadership Development, EASI Consult

A 360-degree assessment is the description given to a questionnaire in which multiple raters provide an employee with feedback on the same set of questions. 

In most cases, an employee would either volunteer for the assessment or it would be suggested as a means by which to enhance his or her development.

However, a person arrives at the point of agreeing to participate in a 360 assessment, the process going forward is essentially the same:

  • The participant needs to create a list of people from whom he is requesting feedback.
  • All surveys are conducted online.
  • The participant completes a questionnaire on themselves.
  • Normally, the participant asks their supervisor, direct reports, if applicable, and peers. Sometimes, participants want feedback from customers.
Typically, you see people requesting feedback from three perspectives, but hardly ever more than five. The name 360 comes from the fact that participants receive feedback from many “views”: above (the boss); below (direct reports); and to the side (peers). So, technically, it’s not actually 360 degrees of feedback but the name conveys that it provides multiple perspectives.

Why would someone be interested in this kind of feedback? What might you learn, and what could you do with the feedback?

More to the point, why would someone be interested? 

Most people are curious about how they are perceived by others. Won’t most people just tell me what they think of me? In most cases, no… and for reasons that range from not having enough time to thinking you wouldn’t be interested.

With the exception of the supervisor, feedback from a 360 assessment is anonymous. Most 360 surveys require at least two respondents in a category to provide feedback on that particular perspective. That anonymity is attractive to some people - I am willing to give you feedback if it doesn’t come back to me as being the source of it.

But if the feedback is anonymous, what good is it? 

There are three steps in the survey process: 1) collect the data; 2) understand the data; 3) act on the data.
Most 360 surveys provide two types of feedback: quantitative and qualitative. The quantitative feedback uses the same set of questions and scale for people’s responses. That continuity allows the person to compare his or her assessment to everyone else’s. 

Take, for example, collaborating, which is one of the Learning Agility dimensions. Perhaps I am a person who doesn’t think I collaborate very well, so I rate myself low in that category. But I receive a high rating on collaborating from my other respondents. The quantitative data allows us to look at the same question and compare perceptions. 

The second step in the survey process is understanding why someone rated you this way. To do that, you need to obtain – either personally or through a third party – specific examples of what you do that led to his or her rating. Most 360 assessments include at least a couple of open-ended questions, which may provide examples that would explain the “why.”

Once you have understood the feedback, you are at the “so what?” point. Are you going to take action on any of the things you learned about yourself?

Hopefully, there are a few things you learned that you will commit to working on. Connecting the area(s) you are going to work on (Collaborating or Experimenting as examples), you can attach or integrate those development areas with an actual performance objective. If you announce that goal to others, it could increase your commitment and accountability.

You should have a better sense now of what a 360 assessment is - a way to obtain feedback about aspects of your performance from others, of which you may not be aware. A good follow-up process can ensure you create an improvement plan. 

EASI Consult is currently doing a lot of work in 360 feedback with the Burke Learning Agility Inventory (Burke LAI). People who are more learning agile tend to be more effective leaders. Volunteering to participate in a 360-degree assessment is a way to get feedback from others that you might never get any other way. 

You might say, “Why would I open Pandora’s Box and subject myself to this feedback from others?” People are going to have perceptions about you whether you know what they are or not. Not knowing makes it difficult or impossible to change. Knowing their feedback, while not always comfortable, does create a greater likelihood for change. 

EASI•Consult® works with Fortune 500 companies, government agencies, and mid-sized corporations to provide customized Talent Management solutions. EASI•Consult’s specialties include leadership assessment, online pre-employment testing, survey research, competency modeling, leadership development, executive coaching, 360-degree feedback, online structured interviews, and EEO hiring compliance. The company is a leader in the field of providing accurate information about people through professional assessment. To learn more about EASI•Consult, visit www.easiconsult.com, email [email protected] or call (800) 922-EASI.

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