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360-Degree Survey Feedback to Support the Strategic Development

Accurately measuring the performance of your managers and employees provides much-needed information to improve business outcomes and ensure everyone is aligned with the company vision, mission, and goals. 360-degree feedback is the best way to get this assessment.

360-degree surveys are an assessment practice that incorporates perceptions from multiple sources in an individual’s work environment – self, peers, manager(s), direct reports, customers, etc. Ratings from these sources are typically combined, producing a report that contrasts perceptions between groups and summarizes where the individual has overall strengths and potential weaknesses on various competencies and attributes. Assessment information is typically used to increase individual self-awareness and professional development. The byproduct of this process, however, is much more than just the professional development of individual employees. It also improves the strategic development of the organization.

In this blog, we look at examples of how 360-degree feedback processes can align with and support four important organizational development initiatives.

Four Examples of How 360 Assessments Impact Manager Development

1. Communicating skills employees need to align with business strategies

New and rapidly growing organizations often struggle to communicate and develop the infrastructure needed to help them achieve the goals and direction of their business – specifically, the systems needed to manage, develop, and reward their people. In this first example, I helped a fast-growing company add structure and discipline to its HR practices. After helping them create an organization-wide leadership competency model for three levels of leaders, HR communicated the launch of the new models and provided information on how they were to be used. However, like many organizations, it was challenging to get the attention of and buy-in from leaders initially, so we created the idea of developing a leadership 360 process that incorporated the new competencies. The idea was to give leaders the opportunity to experience the new competency model through the assessment and, at the same time, provide developmental feedback on their leadership skills.

Several positive outcomes were evident:

  • HR no longer had to worry if leaders were paying attention to the new requirements, as the 360 process created lots of “buzz” and questions about the competencies.
  • The 360 process served as a communication vehicle for expressing to leaders the new knowledge, skills, and abilities valued by the organization – the competencies that leaders needed to display to help move the organization in the right direction.
  • The rating process gave direct reports the opportunity to experience the new requirements and helped them see what leadership should look like at different levels and what skills they should aspire to develop to be successful in the organization.

2. Developing new skills needed after an organizational change

As organizations look to evolve to become more customer focused, competitive, and profitable, employees also need to evolve their capabilities to help the organization change. In this second example of working with a customer organization, they recognized that they were losing market share and needed to quickly change their sales model to become more competitive. An analysis of the organization revealed that sales professionals were using outdated sales methods, relying more on relationships rather than on a more consultative approach to selling – really understanding customer business challenges, needs, and preferences. In addition, sales leaders were not doing a good job of holding their people accountable for their performance. A new sales competency model and revamped training program were implemented along with a 360-assessment process to evaluate the new sales behaviors. Ratings came from sales professionals (self), managers (based on their observations of customer calls), and customers.

The 360-feedback process served as a way for leaders to assess progress on the new behaviors, coach their people, and hold them accountable for using the new consultative selling approach. While most sales professionals were not pleased about having to change their sales approach, the 360 process gave them important feedback for their own transformation and the transformation of the sales organization. This example illustrates how 360 feedback can be used to equip employees with the right capabilities after a change.

3. Improving team cohesion and performance

Teamwork is a critical aspect of any organization’s success and without a cohesive approach for addressing issues, often teams can stumble. In this third example, a large engineering team trying to achieve better cohesion and performance, implemented a 360-feedback process to target and develop the behaviors needed for success. Aggregate results showed that their technical competencies were strong, but there were issues and inconsistencies in communication and “people” skills that were impacting the ability for the team to work together. 

Leveraging the 360 results, I debriefed individual team members on their strengths and opportunities for improvement and then the organization implemented a peer coaching model – pairing team members based on their identified strengths and development needs, so that peers could learn from each other in a coach/mentee relationship. This approach was especially helpful to leaders on the team who were stretched by the number of people they had to manage and in roles where the risks associated with failure were more costly. The team also experienced improved relationships between team members and higher levels of overall engagement.

4. Assessing the impact of training and development initiatives

According to Training Magazine’s 2021 Industry Report, US organizations spent a total of $92.3 billion on training between 2020 and 2021. Unfortunately, many organizations have no idea if their training is making an impact. McKinsey Quarterly reports that senior executives are increasingly concerned about the lack of metrics around their training initiatives.

One method for assessing whether training impacts actual on-the-job behaviors is to ask managers and other groups if trained behaviors are being exhibited on the job. In this last example, a client service organization developed a three-month training program to improve the professional skills of a key role in the organization. Participants went through an integrated curriculum of courses and on-the-job training tied to role competencies. Before beginning the program, participants were evaluated through a baseline 180-degree assessment (a form of 360-degree feedback that only includes the self and direct manager as raters), and then six months later a post 180 assessment to see if the learned behaviors had been incorporated into their performance of the role. Differences in the ratings and comments on competencies provided feedback to the individual on the degree to which the new behaviors were evident. The organization found the 180 process valuable as aggregate reports demonstrated the impact of the training and identified competencies that were generally more challenging for employees and required more focus. The assessment in this example also had several other benefits including keeping training participants accountable for learning and applying skills and providing feedback to facilitators and curriculum designers on how to best modify their programs to maximize impact on employee behaviors.

In summary, these four examples highlight the strategic utility of a 360 feedback tool in helping organizations develop. Whether it’s being used to communicate capabilities needed for company success, to help employees upskill and adapt to change or improve team cohesion, or evaluate the impact of training, 360 assessments are clearly more than just an individual professional development tool.

Need Help Developing an Effective 360-Feedback Survey?

At Perceptyx, helping companies identify barriers to improvement is our goal. With custom surveys, an advanced people analytics platform, and expertise in all aspects of survey design, strategy, and communication, we can help you create effective 360 survey programs and identify what you should be asking employees to improve their experience in your company. Get in touch and let us show you how.

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