Important characteristics of effective 360 degree feedback include ownership of the data, accountability of the participants, credibility and commitment, communicating expectations, and continuous learning. These characteristics are discussed here in detail.
360 Degree Feedback Characteristics
360 Degree Feedback: Ownership of the data and the accountability of participants
The ownership of a participant’s data is an important issue in the 360 degree feedback process and is directly related to maintaining the confidentiality of the data. As discussed previously, both participants and raters are more likely to provide honest ratings when they know the data will remain confidential. One of the critical characteristics of developmental feedback is that each participant owns his or her own data. 360 degree feedback data should not be shared with participants’ organizations, unless the participants decide to do so themselves. In the 360 degree feedback process, the feedback reports are sent directly to a trained feedback coach, who meets with the participant in an intensive feedback session. The participant and the coach are the only people who see the participant’s individual data.
Because the participant owns the data and the organization does not see the results, the participant is accountable for acting on the feedback by creating and carrying out a development plan. In the development plan, the participant notes areas of strengths and areas where development is needed. Then, with the assistance of the feedback coach, the participant develops a plan to address the areas for development.
Characteristics of the 360 degree feedback process must be seen as credible by the participants in order to gain their commitment to change their behavior. For the feedback to be credible, at least four factors must be present. First, trust in the process must be built by protecting the quality of the ratings and ensuring the anonymity of the raters and the confidentiality of the participants’ data. Second, the process should focus on development rather than on superficial change. In other words, the process needs not only to measure observable behaviors but also to allow the participant to link these behaviors to underlying competencies that are related to effective leadership. Third, the process must be understood by all involved—by both the raters and the participant. Instructions should be unambiguous, and the questions on the survey should be clearly written. Also, the confidentiality of the data and the anonymity of the raters must be clear to all involved. Finally, as discussed previously, the 360 degree feedback must be directly linked to developmental planning in order to gain a commitment to behavior change from the participants.
360 Degree Feedback: Communicating expectations
Over the past twenty-five years, we have seen the emergence of a new employment contract between employees and employers. Fewer organizations have paternalistic attitudes toward their employees, and fewer employees demonstrate blind commitment to their employers. A new type of commitment has arisen among employees—a commitment to providing good customer service. An effective 360 degree feedback process will allow the organization to promote this type of commitment by communicating to employees what behaviors are expected, by identifying who the customers are, and by allowing these customers to provide direct feedback to employees.
360 Degree Feedback: Continuous learning
Effective 360 degree feedback characteristics encourages continuous learning on the part of the participants. Just receiving the feedback does not necessarily make them more effective leaders—the change must come from within. It is important, therefore, first to “unfreeze” the self-view so the participant will be willing to improve or change behaviors. The best way to unfreeze the self-view is to provide the participant with accurate data from multiple perspectives and to encourage openness to accepting the feedback. For 360 degree feedback to be effective in enhancing participants’ self-awareness and challenging them to engage in self-development, it must also be embedded in a larger development process that includes a development plan and organizational support for development.