360 Assessments – Worth the Investment?
By: Shawna Simcik
With so many distinct types of leadership assessment tools available for people development, determining which one to use can be quite confusing, especially with a limited budget.
A commonly used tool for leadership development is 360-degree feedback, also known as multi-rater feedback. This very popular method is used to solicit information about a leader’s work behavior and performance. The term 360 stems from the idea of gathering a complete picture of the individual from different angles. Typically, ratings are solicited from an employee’s direct reports, peers/colleagues, boss/supervisor and occasionally an “other” category may be included such as asking feedback from customers. These assessments also capture self-ratings.
You may be asking yourself, are 360 assessments worth the investment?
As a good partner, I would respond, “it depends.” As leaders rise through the ranks of their organizations, they often receive less and less candid information about themselves and their performance. When used appropriately, this type of feedback can be tremendously helpful in enhancing self-awareness and begin the dialogue around performance and increasing accountability. It also offers others the opportunity to give direct and helpful feedback in a constructive and confidential manner.
As with many assessment tools, 360 assessments should be used with caution. The jury is still out on the validity and value of certain 360-degree assessment tools, and it is one of the most hated processes by managers and employees alike. Research also suggests that these techniques are not very accurate and can be influenced by many cognitive biases. For example, the recency bias is rampant in 360 assessments. Recency bias is the phenomenon of a person rating another based on behaviors that happened recently compared to something that may have occurred a while back. For example, I remember that you upset me in a meeting last week, but I don’t remember that you were explementary as the leader of that project six months ago, so I rate you low.
Further, if an organization simply hands over a report to a leader rather than giving the leader the experience of an expertly facilitated debrief, a 360 assessment can be misused and backfire for a business. A leader may believe that someone chosen to rate them cannot accurately identify their skill gaps or strengths and then begins the finger-pointing and inappropriate conversations with colleagues. “Bob, I need to talk to you about why you rated me so low …” You get the idea.
With all of this said, at ICC we believe that 360 feedback is better than doing nothing. As your partner in development, ICC’s talent management team will take a step back with you and determine which business objectives you are trying to achieve through each assessment. The challenge is to determine which approach will have the greatest impact, given your company’s needs. Then, based on your defined needs and goals, ICC can recommend the appropriate assessment tool, which may be 360 feedback, for your situation to strengthen the organization and bolster business results.
I’m curious about your experience with 360-degree feedback. Share with me your experience with these tools, both positive and negative, in the comments below.