For many, a 360-degree feedback assessment is a go-to tool to help individual leaders in their personal development. Indeed, millions and millions of leaders have benefited from understanding how their colleagues perceive and experience them in the workplace. Some, however, do not realize that 360-degree feedback helps organizations as an excellent data source to help leaders better understand their workforce.
To be clear, we are talking about using aggregate results only—not individual scores. Examining scores at the individual level would break confidentiality. Examining aggregated data, however, does not break confidentiality and can help us see trends as they occur across different divisions or groups.
This article will explore how talent professionals and other leaders can use existing 360-degree feedback programs to gain insights into key organizational areas, such as their company’s culture, training opportunities, and succession planning needs.
How 360 Feedback Helps Company Culture
Because organizational culture is influenced most by its leadership, aggregate 360-degree results provide unique insight into how leaders think and what matters most to them. For example, in one company we found that overall scores were high in the areas of results orientation and performance management. This translated into a culture where micromanagement was high, and innovation and creativity were low (also shown in the 360 results).
In this instance, 360-degree aggregate data was available to senior leaders to assist them in shaping company culture by helping them think through the leadership competencies that were vital to their success and those which were distracting. Senior leaders were then able to focus on establishing and measuring those competencies that mattered the most to them. As Peter Drucker would say, “What’s measured improves.”
How 360 Feedback Defines Training Needs
The second area where aggregate 360 data can help an organization is by assisting leaders in defining training calendars and programs. When analyzing aggregate 360 results we might see, for example, that managers generally scored poorly on “Delegates both routine and critical tasks or responsibilities.” This trend, however, may not necessarily mean that leaders need further training in delegation techniques. Instead, by looking at other competencies and behaviors in the combined reports, we learn that what we are seeing is really an indicator that managers need to learn how to better coach their direct reports and that there is a general lack of trust throughout the organization.
When analyzing multiple 360 feedback reports, rather than simply viewing individual questions, we can see a story emerge from the data. These insights can then be used to create training plans that address the latent problems that exist within most organizations.
How 360 Feedback Improves Succession Planning
Our third area centers around how 360 feedback helps organizations improve their succession planning. With succession planning, we may want to see individual scores—but be careful. Individual 360-feedback results should only be used for succession planning if participants understand up-front that their scores may be used for this purpose. Even then, individual results should only be used to confirm what the aggregate data is telling us.
With 360 feedback group data you will be able to see the characteristics of your high performers. For example, do they primarily excel at managing change? If this is the case, then identifying those that handle change well (early in their careers) may be a good way to start winnowing a field of high performers.
On the other hand, if your established high performers generally score low on decision making, then you may need to think about how decisions are made within your hierarchy. Are leaders actually empowered to make decisions, and what other steps might be taken to shore up this weak point?
Many companies conduct 360 assessments but do not fully utilize the potential of their aggregate 360 data. We have found that some of the most powerful insights come from understanding your leadership profiles and leadership competencies, which can best be derived from group 360 data. Also, knowing what your best leaders are doing and how that is different from your average groups can be vital.
In summary, aggregate 360 data is a rich source of organizational analytics and should be regularly analyzed to provide leaders with the data points they need to improve their culture, training, and succession planning activities.
Contributors: Charles Rogel and Matthew Wride