Before you use 360 feedback in your organization, make sure you have properly set expectations with all participants and raters involved. Here are the five questions that you must answer before you press send to distribute 360 surveys to your leaders:
1. Who is going through the 360 feedback process (and why)? Usually, 360 surveys are administered in groups. Most organizations cascade them down the organization in waves starting with the executive team one month, VPs the next, and so on. Explain your roll-out process and who is involved. That way, participants don’t feel like they are being singled out when the 360 survey email shows up in their inbox. Additionally, let them know that this is for their development (more on this later).
2. Who chooses raters? Best practice is to allow the participant, the person receiving the feedback, to choose his or her raters (boss, peers, direct reports, etc.). Their manager and/or HR can then review the list and make any edits. By choosing their own raters, participants are more receptive to the feedback knowing they had a say in who participated.
3. Who will see the report? Think about it. You thought you would be the only one to see your results but then you find out your report has been shared with HR, your boss, and your boss’ boss. That adds a significant amount of unexpected weight to the process for the individual. If this is the first time you have used 360 surveys, we recommend that report go only to the participant and the person that will debrief the results. If others will see the report, communicate that information at the beginning of the process.
4. Who will debrief the results with me? Every 360 feedback participant should have a one-on-one debrief of the results. This can be done by a trained internal HR professional, external coach, boss, or peer. This allows the individual to process the results and create an action plan. Make sure it is clear who will conduct the debrief session and when.
5. What am I expected to do after getting my report?
Participants should create a personal action plan and share it with their boss. Even if the boss does not see the individual’s report, this will build accountability into the process. The outcome is for the individual to gain awareness about their leadership effectiveness and to commit to one or two goals for improvement. Some organizations incorporate these goals into the leader’s performance goals.
These questions are best addressed during a 30-minute meeting with participants. Along with answering these questions, I like to share the survey questions and a sample report to show how the results will be displayed. Explain the process. Let people know how to take the survey, who you will be working with, the timeline, and desired outcomes. Talk about confidentiality and how individual rater responses are grouped to protect anonymity.
If you properly set expectations up-front, participants will be more open to the process and have a positive growth experience.