Without Coaching and Goal-setting, Your 360 Degree Feedback Process is a Waste of Time and Money

In studies conducted by DecisionWise researchers over the past decade, we have found some interesting facts about making the 360-degree feedback process more effective. Two areas stand out more than any others: Coaching and Goal Setting.

Study #1

The first DecisionWise study regarding the effectiveness of 360-degree feedback was conducted with a group of 345 managers from a large multi-national consulting firm. Each of these managers had participated in a 360-degree feedback survey earlier that year. A total of four different 360 feedback surveys were used for this group, meaning not all completed the same 360 feedback instrument. However, on each of the assessments, these managers received feedback from supervisors, direct reports, and peers.

Without Coaching and Goal-setting, Your 360 Degree Feedback Process is a Waste of Time and Money

Six months after completing the 360-degree feedback survey, DecisionWise asked these managers via an online survey to self-evaluate their perceptions of the survey effectiveness. They were asked to rate the degree to which they agreed with two overall questions:

  1. Overall I feel that the 360-degree feedback process is effective.
  2. I have made meaningful positive change as a result of the 360-degree feedback I received.

They were also asked to rate various elements of the process, such as whether the administration of the survey was simple, whether they received coaching, and if they had set goals based on the survey. The results of this research was very telling:

92% of those that received coaching reported that the overall 360-degree feedback process was effective. In contrast, only 34% of those who did not receive coaching felt the process was effective.

87% of those that set goals felt the process was effective

60% of those that did not receive coaching did not set any goals.

94% of those that received sufficient coaching and set goals felt the feedback process was effective.

For purposes of this study, the concept of “coaching” was left to the interpretation of the manager being rated. For some, this meant a simple debrief in which he or she sat down and reviewed the results with his or her supervisor, peers, mentors, or and outside coach. For others, the idea of coaching was deeper, and included more extended coaching sessions. This was intentionally left to their interpretation, as the desire was to allow the participant to determine the level of coaching needed in order to get the maximum benefit from the assessment.

Study #2

A follow-up to this study was conducted two years later and nearly identical results were found. This study went one step further, and asked a number of raters (those providing the initial feedback on these managers) whether they had noticed changes in the managers’ behavior and performance after the 360 assessment. An analysis of the results of the raters’ responses showed a clear correlation between the self-reported effectiveness (the managers’ ratings of the process and their subsequent improvement) and the change noted by these managers’ raters. These correlations provide further support to the theory that coaching and goal setting dramatically improve the outcome of a 360-degree feedback process.
Further analysis also showed that when participants had set specific goals to address areas of their 360 feedback, it was far more likely that their 360 feedback showed significant improvement the following year than when goals were not set. This finding added additional weight to the theory that goal-setting was key to improvement.
One interesting note—despite what we clearly note in these studies, we find that less than half of the organizations using 360-degree feedback today emphasize coaching and goal setting as part of the process. These studies leave little doubt as to the importance of coaching and goal-setting in making a 360 process more effective, and appear to indicate that a large number of organizations conducting 360 assessments could dramatically improve the return on their investments.
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