Implementing a 360 assessment can be a complex and daunting process. Data collection can be difficult and both participant and rater anxiety can be high. The good news is that these types of problems can be avoided and addressed before a facilitator or coach ever receives the 360 feedback report. Successful implementation begins at the planning phase.
1. Understanding the Purpose
The first step of a successful 360 assessment is understanding why a 360 is being used. Is this for development purposes only? Does the organization hope to gain insight into overall development gaps? Is the assessment being used as part of a review process? Understanding the purpose of the assessment, how the data will be used and who will have access helps define the communication plan to participants. Being honest and transparent about intent is key to gaining participant trust, rater trust and getting honest feedback and reliable data.
2. Have an Internal Champion
Once the purpose of the 360 assessment has been established the announcement of the assessment should come from a senior leader or internal champion inside of the organization. Having the first communication from someone internal lets participants know that this is an important process to the organization and that leadership is supporting the process. In this communication the purpose of the assessment should be clearly stated and the intended use of the data should be clear. This announcement is creating the foundation and setting expectations for the entire 360 assessment process.
3. Let Participants Own the Process
After access to the 360 assessment has been distributed it’s important to let participants take control of the process, this increases participant engagement from the start. Allow participants to choose their own raters, distribute access to the assessment and be accountable for receiving feedback. During this phase it is helpful to coach participants on how to both select raters and communicate with their raters. Participants should select raters that will provide honest and constructive feedback not just those who will give glowing reviews. In order to have a well-rounded 360 participants should ask for feedback from all rater categories including peers, direct reports and bosses. Prior to distributing the assessment to raters participants should personally inform raters that they have been selected to provide them with feedback, the intention of the feedback and that ratings will be confidential. Again, the intent of this communication is to establish rater trust.
4. Be Aware of Rater Fatigue
When distributing a 360 assessment it is just as important to consider the impact the assessment will have on raters as it is the participant. You are relying on raters to give constructive, thoughtful and honest feedback and this takes time. A 360 assessment will take at a minimum 20 minutes for a rater to complete per participant. If you have a single boss with 8 direct reports this is 2-3 hours of time devoted to an assessment that is being added to an already busy schedule. There are a few ways to address this.
A. Coach participants on how to select raters. Although an individual may work with up to 30 peers, direct reports, and supervisors they may only have contact with 10-15 of those on a daily or weekly basis. Narrowing the rater pool to those that participants work with most closely will provide higher quality feedback and decrease the amount of time raters are required to complete assessments.
B. Roll out the 360 in waves. If you are distributing a 360 with a large number of individuals in the organization it may be beneficial to roll out the assessment in batches over the course of several months instead of all at once.
C. Be thoughtful about the amount of time you give raters to complete a 360. Make sure you consider the organizations culture in terms of responsiveness and the current workload. A 360 can typically be completed in a 2-4 week time frame.
5. Make Sure the Learning Transfers
The most important part of a 360 assessment is creating the opportunity for participants to select actionable items that they can work and improve on when they return to the office. However, how do you know that improvements are being made? Creating a way to reassess and measure improvement is key. Often times organizations re-administer an entire 360 to measure improvement. What we know is that individuals can only make significant progress on 3-5 goals over the course of 8-12 months. It is more beneficial to target and reassess those specific goals instead of re-administering the entire 360. This streamlined process is also less disruptive to the organization and more cost effective.