360-degree feedback processes usually obtain data from questionnaires, which measure from different perspectives the behaviors of individuals against a list of competencies. In effect, they ask for an evaluation: ‘how well does… do…?’ The competency model may be one developed within the organization or the competency headings may be provided by the supplier of a questionnaire.
The dimensions may broadly refer to leadership, management and approaches to work. The headings used in the Performance Management Group’s Orbit 360-degree questionnaire are:
- team player/manage people;
- organizational skills;
- decision making;
The leadership heading, for example, is defined as ‘Shares a clear vision and focuses on achieving it. Demonstrates commitment to the organization’s mission. Provides a coherent sense of purpose and direction, both internally and externally, harnessing energy and enthusiasm of staff.’
Ratings are given by the generators of the feedback on a scale against each heading. This may refer both to importance and performance, as in the PILAT questionnaire which asks those completing it to rate the importance of each item on a scale of 1 (not important) to 6 (essential), and performance on a scale of 1 (weak in this area) to 6 (outstanding).
Questionnaires are normally processed with the help of software developed within the organization or, most commonly, provided by external suppliers. This enables the data collection and analysis to be completed swiftly, with the minimum of effort and in a way that facilitates graphical as well as numerical presentation. Graphical presentation is preferable as a means of easing the process of assimilating the data. The simplest method is to produce a profile as shown below
Some of the proprietary software presents feedback data in a much more elaborate form.
The feedback is often anonymous and may be presented to the individual (most commonly), to the individual’s manager (less common) or to both the individual and the manager. Some organizations do not arrange for feedback to be anonymous. Whether or not feedback is anonymous depends on the organization’s culture – the more open the culture, the more likely is the source of feedback to be revealed.
The action generated by the feedback will depend on the purposes of the process, i.e. development, appraisal or pay. If the purpose is primarily developmental, the action may be left to individuals as part of their personal development plans, but the planning process may be shared between individuals and their managers if they both have access to the information. Even if the data only goes to the individual, it can be discussed in a performance review meeting so that joint plans can be made, and there is much to be said for adopting this approach.
A Handbook of Human Resource Management Practice (Michael Armstrong)