By Mark Scullard, director of research, and Jeffrey Sugerman, president and CEO, Inscape Publishing
Here’s the set-up: You have to implement a new leadership development program that uses a 360 assessment in your organization. You have a seemingly endless number of questions to answer.
Which 360 tool should you use?
Should raters remain anonymous?
Do you want open-ended response?
How will raters be selected?
How will we incorporate the assessment feedback into our leadership development plan?
All of these are critical questions that require a thorough exploration. But there’s another frequently overlooked question that directly impacts how the participant views the 360 experience and requires careful consideration: Who will deliver the assessment feedback to the participant?
The Messenger Makes the Difference
We asked participants who went over their 360 feedback: their manager, an HR professional, an external coach, or no one. Overall, participants whose feedback was debriefed by an external coach had a more positive experience than others. Close behind (in most cases) was the HR professional. And in (a sometimes distant) third was the manager. Having no one to debrief and help to interpret results was least preferable.
For example, 85 percent of people who had a coach said their work performance had improved as a result of the 360 feedback; for those debriefed by an HR professional, 76 percent said their performance improved. And while these are still high, that number goes to 71 percent with a manager and to 62 percent when there’s no one to debrief the results.
We see this pattern again when we ask participants if their work relationships have improved as a result of the 360. Eighty-five percent of people who had an external coach said their work relationship had improved; 76 percent with an HR professional, 64 percent with a manager, and 60 percent with no one to debrief the results. Again, none of these numbers is that low, but there’s obviously a big difference between having a coach or a manager go over the results and not.
Room for Improvement
Regardless of who was giving the 360 feedback, there was one area that everyone can improve on: follow-up. As with so many of our Everything DiSC Pulse surveys, we’ve found that we’re missing out on opportunities for circling back with participants—in both formal and casual settings. When asked if they had talked in-depth with their manager about the results of their 360, only about half of the people said they had.
The results are more dramatic when we asked about following up with raters: Only 28 percent of participants said they had talked to their raters about what they learned from their 360s. While in part this may be due to an issue of anonymity, many coaches say that follow-up with raters is an integral step in a 360 development plan. And speaking of development plans, only 66 percent of survey respondents said they created a concrete plan for changing behavior as part of their 360 process. Obviously, this number isn’t low, but there’s still room for growth.
We also asked respondents if they had referred back to their 360 results since completing the process. The response was almost split: Some 57 percent of respondents said they had referred back to their 360; 43 percent said they hadn’t. A 360 should never feel like a “one off.” Instead, it should be directly tied to a larger development initiative that is reinforced constantly.
Overall, participants were positive about their 360 experience: Some 85 percent said the process was encouraging, and 84 percent said the experience was useful. And while 39 percent of people said they were nervous before seeing their feedback, 81 percent said it was an accurate representation of their performance.
Mark Scullard is the director of research at Inscape Publishing, a provider of training materials for the corporate market. He has more than a decade of research and data analysis experience in the development of psychological evaluation tools and methods. Scullard received his doctorate in psychology from the University of Minnesota, with a supporting program in statistics.
Jeffrey Sugerman is the president and CEO of Inscape Publishing. He has more than 20 years of experience in senior management, marketing, and business development in the technology, training, and publishing industries. Sugerman holds doctorate and master’s degrees in psychology from Washington University in St. Louis, and a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Northwestern University.
Scullard and Sugerman are the co-authors of the forthcoming Berrett-Koehler title, “The 8 Dimensions of Leadership: DiSC Strategies for Becoming a Better Leader.”