We've all heard of 360 degree assessments, or as we call them at Halogen, multi-rater assessments. They've been around as a concept for years with varying degrees of usage in organizations.
Historically, 360 degree assessments were conducted through face to face interviews; now they're more often than not conducted through an online process. Whichever way they're conducted, there is no underestimating their value if set up, administered, and reviewed appropriately.
At Halogen, we've always had the ability to provide 360 degree feedback on our people as part of the annual review process and on an ad hoc development basis. It's a great development tool that allows for multiple perspectives.
We believe it really provides a much more holistic view of the employee. After all, don't we all behave differently with different colleagues?
We've now taken our approach to multi-rater assessments to another level, using them as a mandatory part of all leader evaluations.
Developing people to be great leaders
At Halogen, we believe that everyone deserves to work for a great leader. Part of that belief involves giving leaders the tools and development they need, as well as ample opportunity to practice new and enhanced leadership skills.
But we also know that as part of our leadership development program, we have to check in on how well our leaders are doing - with the people they interact with every day.
So we now do two things:
- We measure all our leaders against a defined set of leadership competencies, and
- We impose a mandatory multi-rater process to assess their demonstration of those competencies.
So what does this really mean? Let's tackle the "mandatory" part of this...
Avoiding the classic "360 degree feedback trap"
We want to avoid the classic "360 trap" that occurs when people are allowed to choose their own assessors. Who in their right mind is going to select someone with whom they have conflict or someone who they think doesn't like them? That's like getting the boss who fired you to act as a reference.
So, we eliminate that possibility from happening; we don't let our leaders choose their raters, thus eliminating bias.
Instead, HR decides who participate in that multi-rater process, using the org chart. This automatically includes ALL of the leader's direct reports, plus at least half of their peers (preferably all of them), and their immediate boss.
We also strongly suggest that others be also included - these could be other key individuals with whom the leader has relationships: consultants, contractors, customers etc.
Robust 360 degree feedback leads to leadership development
Leaders can't develop without robust feedback and the mandatory multi-rater process allows for exactly that. It offers a multitude of perspectives and we often find that what shows up as a strength in one relationship doesn't show up quite as well in another.
We've seen situations occur when a manager would have rated a leader very high in "developing others", yet that leader's subordinates have said almost the opposite - that they've been pulled off training, that they haven't had a development conversation, etc.
The multi-rater feedback allows us to be better at evaluating our leaders' overall performance, resulting in more accurate assessments and ratings.
But it also generates much better, and more correctly focused, conversations. And it leads to better development plans - which when worked on during the year should yield improved results in the next assessment process.
All change comes with its challenges
This process change wasn't without challenge. We've struggled with things like transparency, employee reluctance to participate in the new 360 degree feedback process, whether we use the comments verbatim or in summary, and leaders' ability to accept the feedback and not get defensive.
It's a work in progress and it's been a big step for us to move to this level of "exposure", but we all believe that, despite it being painful at times, it makes us into better leaders and drives transparency and self-awareness.
Your turn: How does your organization use 360 degree feedback to develop your people?