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Spinning in Circles About 360 Surveys?

Answers to Common 360 Survey Questions

As we were planning our 360 Feedback Surveys that Drive Business Results webinar, we began thinking about some of the questions we’re frequently asked about 360 surveys. Our Director of Research & Analytics, Hannah Spell, provided her insights on a few questions below. If you have a question, submit it to info@smdhr.com or tweet us @SMDHR and we’ll answer it during the webinar or a future blog post.

How are organizations changing or evolving the way they utilize 360 feedback surveys?

Organizations that are on the forefront of analytics and have embraced new technologies, like software that leverages structural equations modeling, are connecting their surveys to employee performance and business outcome data. That way organizations are able to determine which survey metrics have the greatest impact on actual business outcomes. The most useful evaluations go beyond simply gauging satisfaction with the multi-rater assessment process to linking the process to meaningful business outcomes (e.g., sales, quality, individual performance, etc.)—and making the analytics findings actionable for front-line leaders.

Additionally, technology is helping facilitate the process and remove the stigma surrounding 360 surveys. As you know, 360s can be time consuming for raters when they are asked to rate multiple targets. Advances in technology, such as applications that can be used on multiple types of devices and improved design that facilitates ease of use by the rater (e.g., not having to scroll to answer items) are really removing the pain often felt (and complaints) by raters. Ultimately, this helps get raters on board with the process and can help build senior leadership buy-in.

What do you recommend for companies with a limited budget? What can they do to still have an effective 360 survey process?

Proper planning can help to ensure that the time and resources expended are used as effectively as possible. For example, I recommend the following process:

  • Map out a communications strategy
  • Get manager buy-in and support to generate excitement and guarantee participation
  • Put the time into pre-planning to ensure you’ve determined which competencies need to be measured
  • Ask the questions in an appropriate manner to ensure valid results

Also, keep in mind that just because this task normally falls into HR’s bucket doesn’t mean you can’t solicit help and input from across the organization. Why not try to (1) uncover business outcome data and (2) find a colleague who can help link it to your HR data? Again, this linkage of data during the analysis phase only helps to improve the efficacy of the survey. Additionally, you could reach out to your IT department to see if they can help with ease of facilitation through technology.

Don’t forget to do your homework. Many 360 vendors will charge $500-$2000 per 360 assessment, which is astronomical and in today’s age of easier/cheaper data-capturing, you should do your homework to find vendors that can charge a lot less and deliver much more impactful information (e.g., identify the competencies/behaviors that drive actual business outcomes). Also, offer the 360 to more levels of management; economies of scale play a big role in vendor pricing, and the “price-per-360” can come down significantly with higher quantities.

What are the pros and cons to soliciting help from external vendors/partners when executing 360 surveys?

By using an external partner, you and everyone involved in the process can find comfort in knowing that all ratings are confidential. The analysis is unbiased and the results and feedback are relayed in an objective manner. Also, as with most roles and functions, individuals who specialize in a process have ironed out all of the issues and are experts in making it as successful as possible. Vendors have experience with proper set up and handling of 360s in terms of communication, content, and action- planning/follow-through – all of which are critical in effective 360 execution.

On the flipside, it may not be advantageous to you if a vendor uses a “one-size-fits-all” approach and tries to make a 360 product fit your organization instead of looking at the specifics needed to make the process truly impactful for your company. And of course, the cost may exceed your budget. That’s why I suggest looking for partners who are more than “vendors” – they are consultants and advisors. They look at your specific opportunities and challenges and are flexible enough to customize a plan to suit your needs. “One-size-fits-all” may work with clothes, but rarely when it comes to business.

If you want to learn how to link the 360 feedback process to meaningful business outcomes, check out our white paper.