Has 360 degree feedback evolved in the past 10 years?

I am attending the annual SIOP (Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology) conference in Chicago.  This afternoon I attended a session called “Has 360 degree feedback evolved in the past 10 years?” where a panel discussed their views on the 360 process and how it has transitioned over the past ten years.  Panel members included folks from Pepsico, Kaiser Permanente, Google and OrgVitality.

What spoke to me…

The huge technological changes over the past decade have both helped and hindered the 360 process. First, how it has hindered: technology has allowed almost anyone to build and deploy a 360.  The ease of deployment has sometimes overshadowed the quality of the instrument and feedback process. Are raters being trained and participants receiving the feedback in a way that provides balance and encourages appropriate behavior/skill changes?

Now, how technology has helped: technology has allowed geographically dispersed groups of employees to provide feedback to each other, has allowed for the ability for virtual teams to provide and receive feedback, has reduced the cost of deploying 360s, has eased the administration process, and has provided more anonymity to raters and faster time from deployment to debriefing. Overall, technology affords the ability for more employees to receive additional feedback and perspective.

The most time spent by the panel was the discussion of the purpose of 360s. Ten years ago the primary reason for giving 360 feedback was for developmental purposes only.  There seems to be a move towards using 360s in decision making processes — impacts on promotions, job changes, and performance reviews. The theme is that the 360 process is an expensive one, and that there should be some type of ROI integrated into the process.  The other reason the Panel discussed is that without accountability, most people will not be as inclined to make behavioral changes.

The panel also discussed the 360 program in terms of a top-down or bottom up process. Typically a 360 process starts at the executive level of an organization and then works its way down through the organization. Employees then see buy-in from the top. The panel raised the idea that perhaps we should be starting lower in the organization with high performing/high potential mangers — people who may be more willing to change.

The final reminder for me was the panel discussing the need for quality de-briefing and coaching to ensure a successful 360. The outcome: reliable feedback of relevant information on a consistent basis.

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