When it comes to assessing our own performance or the performances of our colleagues it can be tempting to be too positive. ‘Am I a team player? Absolutely! Am I the most valuable member of this operation since its foundation? Positively!’ It’s also possible that a 360 survey is simply too broad. Let’s take a look at some of the factors that can affect the results of 360 feedback.
The length of time someone has known a fellow employee can have a significant impact upon the feedback in their 360 survey. If they’ve known them for too long, it’s likely they’ll have an overly positive opinion of that person. If they haven’t known them for long enough then they won’t be able to make a fully rounded appraisal of that person’s abilities. Ideally, you want someone who has worked with a person for roughly 1-3 years. This means that they know them well enough to judge them accurately, but they won’t know them so well that their 360 survey will be excessively positive (or, in some cases, negative…).
It may seem like a good idea to use as many reviewers as possible, but a wide range of raters can leave you with diluted opinions. The ideal solution may be for an employee and manager to select raters that they believe will provide a balanced view. Selecting people that regularly interact with the employee will usually provide good feedback, but you can’t account for personal bias. The trick is to select a large enough group to ensure objectivity without it becoming unwieldy or overly diluted. 3 reviewers is probably too few and 12 is probably too many.
We all over-estimate our own abilities from time to time. But there can be a sizeable gap between our perception of our own abilities and the perception of others. It is important to remember that when it comes to a 360 survey, people often overestimate their own skills (although they may also underestimate their hidden strengths). This is natural, but if someone thinks they’re the bee’s knees and the result of your 360 survey says different, they may be less willing to take the criticism on board. This is where the specific rater comments can be so useful as they often trigger that light bulb moment and make sense of the general feedback. Also if a whole circle of people are providing similar feedback it is often perceived as more objective. The outcome is often that any noticeable gap between the group results and the self assessment will alert the individual to any shortcomings in their performance.
These are just three points which can affect the value of feedback in a 360 survey. It is important to remember that there is no ideal result from 360 feedback. There will naturally be discrepancies between the interpretations of different people that may not make for a clear conclusion. Figuring out a good blend of these three factors can be the first step in remedying that problem and making the most of your 360 survey.
SurveyShack provides a flexible and cost-effective 360 degree feedback solution. To learn more, download our free white paper on the benefits of 360 degree feedback.