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Though 360 survey processes are a critical tool in many organizations’ management development arsenal, too few organizations realize maximum benefits from them.  Feedback is provided and development plans are created and some managers proceed to develop their skills and abilities.  However, most managers’ plans are placed in a file and largely forgotten.  Reasons vary, but common themes include the following.

#1:    Event versus Process Prospective

Too many organizations focus on delivering 360 Survey assessments and believe participants will be begin aggressive development on identified needs once they receive feedback on survey results.  Were that the case, the majority of the associated development plans would not sit idle in a folder.

360 survey tools are useful diagnostic instruments for identifying potentially needed behavioral change.  However, achieving actual behavior change is often a complex undertaking.  Organizations need to consider the following question as they plan their 360 survey process: “What are the organizational resources and processes to drive and sustain development of behaviors which emerge from the survey process?” Survey results should be viewed as a first step in a longer-term and concerted process to build skills and knowledge.

#2:    Numeric versus Behavioral Focused Feedback

Feedback sessions are often limited to simply assuring participants understand the basic information contained in reports and are often conducted by an HR Professional who may or may not have management experience. Feedback largely focuses on identifying rating “gaps” among the focal manager’s ratings and other respondent groups – i.e., “You see yourself as highly effective in giving performance feedback, but your direct reports rate you significantly lower”.  Though such insight is important, it alone is insufficient to drive meaningful change.

Feedback agents need to further explore behavioral gaps underling numeric rating gap. For example, what is the focal manager’s “definition” of effective performance feedback, what are recent examples of feedback he/she provided team members, how frequently does the manager proactively provide feedback, etc.?  Answers to those questions provide a meaningful framework for guiding future development efforts.

#3:    Insufficient Coaching and Development Strategies

On-going “coaching” of focal managers is typically the responsibility of immediate managers, who may or may not be proficient at coaching and who may or may not possess the skills he/she is attempting to develop in others.

Many development planning processes also put the burden on the focal manager and immediate manager for creating development strategies for complex behaviors.  A good percentage of focal managers, immediate manager (and likely many lower level HR resources) are ill prepared to create meaningful developmental strategies to enable a manager to “Create an atmosphere that emphasizes trust, cooperation and openness among team members.”

Coaches need the tools and abilities to facilitate development of meaningful strategies to address behavioral performance gaps for complex behaviors, as well as other organizational resources to support and drive accountability for development efforts over time.  Likewise, creation of an initial develop plan or strategy is only the beginning of development efforts.  Ongoing coaching and support is needed by a large percentage of focal managers to actual increase proficiency.

In summary, if organizations desire to maximize returns from 360 processes they must carefully consider developmental processes and resources beyond administration of surveys.