360Feedback starts with good survey content

360Feedback is a proven assessment tool that can have significant impact on organizations looking to improve behaviors in their leaders. There is a saying that most people know – “garbage in, garbage out.”  In order to have an effective 360Feedback outcome, it is imperative that the content used in the 360 surveys is of high quality. With poor content there will be no value in the results. The definition of “high quality” content is multi-faceted and has many different criteria. Some of the criteria is that the content is lined up with the competencies required for the position being evaluated. Another criteria is that the content is behaviorally specific. Good survey content ensures the behaviors being reviewed will be analyzed in a way that will provide relevant data for the focal participant and their superior to use to measure their need for improvement.

Good survey content vs. bad survey content – what is the difference?

To help understand the difference between 360 survey content that is relevant vs. irrelevant, let us use the following as an example:

A construction company is looking to do a 360Feedback survey with one of their site managers, essentially a front-line leader. They have had some challenges with some of his direct reports complaining about his leadership style and lack of feedback they get. To have an effective 360 feedback review, the survey questions must specifically relate to the behaviors being questioned at a detailed level – in this case building teams and leadership style. There are many aspects to building teams and the more specific the content is in the survey the better feedback a leader will get. So instead of simply asking how good the person is at developing the capabilities of his/her team and survey should focus on the components associated with that skill. For example, an item focusing on providing specific details when giving feedback, and another item that could focus on providing assignments for the purpose of developing their direct reports, provide much more detail and items that are easier to rate.

How do you find 360Feedback surveys with the right content?

Typically, 360Feedback tools have different types of content to choose from and fall into the following categories:

1. Build your own.

Many times, software companies that offer survey tools simply offer the platform for the user to build and manage their own 360Feedback program. This can be good for larger companies that already have the questions, competencies and most importantly the resources needed to manage the whole program.

2. Off the shelf

If you can find off-the-shelf content that works for your needs, this is a great option. In order to find out if the questions make sense for you or not, ask the 360Feedback provider for examples of their off-the-shelf survey content. Not all surveys are created equally so be sure to do your diligence here. Make sure to find content that has been built by professionals that understand behaviors and competencies, not just any survey on the web.

3. Minor adjustments to off-the-shelf

Some 360Feedback providers also offer minor changes to their off-the-shelf content. This can be an affordable way to customize the surveys for your needs.

4. Fully customized for you

Sometimes the 360Feedback program you are running simply needs customized content and you do not have the resources to do it yourself. In these circumstances it is best to use a 360Feedback provider that can build a set of survey questions specifically for your needs.

5. Examples of our survey content

Executive survey for high level leaders in an organization.

  • Expresses complex ideas and information in an easily understood manner.
  • Champions a culture of continuous improvement and skill development.
  • Expresses confidence in others’ capability and commitment.

Manager survey for mid-range management level leaders in an organization

  • Acts to resolve conflicts and concerns among teams
  • Responds to voice mails, emails, texts, etc. in a timely manner
  • Creates sense of urgency in others to accomplish tasks/results.

Front Line for entry level or lower-level leaders in an organization

  • Is approachable and supportive to team members
  • Proactively keeps others informed – team members, peers, manager, etc.
  • Avoids overcommitting self or team members.

Once you have implemented a 360Feedback program with your focal participant that has the appropriate survey content, you can be sure that the feedback report will offer terrific insight into the behaviors you were looking to measure. When it comes time to review the 360feedback report with your participant, it will provide information that you can use to develop an Individual Development Plan (IDP) specifically for that leader. Because the focal participant’s peers, direct reports, superiors, and themselves was involved in the process it makes it easier for the focal participant to take in and believe the results presented. This sets them up perfectly to work on their plan and improve the behaviors identified as needing improvement.

After a period of 3-6 months, the 360Feedback survey process can be implemented again with the focal participant as a way of determining if the behaviors that needed improvement have been improving. It is a terrific way to see results and keep everyone involved in the process. Without good survey content however, the results would never have been as relevant and therefore the underlying problem could have never been corrected. 360Feedback is a great tool but it must be done right, and it all starts with good content.

Related Resource: 360 Degree Feedback: Your Complete Guide

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