360° Feedback Services – Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. What is a 360° feedback process?

A1. A 360° feedback process is a management development tool. The process is based upon a participant's actual work and is designed to give managers and executives a better understanding of their strengths and potential development needs. Using a specially-designed PPC on-line 360° questionnaire, participants assess their own strengths and areas for development in leadership competencies. Participants then compare their self-assessment with the assessment and feedback obtained from their superiors, peers, employees or other colleagues. The anonymous and confidential nature of the 360° feedback process encourages candid input and ensures useful feedback. The 360° results are presented in an Individual 360° Feedback Report. This report is followed by an individual and confidential feedback session between the participant and a PPC assessment specialist.

Q2. How does the 360° feedback process work?

A2. The 360° feedback process consists of four key steps:

  • Step 1: Distribution and completion of 360° questionnaires
    Participants receive an e-mail from the PPC with instructions on how to start their own 360° feedback process. Participants then assign on-line questionnaires to their raters and complete their own self-assessment. All questionnaires are completed and submitted to the PPC on-line.

  • Step 2: Feedback report
    Once the PPC has received all of the questionnaire responses for a participant, a feedback report is produced and a session is arranged between the participant and a PPC assessment specialist. The participant receives the feedback report thirty minutes prior to their feedback session.

  • Step 3: Confidential feedback session
    The one-to-one feedback session is arranged to facilitate understanding of the report and to identify strengths and key areas for action. This session is intended to provide the means to start a development plan.

  • Step 4: Development plan and follow-up
    In order to maximize the benefit of the 360° feedback process, participants use the information provided in the report and during the feedback session to determine development objectives. During this step, participants are encouraged to discuss their learning objectives with their immediate supervisor.

Q3. How do participants select their raters?

A3. When selecting raters to provide 360° feedback to a participant, the following criteria should be considered:

  • Ensure that the raters are people who know the participant well. A rater must have sufficient experience working with the participant to provide valid responses. Because the statements in the questionnaire are based on observable behaviours, raters must have been in a position to observe the participant if their feedback is to be useful. It would be helpful to choose raters who have worked with the participant for at least six months.

  • Ensure that a cross-section of raters is selected. Selecting raters who have had a wide variety of experiences with the participant (e.g., positive and negative work experiences) will provide the participant with a more balanced and complete “picture” of strengths and areas for further development.

Q4. How many raters must be selected for a participant's 360° feedback process?

A4. A participant can have up to 5 categories of raters in a 360° feedback process. A typical process will contain 4 categories of raters, with a total of 10-12 raters in all. In the example below, a participant has selected 13 raters:

  1. Self = 1 rater
  2. Supervisor = 1 rater
  3. Peers = 4 raters
  4. Employees = 4 raters
  5. Other = 3 raters

A few guidelines must be followed in selecting raters in a category. A minimum of three raters must be included in each of the “Peers”, “Employees” and “Other” categories. This ensures rater anonymity.

Raters in the “Employees” category should be people who report or have reported directly to the participant; not indirect employee reports. The “Other” category can be customized by the participant. For example, it can be used for indirect reports by a participant who would like to capture this perspective. Alternatively, the “Other” category can be used for other relevant raters such as clients, partners or committee members who interact with the participant.

Q5. How long does it take a rater to complete the 360° feedback questionnaire?

A5. The 360° feedback questionnaire is based on leadership competencies and takes approximately 25 to 35 minutes to complete.

Q6. How are results presented in the Individual 360° Feedback Report?

A6. The Individual 360° Feedback Report is generated in the participant's official language of choice. It is designed in a manner that enables participants to compare their own perception of their management behaviours on each of the leadership competencies, with the perceptions of all the raters, in each of the rater categories (i.e., “Superior”, “Peers”, “Employees”, “Other”). The report is made up of graphs and explanations that help the participant interpret the results during a feedback session with a PPC assessment specialist.

The report is not designed to provide answers; rather, it helps establish development priorities that will have the greatest impact for the participant and the people with whom they work. In this manner, the feedback report is a tool that can be used for reflection and may be followed by concrete action.

Q7. Are the results in the Individual 360° Feedback Report confidential?

A7. A participant's 360° feedback results are confidential. As such, the PPC provides the feedback report directly to the participant and not to other people, without the participant's consent. Ensuring confidentiality is an important element of the 360° process:

  • Confidentiality ensures participants take part in the process, the same way anonymity ensures that raters will complete the 360° questionnaire in a candid and constructive manner. In other words, experience shows that if participants do not trust that results will be kept confidential, they simply will not participate in the process.

  • Imposing an obligation to share results will not encourage behavioural change in participants. In fact, making a feedback report public is not a determining factor in a manager's future performance. Rather, the factors that enhance performance are the quality of objectives (e.g., do the objectives serve the participant, their staff and the organization?), the development of an action plan, support provided by the participant's supervisor and follow-up activities.

  • While the 360° feedback process is ‘confidential’ it is not ‘secret’. Just because the report is given to the participant in confidence does not mean that the participant has to keep the information secret. In fact, it can be useful for a participant to share some results. For example, sharing results with “Peers” or “Employees” can be an effective way of establishing dialogue and identifying practical ways of making improvements, without trying to find out “who” said “what”. Also, a participant's immediate supervisor may have been through a 360° exercise before and could have helpful advice or development assistance to offer.

  • Sharing results does not mean sharing the feedback report. Sharing development objectives is a necessary component of an effective 360° feedback process. Sharing results may be useful, but providing actual copies of a report can have negative effects. The Individual 360° Feedback Report is a complex document. It does not provide simple solutions to development needs and requires careful interpretation to extract useful objectives. While some participants may be comfortable enough to share copies of their report with employees or colleagues, this can be confusing, since it does not communicate what the participant has learned from the exercise or how they plan to improve. Feedback best practices indicate that participants who want to share results do so by providing a concise and targeted overview.

Q8. Will the 360° results be used for purposes other than development?

A8. No. The 360° feedback process used by the PPC was designed as a management development tool only. As such, the feedback results are not intended to be used for administrative purposes such as selection, promotion, performance appraisal or performance pay. Best practices suggest that the development value of a 360° feedback process is maximized when there are no administrative consequences tied to the 360° results. In other words, a confidential and anonymous 360° process, which is only used for personal development, helps ensure that the participant will engage in the process and be motivated to change. Likewise, raters will be more likely to complete the 360° questionnaire openly and honestly if they trust that there will be no administrative repercussions. Bottom line, the feedback report requires careful interpretation so that the participant (with the help of a PPC expert) can determine what development objectives will have the greatest impact for the participant in their work. The feedback report does not provide simple solutions for enhanced performance or development needs – most of all, it requires reflection.

Q9. Why is rater anonymity important?

A9. Research on 360° feedback shows that raters provide more candid and constructive feedback when they trust that their responses will remain confidential. Furthermore, if the process does not guarantee anonymity, raters are more likely to refuse to participate or may give the participant very high marks. Without a guarantee of anonymity, the 360° feedback process is neither viable nor useful.

While rater anonymity applies to all raters in the “Peer”, “Employee” and “Other” categories, this is not the case with the participant's immediate supervisor. The immediate supervisor's results in a feedback report are not anonymous for two reasons:

  • There is usually only one rater in the “Supervisor” category; and

  • Providing feedback and appraisal is an inherent responsibility of a supervisor; the 360° process is just another method for the supervisor to provide feedback to the employee.

Q10. What is an Individual Feedback Session?

A10. Following the reading of their Individual 360° Feedback Report, a participant has an opportunity to meet right away with an assessment specialist from the PPC to discuss the results, in confidence. This PPC service is designed to answer participant questions, help the participant interpret the 360° results and set development priorities. A feedback session lasts approximately 90 minutes and is confidential. Individual feedback sessions are mandatory in order to ensure a proper interpretation of the report.

Q11. How much does a 360° feedback process cost?

A11. Personnel Psychology Centre services price list

Q12. How can I initiate a 360° feedback process for myself or other staff?

A12. If you are considering 360° services for yourself or others, or wish to find out more about 360° feedback, please contact the PPC at 819-420-8671 or cfp.cpp-ppc.psc@canada.ca. You will be assigned an assessment specialist who will discuss your needs, answer your questions and determine if this is the most appropriate tool to meet your objectives. The assessment specialist will also provide a cost estimate and set up the process to begin the 360° feedback exercise.

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