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Not all 360 Degree Surveys Are the Same: How to Design the Questionnaires to Ensure They Remain Useful

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Do your 360 degree surveys evolve over time, as you discover best practices? The problem with keeping things the same is that you might be repeating the same mistakes over and over again. A potential issue with 360 degree surveys is discussed in this article in the Harvard Business Review (HBR), and we wanted to cover the problem, and the solution, for you.  

360 Degree Surveys as a Tool for Boosting Self-Awareness

As we know, the feedback participants get from 360 degree surveys is invaluable to people of all levels, with everyone including leaders and managers benefitting from an increased level of self-awareness.

However, not all 360 degree surveys are created equal, and as the HBR article tells us, if the questions aren't designed carefully enough, they can actually do harm to both your organization and the individuals involved.

Do Your 360 Degree Surveys Produce Bad Data?

What do we mean by 'bad data'?

Your questionnaires will of course measure various competencies, and the way in which the questions are asked makes a real difference. Many organizations tend to look at behavioral aspects of that competency, for example for the competency 'developing others', means a potential statement could be 'Alice encourages the team to take part in continuous improvement'.

You're probably thinking 'But why is that a problem, it's the way we've always done it?' While using different behaviors to rate a person on key competencies does sound sensible, the problem is that participants tend to rate other people's behaviors compared to their own. If they rate Alice high on the statement we just mentioned, they're really saying that Alice is more encouraging compared to themselves; if they rate her low, they're saying that she's low compared to them.

In essence, when people are asked to rate other people's behaviors, they're only able to perceive and rate them compared to themselves, meaning the data produced is intrinsically 'bad' (or unreliable).

How to Design 360 Degree Surveys to Get GOOD Data

One way of ensuring you get good data from your 360 degree survey questions is to utilize the technique used in polls - carefully selecting a group of raters who are representative of the specific competencies you're measuring in your employee performance management process. But that's not going to be easy, in fact it's likely to be completely impossible!

The other option, and one that you can do, is to change the questions rather than the raters. While employees may not be able to reliably relate to another person's behaviors, they can easily rate themselves on certain statements. So instead of using the statement about Alice's ability to encourage continuous improvement, make the statement about the rater - 'I feel encouraged to take part in continuous improvement'.

Makes sense, doesn't it? Instead of rating other people on their behaviors, participants evaluate their own feelings - leading to a more dependable and accurate 360 degree survey!

Are you ready to try Primalogik 360 help you with 360 degree surveys?