“Do you know how much money I would pay for that kind of information?” A senior level executive, at one of the fastest growing companies in America, sat back and pondered the answer to his own question. He finally blurted, “A lot!” The message was clear.
I had been discussing 360-degree feedback and the kind of information that it can provide. He had not heard about that type of assessment and was getting visibly excited. With 60 plus field agents working at customer sites every day, he desperately wanted to know how they were doing and how he could improve their performance. He needed a leadership assessment tool, and I was happy to describe ours.
I described how 360s assessments enables leaders to accurately and quickly learn how their direct reports, bosses, peers, and other associates assess their leadership behaviors. Once the 360° assessment has been completed, participants receive a comprehensive, personalized report of results. There was little hesitation—he was converted.
Gimme the Information
As we talk to business owners about the concept of online 360 assessments, we are amazed how energized they become. It is like they are starving for information about their people’s performance. Then we learn the truth—they ARE starving for information about their people’s performance. They want to develop a world-class organization, but they lack the insight to really build and utilize their human capital. This is especially true in small, emerging businesses.
No matter who you talk to, these are tough times. People are still uncertain of their own jobs, that is if they still have one. The survivors have often been given two and three times the workload and still expected to perform at the same high level. Amid all of this, the training and development function has probably been slashed in the same way Wal-Mart adjusts its pricing. And executives might as well join the city fire department with the amount of fires they put out every day.
So, what is really going on within organizations? That is the question that management wants answered and that is what 360 assessments can provide.
Why a 360?
There are many 360 surveys out there, but few fit the specific strategic objectives of an organization from a behavioral perspective. The following points explain the primary advantages of behaviorally driven, online 360 assessment:
Example of Caring about Development:
What a leader pays attention to tells the employees what they should pay attention to. When a leader focuses on personal and organizational development, then his or her people will know this is an important idea. When a leader takes the time to create and implement a personalized 360 assessment, his or her employees will know employee development is valued.
Identification of Cultural Characteristics:
After management participates in a 360 assessment, their scores can be averaged together revealing the overall performance of the organization’s leaders. Identifying the leadership strengths and weaknesses of a company quickly reveals the culture. The culture can then be compared with the company’s strategy to determine and fix performance gaps.
Data-driven Action Items:
360 assessments usually focus on specific behaviors. The more specific and more personalized the behaviors are, then the more personalized the feedback can be. A personal development plan can readily be created and company-wide training efforts can be effectively targeted.
An Excuse for a Conversation on Development:
People are usually well-meaning and they want to help others improve. However, few people make time to sit down, give constructive feedback, and coach an employee. 360 assessments provide an ideal excuse to make time for employees. A 360 feedback report provides the content and structure of a developmentally focused conversation. Leaders need not fear what to say during those awkward performance reviews because the desired behaviors and evaluation is right in front of them.
Validating Employees’ Concerns:
The research on employees is clear: they want to be recognized, valued, and developed. Employees want upper management to pay attention to them and help them improve their abilities. Offering a 360 assessment helps address their concerns. When employees feel valued they want to stay. Thus, using a 360 assessment is an effective way of retaining employees.
Knowing the Talent Level:
Talent management has become a popular buzzword, but it describes an essential competitive advantage for organizations: the ability to recruit, develop, and retain human capital. Just like the CEO of Resolution described, companies would love to know what their people are good at and where they need improvement. A 360 provides a clear evaluation of where the strengths and weaknesses are. People can be better aligned in succession plans and more accurately trained in their performance gaps.
Fast, On-The-Job Applicable Knowledge:
Because 360s usually focus on specific behaviors, the feedback data can be immediately applied on the job. For example, if a manager scores low on the statement, “Effectively follows up with customers,” that manager knows exactly where to focus to improve his or her performance. Also, this kind of personalized data would require months of personal interviews and analysis effort. Yet, the 360 process involves only 20-30 minutes to fill out the assessment and perhaps an hour or two to review and turn the data into action. Investment in a 360 is a fast and effective method for immediate, on-the-job improvement.
Time to Act
The bottom line is that leaders need to be increasingly aware of how they perform and how their people perform. 360 assessments provide specific leadership performance competencies and behaviors that reveal invaluable personalized feedback for the individual and for the company. When specific and relevant questions are asked, then specific and relevant solutions can be implemented.
Now, I’d pay a lot of money for that!