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From 360 to PDP

From 360 to PDP: A 360 degree feedback report only becomes meaningful when used for personal development.



Performance appraisals

Sometimes it makes sense to use 360 degree feedback in performance appraisals. Especially when competency management is integrated into the HR cycle.

Performance or assess?

The key question is whether feedback from the 360 degree feedback is used as an assessment or as a means to make the performance appraisal negotiable. Personally, I would never directly use it as evidence in an assessment, except as an information source. Namely what I have seen, is that the 360 degree feedback is then used politically. Such as: you assess me positively, then I assess you positively. An assessment would also be made on performance indicators and whether the tasks have been properly performed. The feedback on competencies can give insight into the way others view the competencies. And when that feedback is pure, it gives better insights.

How do you discuss the report?

I would recommend discussing the 360 degree feedback report beforehand, before the actual performance appraisal or to take at least 30 minutes to do so. Preferably with a coach or a HRD officer. When the manager discusses the 360 degree feedback, I would give time and space for the employee to get a good look themselves first. Possibly with a user manual/guide. This prevents you staring at the report all the time. It does contain a lot of information and you may not be able to see the forest through the trees. If you manage more than ten people you’re not really waiting for detailed reports either. In the free downloads section you can find great tools for this.
Make sure there is a conclusion, detailing the strengths and weaknesses of the employee. Try to understand together why something is particularly strong or less strong. Then discuss this together, from the perspective of personal and career development.

Processing feedback

Processing feedback is quite challenging. There are five ways to deal with feedback and only one of those is constructive:

  • Ignore
  • Deny
  • Defend
  • Counter-attack
  • Explore constructively

When employees see the 360 degree feedback, they will pay a lot of attention to the feedback. They often read them with red ears. That’s good, because that makes them receptive to a learning process and change. However, one can also deal less constructively with feedback by playing it down or, at worst, to counter-attack. After all, everything that goes well is done by ourselves, but everything that is done badly, is due to circumstances or another. To help somebody deal with feedback constructively, you simply have to point it out sometimes.

From insight to action

The best is of course when a deep self-awareness arises, a good understanding of where your strong and weak competencies lie. That helps you with converting these into action points. The free download includes a catalogue of development points per competency. Those can be used to set up focused actions. It is important not to indicate too many action points and competencies at the same time. Moreover, it is important that someone is really motivated to perform the action points. 



360 degree feedback in training and workshops

360 degree feedback is a useful method to implement in training and workshops. All training aimed to strengthen behavioural competencies, may benefit from 360 degree feedback. You know better as participant and trainer, what you need to work on, what your strong and weak and competencies are. Certainly with longer processes such as management development it may be appropriate to have a pre- and post-measurement. Short training courses help you to determine who is going to do which exercises. In a compact sales training you can effectively convey the improvements. It is also useful for employability workshops or workshops focusing on a personal development plan (PDP).

Zero- and impact measurement in training

360 degree feedback is a great way to make participants aware of their strengths and competencies. For the first session, participants can already be invited to collect feedback. As a trainer or customer you define the competencies of interest and select the behavioural indicators which the training focuses on. Some contacts use this method to adapt their own model for leadership training and orientation, such as Rijnconsult. The training then starts with processing the feedback. As such it is possible to put individual emphasis on the training.

Impact measurements are also useful, even if they must be taken some time after the training was held. Indeed, it takes some time before the environment behaviour change takes place. What we often see in impact measurements is that the self-score decreases, because one becomes aware of their own learning points through the training. The environment is often improved after some time. You have to deal with impact assessments strategically.

Competency focused development

The trend in training is not only to focus on what is going less well but to also expand the strengths. In the training or coaching, it is therefore not advisable to solely work on the inferior competencies but to also expand on the strong ones. During a management training we worked with a good quality manager, for example, to strengthen his weak competency; sensitivity to get this to an acceptable level. But we also worked to further expand his strengths; planning and organising. He went on training courses focused on project management. In addition, he also worked on his sensitivity with observation tasks, conversation exercises and very specifically, with meditation exercises and Aikido. This martial art creates much awareness of one’s own body and the reactions of others. Through working on both his weaknesses as well as his strengths, this manager eventually managed to achieve a top position in his organisation.

360 degree feedback exercises in training programmes

It is always fun to present the results of a group such as with classmates: “This group is characterized by the fact that 40% of the people have ‘Sensitivity’ as their strongest competency. In contrast, only 5% obtained a high score on ‘Vision and Strategy’. It is therefore clear what we are going to work on!” By introducing the competencies in this way, you are immediately given the attention.

Then you can put people together in subgroups to process the individual feedback. Let them select several competencies to work on specifically. It is very motivating for a group to tell each other which competencies and how they want to strengthen these in short presentations. That makes it shared and creates openness.



From 360 to PDP and development actions

360 degree feedback eventually gets its meaning in the development that an employee or participant in a training program experiences. It is therefore essential to select some competencies for development from the 360 degree feedback. And then to determine specific objectives and development actions.

Motivate specific objectives

When developing competencies it is important to determine specific objectives. Covey says “start with the end in mind”. That ‘in mind’ may, in our opinion be very specific. So ask yourself what you want to be able to do, when and in what circumstances.

So not: “I want to improve my condition,” but “I want to do sixty laps in the pool in half an hour.” With competencies it is about what you want to do with these competencies. With ‘persuasiveness’ for example:

“I want to convince 80% of the leads to start a demo.”
“I want to prepare my arguments well and to give a powerful presentation at the collective bargaining negotiations.”
The first is very specific, the second less so , because what is ‘a powerful presentation’?

When preparing a PDP you can, as a coach, further ask until you have the objective as specific as possible.

Also choose strong competencies

The trend is to further develop particular talents, so competencies that you are predisposed to. That is very sensible! Nothing is more frustrating than something you cannot try to strengthen. Although it may of course be necessary. However also choose strong competencies for a PDP in order to expand. For example if you have a talent for planning and organizing, expand that, do project management courses, accept greater challenges. It is preferable to select the competencies that can form the core of your career.

Strengthen weak competencies

Anyway, you cannot excel in everything that a job position expects of you. Therefore you must work on your weaker competencies. Make sure that they at least do not get in your way. If you are not very good at time management or organising your own work, at least make sure that the damage remains limited. Naturally such competencies remain important.

Combine learning styles

Basically people learn in four ways.

  • Learn through knowledge
  • Learn by imitation
  • Learn by experimenting
  • Learn through reflection

Everybody has their preferences. For some competencies, a certain learning style can be relatively more important than others. But try to combine them, then you learn the most. For example, with presenting:

  • Knowledge: read a book on presentation skills or follow a course
  • Imitation: check the Internet for different ways that people present. Look at what you want and can adopt.
  • Experimenting: Try things consciously. Choose a safe environment to experiment, for example, first internally and only then in front of a large client.
  • Reflection: ensure feedback. Record your presentation and ask a coach or a good friend what you can improve.

Let yourself be coached

A competency-based coach can help you to take quicker steps. This can of course be a professional coach, but colleagues or friends will also enjoy this. The power of coaching lies mainly in strengthening the reflection, increasing your self-understanding. But also thinking about other development actions is a role that a coach can fulfill well. Due to many people wanting to learn coaching you could perhaps help somebody in this way whilst helping yourself!