Research by 360 degree feedback experts Talent Innovations has explained why workplace questionnaires often have positive results. The answers are surprisingly simple – people are generally nice to their colleagues and do jobs they are suited to. 360 degree feedback is an alternative to traditional 'top-down' performance appraisals, gathering views about employees from colleagues as well as their line manager.
The feedback is generated using questionnaires, with some questions in an open-ended text format and others using five point rating scales to provide some quantitative data. The company have helped hundreds of companies conduct 360 feedback over the years, and one thing is clear – people generally use the higher points of the scale. Although it may be tempting to provide seemingly balanced rating scales, Talent Innovations have found positive scales to be more effective. An example of a 'balanced' scale would be this:
1. Never | 2. Rarely | 3. Sometimes | 4. Often | 5. Always
Here there is a clear middle option with extremes which are equal and opposite. It is logical to think this is the best option to generate neutral and unbiased feedback, but people aren't neutral and unbiased when talking about their colleagues. In most work environments people tend to get along and want to be nice to their co-workers. Interestingly, the anonymity of the questionnaire makes little difference. With the scale above, virtually no one would use options 1 to 3 as they seem quite harsh. A better scale has a larger number of positive descriptors so people feel more comfortable about giving lower ratings, e.g.:
1. Almost never | 2. Sometimes | 3. Often | 4. Almost always | 5. Always
Some people have suggested a four point scale is better as there is no middle option, but this would only be useful if there was evidence of a strong ‘central tendency’, i.e. if the majority of results were in the middle. This isn’t the case with 360 feedback, where the vast majority of ratings are positive. Removing an option only serves to reduce variety in the results and make them less meaningful. Talent Innovations explain positive 360 feedback in two ways. Firstly, people tend to be nice to people they know, and secondly, they tend to do jobs they are good at. People who aren’t good at their jobs tend to leave, undergo more training or move to another role in the same company.
Talent Innovations provide a host of 360 degree feedback resources, services and online tools. Created in 2001, the company has grown hugely, with influential clients such as Shell, Tesco and Nectar. If you want more advice on 360 degree feedback or the tools to make it a success, get in touch. Their frequent research means their understanding of the industry is second to none. Visit the website for more information.
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