360 Degree Feedback Best Practices: Linking Your Assessments to Your Talent & Business Strategies

360 assessments can benefit more than individual leaders. With these best practice guidelines, they can be transformational for your entire organization.

abstract graphic representation of outcomes of following 360 degree feedback assessment best practice guidelines

When considering the many benefits of leadership assessments, especially 360 assessments, the focus is often on positive outcomes for the individual leader. These outcomes of 360 results include receiving much-needed feedback from multiple sources, gaining greater self-awareness, and getting guidance on specific behaviors that can improve individual effectiveness. All these benefits of leadership assessments are certainly helpful for individuals.

The impact of 360 assessments on business outcomes may be less appreciated. Yet approached the right way, assessments can play an important role in helping drive your organization’s talent and business strategies. We recommend the following 360 degree feedback guidelines and best practices to ensure you get the greatest impact and ROI from your investments in assessments for development.

Guidelines & Best Practices for 360 Degree Feedback Initiatives 

Follow These 360 Assessment Best Practices

Here are 5 key considerations and best practices to help you better align your organization’s leadership assessments with business results.

1. Begin with the end in mind.

Assessments have become such a commonplace element of leadership development practices that it can be easy to implement them without a full consideration of the reasons why. When implementing an organizational 360 feedback initiative (or evaluating an ongoing one), be very clear and specific about what you hope to accomplish. As a 360 assessment best practice, be sure you are asking questions such as: 

  • What does success look like?
  • How will we measure and evaluate outcomes?
  • What actions are necessary to accomplish our goals?
  • What organizational support is required?
  • How will we engage with and involve organizational stakeholders?

Considering these and similar questions should help clarify your objectives and the operational steps necessary to achieve them.

2. Establish a clear line of sight.

One of the most important steps you can take is to align what your leadership assessments are measuring with the organization’s strategy. Once again, asking and answering the right questions at the outset is critical.

Here are 5 questions we often recommend posing to multiple stakeholders to link your business strategy to your leadership strategy and establish a direct connection between what the organization is trying to accomplish and the behaviors it expects from its leaders:

  • What are your major business challenges?
  • What capabilities does the organization need to excel at in order to address those challenges?
  • What skills characterize the most effective leaders in the organization?
  • What leadership skills do you see becoming increasingly important in the next 3–5 years?
  • What critical leadership skills are currently in short supply?

When you integrate the information you’ve gathered from the answers to these questions and surface key patterns and themes, a story starts to emerge of how specific, important leadership competencies align with the organizational strategy, and vice versa.

Ideally, you should be able to tell this story forward (“By helping our leaders to develop and practice [behavior(s)], we are furthering our individual and collective ability to accomplish [business outcome].”) and backward (“In order to accomplish [business outcome] it is critical that we invest in our leaders’ ability to [behavior(s)].”).

3. Mind the gap.

Group profile reports provide a powerful birds-eye view of your aggregated 360 degree assessment data, as well as identify important trends. For example, are there outlier competencies that score particularly low or high across the leaders you’ve assessed? Are there behaviors rated very differently across separate cohorts such as managers and executives?

By gathering group profile data across leadership levels, you can take a closer look at your organization’s leadership gap and fine-tune the leadership development strategy and offerings to specific audiences. Our Leadership Gap Indicator assessment is designed to compare perceptions of what leadership competencies will be important in the future with how your leaders are performing on those competencies today. This allows you to address gaps proactively.

4. Build a “red thread” through your talent practices.

In addition to aligning competencies with your organizational strategy, integrate them into different aspects of your talent practices. It is well established that HR teams can use 360 degree feedback for development. To  build on this, the competencies that are the basis for your developmental assessments can also become the foundation for your selection, performance management, and succession planning processes. 

This integration requires some careful planning and often a phased approach to implementation, but once firmly established, following this 360 degree feedback best practice guideline allows for a more seamless and efficient approach to talent management. 

5. Pulse your way to success.

The conventional approach to administering 360 assessments is to launch them on a periodic basis (e.g., every 12–24 months) and cover a broad range of relevant behaviors. Conversely, 360 data can be gathered on a more frequent and targeted basis.

When this is done in conjunction with a focus on “moving the needle” on particular organizational outcomes, the combination of data enables powerful insight into where efforts are paying off and where greater attention may be needed.

For example, analysis of a stalled implementation of a crucial enterprise system may reveal difficulties in cross-functional communication and coordination. After the cohort responsible for leading the initiative goes through training in spanning boundaries and strategy implementation, a series of assessments of relevant competencies could be launched to coincide with the evaluation of project milestones, so that feedback can be fed forward into the next stage of implementation, either in terms of maintaining progress or focusing more on adapting behaviors.

A Closing Word on These Guidelines & Best Practices for 360 Degree Assessments

As shown here, 360 assessments can benefit more than individual leaders. When leveraged with care and intention through following these 360 assessment best practices, they can be transformational for organizations, too.

These are some approaches that we’ve seen yield positive results for the broader organization and further increase the ROI on leadership assessments.

Ready to Take the Next Step?

To dive even deeper into 360 degree feedback best practice guidelines, we recommend exploring our 360 Assessment Certification Course.

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September 16, 2022
Eugenia Slaydon
About the Author(s)
George Hallenbeck
As Global Content Lead – Consultative Solutions, George Hallenbeck oversees the creation of research-based content for our program and product solutions. He’s a recognized expert in the area of learning agility and has been engaged in research, product development, and client activities related to the topic for over 15 years. George has authored or co-authored 8 books, including Compass: Your Guide for Leadership Development and Coaching and Learning Agility: Unlock the Lessons of Experience. He holds a BA in Psychology from Colby College and a MS and PhD in Industrial-Organizational Psychology from Colorado State University.

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