360 Degree Feedback – The Pros & Cons, Part 1

Tuesday, 8 August 2019

Why 360 Degree Feedback is a waste of time – 360 Degree Feedback Pros and Cons

Part 1 The Cons of 360 Degree Feedback

360 Degree Feedback measures the wrong things

The first thing to understand about 360 degree feedback, and a significant number of companies don’t really get this, is that competency based effective 360 degree feedback measures behaviour, and nothing else. Behaviour is something that one person does or says that is observed by other people. In psychology speak it is the extrinsic manifestation of internal values, beliefs, thoughts and emotion. You can’t see the internal stuff so don’t ask other people to try to measure it.
Why waste time and money using 360 Feedback to measure skills, aptitude, potential or a host of other things when there are many other more effective forms of measurement that are cheaper to deploy, quicker to complete and provide more accurate and dependable results?
Even when 360 Feedback questionnaires are behaviourally based they have statements like: “Feels compassion for the team”, when what you might actually mean is; “Displays concern for the wellbeing of team members”, or “Cries a lot in meetings”, or “Offers pastoral support whenever requested” … or a host of other things that people can actually see and can be observed in either their quality or frequency.

You can’t trust the results.

In purely statistical terms apart from the obvious issue of Face Validity (ie it measures what is says it measure. Behaviour!) 360 Feedback does not stand close scrutiny. If you are hoping to use it as a comparator between different samples (e.g. John Smith v Elizabeth Brown, Marketing v Finance), or as a predictor of performance or even to compare John or Elizabeth over time then it is unlikely that you will be successful without a lot of groundwork … and perhaps not even then.
The only way to use the results of 360 Feedback is for individual or team development.

360 Degree Feedback – It’s a waste of time.

Staff Time
In addition to its statistical frailty, it is an enormous drag on corporate time (8 people completing a survey to give feedback on just one person! Really??) and many companies do not realise the burden of this hidden cost until too late in the day. This usually surfaces in either Senior Management or C Suite throwing their dummy out of the pram because they have just been lumped with 6 or more 360s to complete within a two week timeframe, or a complete lack of enthusiasm by staff to continue after they have done the first one or two (although there may be other reasons than time for this; trust, confidentiality, communication of process and intent, complex questionnaires etc.)
There are even more subtle ways of wasting staff time within the process, possibly the most frequent is in the quality and number of questions in the Competency Framework (if you want to check how good/bad yours is, upload it to that they are asked as part of the

Subject/Ratee time
360 Feedback is generally focused on the development of one person, although it can also be used a group or team metric, but this is still relatively rare. The individual usually puts more time into the process than anyone else, so if it doesn’t work for them then due to the sunk costs to get to this point it becomes a very expensive waste of time and energy.
If the individual has not bought into the process, or there is insufficient resource and budget to support them through the whole process, particularly after the presentation of the 360 Report, it is unlikely to produce a significant return on investment.


360 Feedback often wastes a lot of time, provides statistically weak results and adds little return on investment.
However, if you want to measure Behaviour in order to drive the Competency Framework within the business it is the only horse in town.
read Part 2 to understand how all might not be lost.

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