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The advantages and limitations of a 360 assessment



Virginie Graziani

Talent Management & Synergologist

5 April 2018

Reading Time: 4 minutes


The 360° approach is based on the idea that a manager who can access the feelings of his/her professional entourage will better understand the impact of his/her behaviour. As a result, it could allow him/her to evolve by changing his/her attitude. In real life, knowing an employee’s true feelings is indeed quite rare, especially when they’re placed in a shared management situation on a daily basis. The 360° assessment tool therefore makes it possible to receive personal feedback based on concrete situations, which the assessed individuals are well acquainted with, whilst changing the perception that they may have of them. Indeed, feedback from the professional entourage is all the more accepted when it’s supported by factual elements. At any rate, it is well proven that an employee needs feedback on his performance in order to be able to change his/her behaviour[1]. These aspects are all drivers of behaviour change in companies.


What benefits can 360 employees and companies enjoy?


More objective judgements

Firstly, an essential factor of 360° assessment is anonymity. Indeed, whatever their nature, certain feedback may spark tensions between employees following judgements or criticism  completely out of step with the perspective of the assessed manager.

More comprehensive judgements

Unlike annual one-to-one interviews, 360° allows the professional entourage of the assessed manager to be consulted. This can help to avoid employees “settling scores” if they have poor relations with their supervisors. Thus, the diversity of  “employee assessors” makes it possible to gather more reliable and comprehensive information about the performance, qualities and  image conveyed by the manager.

“The mirror effect” offers the assessed employee the opportunity to change his perspective of his strengths and improvement areas within his position. Indeed, we all have an image of ourselves at work which is somewhat askew: We are convinced that we are “bad” in a particular area and we are surprised to learn that others consider us to be “good”. This can also be the other way round: We are convinced that we are “better” to justify ourselves to our interlocutor. The visible signals seem to point this way, but the other person feels quite differently!


What are the limitations of 360 assessment ?


This assessment system is unique in that it involves all parties who have a direct or indirect link, whether it’s before or after the assessment, with the assessed individual in the workplace. Various negative effects may be highlighted both on the participants’ side, and that of the manager concerned.


For the professional entourage

Various actors therefore intervene in the process most of the time: colleagues, management, subordinates, customers and suppliers. It is therefore a matter of coordinating with the various parties, particularly so that they meet the deadline for submitting the questionnaire. It is not always easy to ensure the availability of assessors. It is not always easy to choose assessors amongst the people who could be involved in the process (colleagues, management, subordinates, clients, etc.)

This involves selecting parties adequately to ensure the respondents’ anonymity, whilst asking them to be as objective as possible in their ratings. Conscious of the impact of their feedback depending on their relationship and how close they are to the assessed individual, some people may have difficulty being objective, even if they’re unaware. The results can therefore be biased. Therein lies the difficulty of choosing participants.


For the employee being assessed

On the other hand, the assessed employee must prepare or be prepared by Human Resources for the assessment. Indeed, not all managers automatically accept challenges. This can be particularly unsettling, especially when there is substantial discrepancy between the manager’s perception and that of his employees.


What you need to remember about 360 feedback


To conclude, if it is adapted and used properly, 360° assessment can have real benefits. The exercise is risky and the quality of its results depends on its execution on all levels: a context for true anonymity and therefore expression which is sufficiently free, the availability of assessors, the relevance of the questions and the quality of the results analysis. The company’s culture therefore counts for a lot in the successful implementation of this type of assessment.


[1] https://www.forbes.com/sites/kevincashman/2014/03/17/return-on-self-awareness-research-validates-the-bottom-line-of-leadership-development/#2ab1d5c53750





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