360 Degree Feedback Questionnaire Design

Colin Newbold, 3rd February 2020 in Development, Feedback, Hiring, Human Resources, People Management, Testing

As the third blog in our series, we’re going to investigate 360 degree questionnaire design, competency frameworks (from which bespoke questionnaires are often drawn) and what makes a good question.

360 questionnaires are designed to provide individuals with anonymous feedback from other stakeholders within an organisation. 

Previously, more traditional methods relied on simply receiving feedback from supervisors, often in the form of the annual appraisal. Online 360 questionnaires give individuals the opportunity to receive constructive feedback from their peers, direct reports and other colleagues on their skills, behaviour and communication.

Confusion Between Psychometric Testing & 360 Feedback

The term ‘psychometric’ is formed from the Greek words for mental and measurement. Psychometric tests attempt to objectively measure aspects of your mental ability or your personality. 

More recently, HR teams are placing more emphasis on culture, personality and mental ability. A common way to measure this is through psychometric testing. You are most likely to encounter psychometric testing as part of the recruitment or selection process. These occupational psychometric tests are designed to provide employers with a reliable method of selecting the most suitable job applicants or candidates for promotion or recruitment.

In general, psychometric tests aim to measure attributes like intelligence, aptitude and personality. They provide a potential employer with an insight into how well you work with other people, how well you handle stress, and whether you’ll be able to cope with the intellectual demands of the job. As a result, they should be statistically examined and subsequently licensed for face validity and reliability. 

You may be thinking, how is this different to 360 feedback, well it is very different. 360 degree feedback is simply a survey of people’s perceptions about an individual’s behaviour, including that individual’s self-perception. In fact, it is often the contrast between self-perception and other people’s perceptions that shows the individual where their development opportunities are.

By behaviour, we mean something the person does (or doesn’t do) and/or something they say (or don’t say). As such, it is something that can be observed.

Why a Tailored 360 Feedback Questionnaire Is The Way To Go

At click-360 SelfDrive we’ve been creating bespoke questionnaires for over 20 years. You can of course buy off-the-shelf examples of questionnaires, but nothing beats a questionnaire that is tailored to your organisation’s culture, vision, mission and, above all, values. 

click-360 SelfDrive focuses on co-creating the perfect questionnaire, combining the organisation's values and our 360 experience and knowledge. 

An organisation’s values are often a set of statements that define their business (core) ethics or principles. These values can then be subtly incorporated into the questionnaire itself. 

There are numerous ways of approaching 360 questions. A common and effective way is to consider the competencies involved in different roles (skills, knowledge and behaviours). These competencies are then integrated with the values, like a ‘golden thread’ that runs through the questionnaire. Results from the 360 supports the talent management process to inform any promotion or succession decisions.

It’s not just about what you're doing, it's about how you are doing it”

Seven Is The Magic Number

An organisation can usually summarise their key competencies into no more than 7 areas, statements or clusters. These are often called behavioural clusters or competencies.

Each competency you address within the 360 questionnaire should have no more than seven questions that support it. 

Why seven? It’s all about trying to keep the rater from getting fatigued. Once they’ve lost interest, the questionnaire has lost accuracy. 

7 maximum clusters / competencies / behaviours 

7 questions per competency

7 words in a question 

7 letters in a word

7 words in a sentence 

Using the above as a general rule, you should have a maximum of 50 questions, although we recommend that 40 questions is more manageable. This means that the entire questionnaire can be completed within approximately 20 minutes. However, it is just as important to be able to answer these questions in bite size chunks. Allowing the rater to save progress and return to the questionnaire another time is crucial to attaining valuable and reliable feedback. 

Incorporating Organisational Values Into The Questionnaire

Below is a simple example of how an organisation should incorporate their values, competencies or behaviours into their 360 feedback questionnaire. 

Value = “We give colleagues the courage to question the norm”

Question = “Is confident to challenge the status quo”

What Makes A Good 360 Feedback Questionnaire?

  • Be clear on what you want to measure and why

It is important to be as specific as possible about what behaviours are involved and how you will know if they are improving as you continue to measure them. Typically, each of your 360 questions will be a specific observable behaviour which describes what “finished” looks like. In other words, the statement is how you would like the person to act or behave.

  • Keep the questions simple

Use an active verb, for example “Thinks before acting”. Keep the statements positive. Ask only one thing at a time. Remember the ‘rule of 7’: 7 words max in the statement, 7 letters max in each word.

  • Choose an objective and straightforward rating scale

Also known as a likert scale. The best ones are based on frequency or agreement. So at one end of the scale you have “Always” or “Strongly agree”, at the other end you have “Never” or “Strongly disagree”. How many points on the scale? Well popular opinion suggests that if you have an even number of points you force people onto one side or the other (positive or negative), whereas if you have an odd number of points too many people will sit in the neutral middle: “Neither agree nor disagree”.

  • Offer free text comments to clarify and explain the ratings

In our experience, greater depth and clarity is afforded by having comments at the end of each behavioural heading, or group. One comment box asks for examples of things the participant does well in respect of that behaviour or competency, the other asks for things the participant could do differently.

It’s also worth considering one final set of three questions: things you would like the participant to stop doing, start doing or continue doing.

360 Questionnaire Checklist

If you’ve understood all of the above and want a simple checklist of what to remember when creating a 360 degree feedback questionnaire, we’ve summarised the key points below.

  • Utilise an action verb
  • Describe an observable behaviour
  • Ask only one thing at a time
  • Use clear and simple language, avoid jargon
  • Describe a positive, desired behaviour (something you wish them to move toward, rather than leave behind)
  • Describe a behaviour that is important for the individual and/or the organisation?

If you need help co-creating a bespoke questionnaire, or you’d like us to check out something that you already have, please feel free to get in touch. 

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