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Testing gives all-round picture

MORE companies are turning to 360-degree assessment as a way of giving their staff founded feedback on the way they are performing, and as a chance to improve themselves.

The assessment revolves around giving the subject some questions to answer relating to how they see themselves and then giving those same questions to their superiors, their subordinates, their peers and even their customers.

This way the subject can have their say on their strengths and weaknesses and this can be combined with feedback from their colleagues, providing valuable in-formation on what the person must do to improve.

The testing also helps identify how the subject’s behaviour impacts on those around them. In many cases, people are unaware that they are doing things that upset their co-workers or staff, and this tool helps them identify it.

They are also often unaware of the things they do that help their staff.

However, for 360-degree testing to work correctly, several things need to be done.

Firstly, the questions must relate to the competencies required to do the job.

The answers to the questions also need to be confidential so that people are encouraged to answer honestly.

Staff must be given an opportunity to create an individual development plan that they can work on to make any improvements deemed necessary.

The company also must have a culture that supports staff development.

People Innovations executive director Tim Ford said the behaviours exhibited by people were often different to the way that people thought they were acting.

“Often, but not always, the 360-degree assessment provides gaps between how people thought about the subject and how the subject thought about themselves,” he said.

“Those gaps can be used to develop an action plan that people can put in place to help improve.”

Curtin University of Technology organisational psychologist Simon Albrecht, who uses 360-degree assessments with Curtin Consultancy Services, said the testing gave people a way of under-standing how they were travelling in terms of leadership and management.

“You’re looking for discrepancies in the feedback to find opportunities for development,” he said.

“It’s really good for identifying strengths as well as weaknesses.”

Dr Albrecht said the people using the Curtin Consultancy Services approach to 360-degree testing were able to choose who would review them.

“But that is checked off with their managers, so they don’t just get their buddies to do it,” he said.

“Part of the process is making sure that people get comfortable with the process. If it is not done properly it can have damaging effects.”

Knipe Management Consultants coach and consultant James Miller said a culture that supported staff development was crucial to the process.

“The culture of support has to be there. You have to have a culture that supports personal development,” he said.

Mr Ford said the process would not succeed without the culture of support.

“I don’t think any 360-degree firm would give the results to the company. They would only give them to the subject,” he said.

“It’s up to the subject to share the results. If the culture is not there that encourages people to share those results then there won’t be any benefit from the process.”

Mr Miller said coaches could play a vital role in the process by helping people to understand the results and also through helping them understand how the results relate to their personal goals.

“A lot of people need help setting up quality, meaningful action plans to make the most of the results from the feedback,” he said.

“Part of it is about aligning the person’s personal goals with the business’s goals.”

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