Using 360 Feedback Assessments for Manager Development

Written by Explorance.

An employee and a manager in front of a board

As our workplaces continue to evolve, many managers find the transition of their roles difficult or are simply unequipped to deal with this new reality. People at this level are often ashamed to ask for help or feel they should just figure it out independently. This type of behaviour can quickly lead to overwhelmed or disengaged managers, which then trickles down and impact their direct reports.

In a recent webinar, Explorance’s Chief Insights Officer, Shawn Overcast, was joined by Explorance Principal Consultant Karen Cozzie to discuss the topic of leadership and manager development through a 360 feedback assessment strategy.

This article will pick out the most important takeaways, stats, and best practices shared during the webinar:

Problems of Today in Leadership Management

Shawn began the presentation by highlighting the results of a recent Gartner study on the top priorities in leader and manager effectiveness:

  • 28% of mid-level leaders do not receive the development they need. 
  • 27% of companies say their leadership bench is not diverse. 
  • 24% answered that their leadership approach does not prepare leaders for the future of work. 
  • 24% felt their line managers do not receive the development they need. 
  • 22% of businesses identified that their succession management processes do not yield the right leaders at the right time. 

Rather than feeling discouraged by the trends shown in this study, it is time to start asking yourself the three focus areas Shawn proposed in the webinar: 

  • What are the leadership gaps and strengths in the workforce? 
  • Are the right leaders with the right skills/knowledge in the right place? 
  • What leadership capabilities are lost due to turnover; what is replaced with new hires? 

There are many ways to gather the data required to answer each of these questions individually. However, the only way to answer them all at once, reliably and efficiently, is to run a 360 feedback assessment campaign. 

What is a 360 assessment?

According to the presentation, a 360 feedback assessment is a systematic process to gather feedback on employees’ skills and competencies from multiple perspectives and use that for development planning. 

A common misunderstanding is that 360 assessments are good tools for performance review, but they are much more powerful for company development planning. The specific questions you ask must be tailored to your company and industry, but Shawn identified a few categories and general topics that most companies should be focusing on: 

Skills Insights

  • What skills does my organization have, and where are they located? 
  • Are we growing skills in our organization: where and by how much?
  • What skills do we need in the next two to five years? 
  • Where and how are we building these skills?
  • What skill risks exist that could impede growth? 

Workforce Planning

  • How do we organizational risks, emerging trends, and disconnects in our people processes? 
  • How can we retain and develop high-potential talent? 
  • How should we onboard talent to speed time to full productivity? 

Investments and Return

  • Are we adequately investing in skill development, reskilling, upskilling, job redesign, and alternate workforce models? 
  • What results have we achieved from our talent management and L&D strategies? 

The data generated by these questions will allow you to put in place programs and strategies truly based on what your employees need and expect from their employer. This is crucial information when facing a management crisis since, ideally, companies prefer promoting from within for this type of role. 

The Value of a 360 Feedback Assessment for Organizations

One of the beautiful things about 360 feedback assessment campaigns is that they provide benefits beyond their original purpose that still have a major impact on your organization. Shawn and Karen identified a few of the main ones: 

Creates discipline

When a 360 feedback assessment is put in place, it establishes a persistent process that employees can rely on. Leaders can then naturally set behavioral expectations from their direct reports without the need for micromanagement. Additionally, managers can now execute data-informed development planning and be proactive about potential staffing shortcomings. 

Provides insights

A 360 feedback assessment dramatically improves the quality of development conversations and identifies misaligned perceptions. This process often will reveal unexpected organizational dynamics and uncover talent process improvement areas. 

Empowers Employees

Employees will feel like they now have a voice that is heard by their employers. It also allows them to identify better strengths and growth opportunities, which leads to easier career planning. It’s a no-brainer; if employees can clearly see their careers grow at your company, they are bound to stay longer. 

Informs the Workforce Strategy

One of the biggest benefits of 360 feedback assessment is that it allows companies to plan their workforce hiring and training needs better. In the current state of the job market, businesses can’t afford to wait to face a problem and hire to fix it; it is imperative to be proactive when it comes to capability gaps. 

The Value of the 360 Feedback Assessment for the Manager/Leader

While 360 feedback assessments are commonly used to find greater trends going on within an entire workforce, they can be extremely powerful in assessing the success of your managers. In fact, in some situations, it’s simply the only way to gather reliable data on your leaders: 

Professional Development

It’s often in the very nature of a person in a management role to constantly want to improve and become better at their job. The only way to develop a person’s talent at this level of authority is by having a rigorous feedback process between employee and manager. 


Self-awareness is key for managers, and it can often be a difficult perspective. In fact, they are often stuck between a rock and a hard place by trying to please their boss and neglecting employees in the process. A 360 degree assessment will uncover all those situations and provide data to find a solution. 

Anonymous Feedback

This is a touchy subject, but because managers and leaders are in positions of authority, some feedback simply must be anonymous. A 360 degree assessment prevents any type of retaliation and allows you to discover if a behaviour is a one-off or a greater trend that needs to be addressed. 

Best Practices for Implementing a 360 Assessment

Launching a 360 feedback assessment campaign can be daunting for anyone who hasn’t done so before, but Shawn and Karen identified six pillars to keep in mind for a smooth implementation: 

Clarity of Purpose

Your goals must be clear from the get-go and properly communicated. This will also allow your employee to measure their expectations toward the result of the assessment. 

Engaged and Aligned Stakeholders

A 360 feedback assessment campaign involves stakeholders across HR, IT and potentially every department being assessed. Starting the process by getting all the executive champions you’ll require for the project is essential. 

Clear and Frequent Communication

Every step of the process must be carefully communicated to the employees taking the assessment and, ideally, follow a regular schedule so they can expect the next steps and prepare accordingly. Make sure your team understands why you are doing this and what you expect to gain from the process. 

Change Adoption Plan

One of the most important steps you must put in place is clear guidelines on the type of changes that will be put in place using the results of the assessment. This will show your commitment to change and provide guidance to your employees. 

Support the Process

Large workforce campaigns like these can often hit snags along the way. Ensure your team has all the support needed and educate all your stakeholders on the importance of their roles within the process. 

Data Structure and Use

Be clear and transparent on how you will use the data. Present the various narratives you have uncovered; this will show your employees that their voices are heard and used to address challenges within the organization. 

How Are Your Addressing Leadership Development?

While this article provides a good overview of the main ways 360 feedback assessments can improve your leaders and managers, it only covers a few key portions of this amazing presentation by Shawn and Karen. 

Other sections include a leadership framework, an overview of the end-to-end support for multi-rater solutions provided to Explorance clients, and a detailed case study to showcase the 360 feedback assessment campaign results. 

Watch the Recording of the Full Presentation Here

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