Cumulative 360 Data Guides Strategic Planning
By Timothy Bentley
HR professionals who harness the aggregate data provided by 360 degree feedback make a valued contribution to the well-being of their organization. This data assists in the strategic management of human assets which, in competitive times, can make the difference between success and failure.
360 degree feedback is constantly gaining adherents because it is so effective at enhancing the growth of individuals. But to date, the benefits of its aggregated data have been largely ignored, wasting a high value resource.
When aggregate data is used to contribute to the management of staff resources, it replaces risky guess-work and supplements instinct. It helps leaders formulate strategies that conform to the actual abilities of their team.
It can empower them to:
- Take advantage of under-utilized personnel strengths to increase productivity
- Avoid the trap of counting on skills that may be weak in the organization
- Apply human assets data to the valuation of the organization
- Make succession planning more accurate
- Design more efficient coaching and training initiatives
- Support the organization in marketing the skills of its members
Here are some scenarios where HR professionals can use aggregate results to make a visible contribution.
1. Playing to strengths
The CHRO examines the aggregate reporting of a 360 degree feedback project, discovering that certain departments of the organization have unexpected levels of strength in customer service.
The CHRO presents the aggregate data to the executive team, pointing out that these highly-engaged employees have the potential to attract more engaged customers.
Working from the data, the organization markets its customer service strengths, boosting sales and profits.
2. Avoiding strategic traps
An organization that excels in technical innovation considers a marketing campaign designed to court technology shy customers. The campaign would emphasize relationship and collaboration, which have long been identified as core competencies for the organization.
But the CHRO presents aggregated 360 results indicating that the relational and collaborative abilities of the employees who would be involved in this initiative are actually not strong.
Based on this information, the organization side steps a potential disaster, marketing its proven innovative qualities instead. And it undertakes initiatives to strengthen the relationship skills of its staff.
3. Valuing the organization
CFOs are increasingly asked to value their organizations in a more sophisticated manner that takes account of human assets: the skills and collected wisdom of employees. As much as a third of market capitalization can be attributed to easily-measured physical assets, but it is difficult to quantify the intangibles, in part because of the absence of solid numbers for the value of human capital.
A collaborative approach between the CFO and the CHRO uses aggregate reporting of 360 degree feedback to help measure the strengths of employees. That in turn drives higher shareholder returns.
Bill Gates once made a similar point: "Take our 20 best people away and I can tell you that Microsoft would become an unimportant company".
4. Planning succession with accuracy
Many organizations face the retirement of a leadership generation in the near future. They are actively engaged in cataloguing the skills required for the future, and in evaluating and preparing successors.
Aggregate 360 degree feedback data allows them to spotlight those who already possess the requisite skills. It identifies not only the obvious suspects, but also high performing but "invisible" candidates. And it can help pinpoint those most likely to benefit from development opportunities.
5. Designing coaching and training
Training officers hate to spend their development dollars, unless they are sure the programs are needed and precisely targeted. Using aggregate reports, HR can partner with them to calibrate their coaching and training initiatives. For instance, they can point out the precise development needs of specific demographic groups in the organization.
These reports have another useful ability: to reveal whether skill levels are uniform or diverse. So, for instance, if most members of the group show similar low results in a particular skill, trainers can offer universal programs. If only certain people have low scores, programs can be targeted in a cost-effective way to the individuals or sub groups who will benefit the most.
6. Marketing member skills
Organizations that provide services are often asked: "Why should we pay a premium price to purchase your services?" An aggregate report that reflects their clients' satisfaction, based on customer focused 360 degree feedback, can provide valuable confirmation.
For instance, a medical co operative that provides specialist services to hospitals shows potential clients the aggregate results that identify overall strengths, without identifying individual contributors.
Opportunities for HR
HR professionals are often alone in recognizing that 360-degree feedback can provide accurate measurements of the organization's human assets.
Because the perspective of other leaders is often limited to traditional data (unit production, sales, etc.), they may forget that human assets are not only quantifiable, but when properly managed, the only form of capital that does not depreciate over time.
It falls to HR professionals to make sure that both the value of the 360 data and the strategic contribution they can make, are widely recognized.
Core Competency Ranking: This section of a 360-degree feedback aggregate report warns that while the organization is strong in business and strategic skills, weak people skills make it vulnerable to competitors. Near term strategy would take advantage of the strengths, while building skills in the vital areas of teamwork and communication.
Timothy Bentley is Chief Operating Officer of Panoramic Feedback.
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