First of all, I love HR. Without those folks, I wouldn't be in business! That said, in my experience discussing 360-based development programs with HR pros, they often stress the importance of assessing the right competencies over optimizing the chance that people will do something worthwhile with assessment results. I was thrilled when an HR professional once said to me: "There's really not that much difference between the 360 surveys out there. The key issue is whether people apply what they learn."
360 assessments can be effective for sensitizing people to practices that they need to change or develop. I've been using various 360 tools for self-discovery purposes since 1990 and I have learned the following:
There's not much practical difference between soundly researched instruments regarding the competencies assessed and the data provided. The only differences are labelling or semantics.
There are relatively high correlations between competencies, both within and across 360 instruments.
Most 360 surveys have more than 12 competencies, the more the better it seems. It's most likely that 8 to 10 competencies would suffice, no more than 12. Less competencies also means less items for principals and respondents to answer.
The following steps are key to maximizing the effective application of 360 results:
Debrief with a 360 coach to intellectually and emotionally accept results and implications, and to determine growth priorities.
A reality check session with the boss, or other sponsors or team members to clarify a development vision and priorities.
With coaching assistance, write a plan that links more effective practices with the achievement of job and career goals.
Review the plan with the sponsors and other key stakeholders as well (e.g., direct reports and peers). Going public with commitments is important!
Establish a follow-up process for plan review and adjustments, and ongoing, just-in-time feedback. This piece is also critical for enabling a sustained effort and positive change