Narrative vs. Survey-based 360° Feedback

360 degree feedbackNarrative vs. Survey-based 360° Feedback – Five Key Considerations

These days, I seem to be getting more frequent inquiries regarding the benefits of narrative 360° feedback verses survey-based 360° feedback. As a more time consuming, labour-intensive and costly exercise, why would you want to select a narrative-based approach over a less costly, more time efficient survey-based tool?

Here are five key considerations that will help in your decision-making process:

  1. Strengthened Context — to add additional clarity, depth and focus to the feedback. While survey-based 360° feedback is very useful, there are times when more in-depth context is required to give leaders a better sense of the information that they’re receiving. Specific examples, while maintaining anonymity of the respondents, can provide significant additional meaning for the participating leader – particularly if there is a desire to focus on specific aspects of a leader’s role, relationships or performance.
  2. Improved Customization — to provide the feedback participant with additional insights regarding specific aspects of their performance and for key projects or initiatives on which they’re focused. By its nature, a web-based survey tends to be more generic and targeted at a group of leaders. Even if done individually, online surveys generally utilize a standard set of questions based on desired capabilities. Narrative 360° feedback incorporates questions that gather detailed information regarding work that the participant has underway or has completed.
  3. analyzing chartEnhanced Engagement — to alleviate the sense that we’ve ‘been there’ and ‘done that’ for those leaders who have participated in one, two or more 360° feedback surveys. By creating a targeted set of questions, participants will get fresh information not captured in the survey-based format. In addition, respondents will be hearing and replying to a unique set of questions that are more targeted to their colleague and require additional thoughtfulness.
  4. Improved Accuracy -– to ensure that the feedback captures the real ‘essence’ of respondent thoughts and feelings. Since narrative 360° feedback, by its nature, involves individual in-person dialogue with respondents, there is the ever present opportunity to provide additional clarity regarding a specific question or to probe further if the respondent is somewhat unclear or vague in their reply. As a consequence, the results often have more relevance and can be linked together with greater cohesion than with a survey-based 360 approach.
  5. Expanded Participation — for senior-level leaders who have decided to ‘skip’ the 360° feedback process. Quite often, C-suite and board leadership may actively support the 360 process but ‘take a pass’ on direct participation in a survey-based approach. Customized narrative 360° feedback, however, often provides the incentive and motivation to encourage direct involvement – either as participants or respondents.

While 360° feedback, regardless of format, offers real value if conducted properly – providing some additional thought into the question of narrative vs. survey-based 360 feedback is definitely worth the effort.

About The Author

Scott Borland, Founder & President of CYGNUS Management Consultants Inc, , is a recognized expert in helping executives host strategic conversations and obtain high impact feedback. He brings insightful perspective and proven strategies to strengthen the alignment between strategy and leadership behaviour. Scott has presented frequently at regional/national conferences and is a regular contributor to online journals/blogs. Follow Scott on Twitter or add him as a connection on LinkedIn.

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