How Artificial Intelligence can deliver the real insight from 360 feedback

As an HR consultancy we often talk to clients about the use and value of 360 feedback.  360 feedback is a highly regarded and well-established tool that helps understand the strengths and development areas of an employee in relation to the organisation’s desired behaviours. It offers an insightful view, which can be made even more valuable by adding a few open text questions, such as ‘What does the employee do well?’ or ‘What should they start doing?’. These narrative questions add context to the ratings and make the picture complete.

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360 Feedback

Our 360 feedback assessments measure behaviours against your organisation’s core competencies, empowering your people to develop and deliver the highest impact.

Open text questions in 360 – insight and oversight
Open text feedback provides value on an individual level by creating additional insights that give opportunities for deeper discussion and personal development. However, it is more difficult to utilise them when you start looking at the results on a group level. While the quantitative ratings for groups of people can provide rich information (helping you answer questions like ‘What are the strengths of my team?’ ‘Where do we need development or a new hire with a specific skill?’), analysing qualitative open text question responses is less straightforward. On a team level they can become overwhelming for the Team Leader or Manager to interpret, and on a strategic organisational level it is nearly impossible to analyse the responses and look for insights. As a result, a lot of valuable 360 information is lost and not usable for strategic insights.


AI to the rescue
But here’s the good news: AI (Artificial Intelligence) provides ways of accessing these comments more easily than ever before so they can offer additional value that supplements the insight from the 360 ratings. Open text feedback can be translated into group wide insights through semantic text analysis. Based on AI, this technology does not focus on analysing words, but instead analyses whole phrases and the context in which they have been used and related themes. As a result, the outcome is more than just a word cloud highlighting commonly used words, it actually outputs relevant themes that are usable for HR Directors, Learning & Development and Organisation & Development specialists.  Cubiks’ partner Opensquare is one of the few parties pioneering this impressive technology. 

The study
To understand a bit more about the type of information and insight that can be gained from this approach, Cubiks and Opensquare conducted a large study that analysed 1 million free text comments given by reviewers on 70 000 participants. The anonymised data was used to create insight beyond competencies and analyse trends in the ‘how’ and ‘why’? Most commonly the open text answers explored the interaction between reviewer and reviewee and dived deeper than competencies alone ever could. 

Analysing 1 million data points gives a broad picture of common trends across organisations, but where this technology really excels is on a company level.

So, what are the areas that were most often mentioned in the open text comments?

Communication trumps the board
34% of open text comments were related to communication, positive and negative. This suggests people have high expectations and strong views on the topic.  Specifically, the main areas for positive and negative comments were communication within the team and the delivery of information. 

Top tip:
When communicating try to be clear and transparent. Don’t be afraid to address difficult topics and try to explain high level concepts like strategy and vision in a way the individual can relate to and apply in their day to day job. 

The ability to work effectively, to use established organisational processes and deal with complex matters also generated a lot of comments. 
25% of open text feedback focused on this topic of efficiency, with the biggest concern being not effective on all occasions. 

Top tip:
If you feel your actions are not being effective enough and lack impact, then find out more about company processes and operational matters. Often these processes have been put in place to save time and people appreciate if they are being followed. 

One topic that frequently appeared as a strength is motivation. 18% of open text comments dealt with motivation, with 12% being positive. People, especially leaders, value the ability to support and motivate a team. 

Top tip:
Try to be available and approachable for your team and genuinely willing to help and commit time to people development.  Try to stay positive and display a sense of passion, enthusiasm and share it with the team. 

How this can benefit organisations
Analysing 1 million data points gives a broad picture of common trends across organisations, but where this technology really excels is on a company level. This is where it can shed more light on a company’s specific challenges and highlight topics that are outside their traditional areas of focus. 

Time (in various guises) was a reoccurring topic in an anonymised study we conducted in partnership with one of our clients. Having more time to discuss, to reflect, to understand or to adapt, came out as clear areas where respondents wanted improvement. As the company had been going through a major transformation process, this gave out a strong signal.  Since then the company has created stronger and earlier stakeholder engagement, a new communication and deployment approach, and even paused to ensure people have the time to absorb the changes.  This is a great result that would not have surfaced so clearly by simply analysing the 360 feedback ratings against their competency framework items.  

The future
360 feedback is an important tool for HR professionals. With today’s technology we have an opportunity to make much more of it – 360 could become one of the most valuable tools for strategic HR decision making!


About Opensquare:
Opensquare is a startup company headquartered in Paris that designed a revolutionary artificial intelligence (enqi) specifically for employee research that natively understands 60 languages.   Opensquare developed a simpler, faster and more powerful approach around the analysis of employee feelings and their open comments. enqi learns on a “machine-learning” logic to replicate the work of experts and produces analyzes on a scale and depth hitherto inaccessible. Beyond engagement, Opensquare aims to transform the world of employee surveys by making each and every employee change agent unleashing collective intelligence

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