Self-Report or 360°?

In terms of talent management, which version of the Burke Learning Agility Inventory® should you choose?

Is it better to use a self-report assessment, in which participants directly answer the questions about themselves or is it better for participants to receive feedback from multiple perspectives, in addition to their own responses?

The simple answer – It depends.

You should first ask yourself, What is the purpose for using an assessment in this effort? Typically, you want to provide feedback to the person with whom you are working. Both a self-report and a 360° (multi-rater) assessment will provide feedback to the person involved. When I am working with other people, I often show the diagram below, which depicts the three means by which you can obtain information about a person.









There are advantages and disadvantages to each approach.


Advantage: You know yourself very well and could provide any number of examples of the concept we are trying to understand – for example, learning agility.

Disadvantage: You may not be able to be objective about yourself and will therefore present a biased view.

Observed Behavior

Advantage: You use a neutral third party to follow the person around and record what they are saying and doing. There is no bias with this approach, as the observer is just recording what they see.

Disadvantage: By just watching, you don’t know “why” someone is doing what they are doing. Without the motive or intention, you may misinterpret the reason(s) something is happening.


Advantage: Completing an assessment on a subject can be a good way to collect information on a person’s capability on a subject. That assumes that the assessment is measuring what it claims to be measuring. Those assessments that are supported by good research are a good way to understand a person’s capabilities in an area.

Disadvantage: If an assessment is not supported by research, then it is not likely measuring anything it claims and should be disregarded.

The best means of collecting information about a person on a specific subject would be to use multiple methods (self-report, observed behavior and assessment), then look at where the three inputs overlap or converge. Using multiple methods neutralizes the biases of each individual approach.

Let’s go back to our original question of whether it is better to use a self-report or a 360° (multi-rater) assessment. I said earlier that it depends, and it depends because certain “uses” or applications of an assessment dictate which one is best.


EASI•Consult uses several assessments as part of our assessment for selection. The tool to measure learning agility in this case is the Burke Learning Agility Inventory® (Burke LAI®) Self Report Extended Version.

It is not impossible to use the 360° Burke Learning Agility Survey® (360° Burke LAS®) multi-rater version of the assessment in this situation, but it would be very difficult. The other raters would be from outside the organization and the person trying to get people to complete the questionnaire would be doing so for someone who is no longer with that organization. Awkward, at best.

It can be challenging enough to get up to 10 people to complete this assessment for one person, even when everyone is employed in that organization. To try to collect the information when everyone is outside the organization may limit the response rate.

Leadership Development

If you are working with a group of high potential managers attending a program together or who agreed to go through an individual assessment as part of their development, a 360° version of the tool may be a good option in instances where the participants may not have previously received multi-rater feedback.

In the multi-rater approach, participants are still asked for their input. The other raters may confirm what participants said about themselves. There may be areas in which participants rated themselves more harshly than others rated them. Participants can also have blind spots in which they think they are performing better than they really are, and that will show in how others rate them versus how high they rate themselves. The only way to get these other views is with a 360° tool.

To summarize, there are different ways to collect information about a person. You need to be clear about the objective of your project. If you decide an assessment is going to best accomplish your objective, then make sure it will measure what it claims to measure. Even when you have a great tool with a lot of research behind it, like the Burke LAI, it may still not be enough. In the case of the Burke, you have a Self-Report and a 360° multi-rater version.

You need to think about your application and determine which version of the assessment is most feasible and/or practical and is going to give you the most accurate results. There could be a hybrid version beyond these two choices but beyond what we can address here.

David Hoff is the chief operation officer and executive vice president for leadership development at EASI•Consult®. EASI•Consult works with Fortune 500 companies, government agencies, and mid-sized corporations to provide customized Talent Management solutions. EASI•Consult specialties include individual assessment, online employment testing, survey research, competency modeling, leadership development, executive coaching, 360-degree feedback, online structured interviews, and EEO hiring compliance. The company is a leader in the field of providing accurate information about people through professional assessment. To learn more about EASI•Consult, visit www.easiconsult.com, email ContactUs@easiconsult.com or call 800.922.EASI.



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