Organisations are often in possession of large amounts of 360 data from employee feedback providing information about work-related behavior and/or performance of colleagues. Comments from 360 data provide an overwhelming amount of information gained from numerous sources about individuals within an organisation. The challenge is to organise this information in a logical and comprehensive way that is useful and relevant to an organisation. Thematic analysis is often employed to analyse and reduce large datasets into manageable and understandable pieces of information. This technique provides an easily interpretable and concise description of emergent themes and patterns found within large datasets using scientific and rigorous processes to ensure a high degree of accuracy. This case study will outline the process taken to qualitatively analyse Start, Stop, and Continue comments from 360 leadership surveys completed by employees within a multinational African organisation. These comments provide information about strengths and development areas of the leaders within the organisation.
A thematic analysis was conducted from comments provided by managers, peers, and subordinates on a 360-degree instrument that was developed for the organisation as an indication of how well leaders live the organisational values. There were over 70 000 comments that needed to be thematically coded into useful pieces of information – both broadly and regionally. Three methods of analyses and comparison were carried out:
- Common ideas and statements were grouped together, which enabled the researchers to identify frequently occurring codes that could indicate development areas (in the case of Start and Stop comments), and strengths (from the Continue comments) from the overall dataset. From this, researchers were also able to get a percentage breakdown of the themes and subthemes that were identified.
- Thematic comparisons were made across the different regions within the organisation. Here, prominent themes occurring in one region could be compared and contrasted to themes in other regions. For additional interpretation, the total numbers of Start/Stop comments per theme were compared to the total number of Continue comments in each theme. This allowed for an understanding of where the priority areas per theme were concentrated.
- From the themes, a detailed analysis of the individual countries within each region was provided. This analysis highlights the unique climate, and can provide insight into the values predominant in a particular country. The results were illustrated using direct employee comments as evidence.
From this analysis, the organisation was able to get a succinct understanding of the strengths and development areas within the organisation. Key points of action and recommendations were put forward to the organisation to address the themes identified. This process can inform an organisation about:
- Main areas of development for leaders;
- Main strengths that leaders possess;
- Actions necessary to develop leaders; and
- Things that leaders can do differently to improve work performance.
The results of the thematic analysis provide evidence that employees are important sources of information that can assist in measuring the performance of individuals in managerial positions.