A Guide to 360 Feedback What is 360 degree feedback?
360-degree feedback is a process used by individuals in a business or organisation to gain a better understanding of their own strengths and weaknesses. It involves the individual gathering real and constructive feedback from a range of people who work with them: their managers, peers and reports.
When to use a 360?
The ideal use cases for a 360-degree feedback review
- They help people find out how they’re doing, and discover the difference between how they see themselves and how they’re being received by colleagues at different levels.
- They encourage people to keep on doing the things that have a positive impact, and uncover blindspots so that they can be worked on.
- For example, someone might be performing really well in one area and be weaker in another but have no idea of either. We saw this with two new leaders in a large organisation who were struggling with imposter syndrome. They received such incredibly positive 360 feedback about the work they were doing that they both switched up their mindset and became much more confident and effective.
- For example, in one of AdviceSheet’s 360 feedback reviews on a person who was causing problems in a team, because of the way the questions are structured the problems were brought out in a balanced way: people explained what was wrong, but were also careful to say what they appreciated, which helped the person accept what they were hearing, and realise that they had unresolved issues from a previous role, so they could move on. (And the whole team became happier.)
Use for development not appraisal
- By its nature, a 360 feedback review is subjective so is best not used to measure performance or to decide on someone’s bonus.
- If a 360 is used as part of an appraisal or to decide on a bonus, friend team mates may give overly positive feedback whilst competitive colleagues may be affected by self-interest and try to hinder progress, by giving poor feedback, even if not warranted.
- Done well, a 360 empowers employees to take personal responsibility for improving, rather than it being imposed on them.
- A 360 works best if you view it as an investment in a staff member.
- Best if it’s anonymous - so that people feel safe to give honest feedback, and without fear of their own position being affected.
- Treat the reports as confidential - so that the recipient is not defensive and is open to receive and act on the feedback (and won't feel it’s a stick to beat them with.)
- Feedback may be uncomfortable or conflicting (different people have different views after all) - so 360 feedback reports are best digested in a coaching conversation with someone who’s safe, independent and perhaps external.
How a 360 works
- the feedback is anonymous,
- the results are kept confidential and not owned by HR or by line managers,
- the 360 survey uses qualitative questions only*
Who are the right people to give feedback?
Why 360s are good - the benefits and risks
- 360’s give your employees information on their strengths and where they can improve that they might not be aware of.
- Reading or hearing things about yourself helps you grow. How can you get better if you don't know or if you have a mistaken view?
- In large organisations with flatter hierarchies, leaders may not have all the information they need to monitor how an employee is doing - which makes colleagues better placed to give feedback.
- Using 360’s in a people-first way empowers employees to take personal responsibility for improving rather than it being imposed on them.
- 360’s promote the company’s commitment to employee development which is useful for recruitment and retention.
- It provides a fair and transparent process that encourages an open culture that values feedback.
- It can improve team work through an increased understanding of behaviours and how others experience them.
- The questions have to be well-thought out and well executed which means spending some time putting the process together.
- People may give fairly conservative feedback rather than risk straining relationships with colleagues by saying things that could be perceived negatively - especially if a 360 feedback is not anonymous.
- Standard 360s that use metrics are not objective and confusing to subjects.
- If you need to assess someone’s performance, you’d be better off finding more quantifiable measures of success rather than basing it on how people feel about an individual.
- If a 360 isn't owned by the individual, then there is room for them to reject it. It will feel like it's being imposed and a punishment, and respondents may also feel they cannot tell the truth. Those are not conditions that are conducive to people being motivated to change or improve.
- If feedback is not acted on, people may lose faith in the process.
- If feedback is not well-communicated, it could cause distress to the subject.
- Managers may use a 360 to highlight a problem team member’s weaknesses, as a way of avoiding a difficult conversation with them.
10 steps for designing a good 360 review
Be clear on the goals
Before you start, spend some time thinking about why you’re doing a 360 and the desired outcomes. We recommend 360 reviews are used as a tool for your employees’ development - which is considered a top workplace benefit - not for performance reviews.
Communicate well and give examples of good feedback
Before starting a new 360 review, make the process transparent - we recommend explaining to your team the purpose of it and how it’ll work, reassuring them that it’s for their benefit not tied to performance and exploring what is expected of them, and how to give effective and useful feedback.
Get buy in
Opening up to feedback can be a scary thought for anyone - some people will understandably be wary, a few will be keener to do it. Start with the latter. To overcome the resistance of the rest, you could offer to go first and share your experience afterwards. Always be grateful for the feedback - it is a gift!
If everybody in your team is giving feedback on everybody else at the same time, that could end up being quite a few hours of work for everyone. Think about spreading the load and not doing 360’s on everyone all at once - that way it won’t feel like such a burden.
Ask the right questions
If you don't ask the right questions you won't get the answers you need. We spent quite a lot of time researching and road testing various questions. These are our twelve most insightful 360 feedback questions - feel free to use them: (https://advicesheet.com/questions)
Consider the impact of using ‘metrics’
In our experience, numbers kill development conversations. A lot of 360 reviews ask more than 30 ‘rating’ questions and present feedback as pages of bar charts. A score of 5 or 7 is a confusing way to understand how you’re doing and how your behaviours affect others. Instead, people need stories about how they are doing to really understand how to develop, so we recommend using open-text questions only. You could decide to use a mix.
Make it easy to implement
Gathering 360 feedback can be a logistical nightmare, especially if it’s anonymous. Find the right tool to run a 360 rather than trying to do it yourself.
Ensure reminders are not overwhelming
360s mean quite a few emails - invitations to participate, reminders and follow ups - especially if your whole team is doing it. Busy people get enough email as it is. Getting overwhelmed by feedback requests during 360 season is annoying. Ensure it doesn’t become overwhelming by using the right 360 software that automates reminders without bombarding everyone.
Have a good follow up process
It is normal to feel nervous about 360 feedback. We recommend agreeing in advance how people will go through their feedback report and who will do that with them. It’s not a good idea for subjects to digest their report on their own - because it can make for uncomfortable reading. A session with their manager might be perfect for some people. Others might find the power dynamics of that difficult - so consider lining up a safe internal ‘mentor’, bringing in an external coach or arranging peers to do the review conversations.
Empower people to act on feedback
If feedback is not acted on, people may lose faith in the process. So after individuals have gone through their feedback, work out how you will support or empower them with the things they need to work on or take forward. When people see something happening as a result and that there is support for them, they will have more confidence in the process.
How to get the most out of the feedback
Our 360 feedback tool
- Transparent pricing
- Automates the process
- Anonymous participants
- Confidential reports
- Free from meaningless metrics
- Questions that stimulate insightful answers