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Complete Guide on 360 Degree Feedback [2024]

August 29, 2021
10 Min Read
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Mihai Dolganiuc

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Do you feel that the typical performance review process just doesn't work at your company, or have you wondered if it's too subjective? If so, there is a different approach you can take to help make evaluations work for your company.

This article will provide you with tips and information on how 360 degree feedback can be useful in today's rapidly growing business environment. 360 degree feedback is often viewed as a mystery by many people who may not know the basics of how the feedback process works, or even if they should try it. This blog aims to take the mystery out of what can be a very useful feedback tool, and help you understand how a 360 degree feedback survey can help you meet your business goals.

What is 360 degree feedback?

360 degree feedback is essentially a more formal version of getting your boss to ask your co-workers what you're like on the job; it's more of an evaluation within the company rather than from outside sources. This type of peer feedback and evaluation will be based off observations and opinions from those who work daily with you, making their evaluations a little less subjective than a typical evaluation would be with just one person involved in the process. This way there's no question about whether or not someone holds a personal grudge against another individual.

So other than asking for anonymous input from employees, what exactly can you do to make this process work?

360 degree feedback pros and cons

While there is no way to guarantee that you'll always get positive feedback from 360 degree evaluations, it may be easier to obtain better results if employees are aware of the progress they are making toward their goals. This goal setting process should include your organization's leadership team in order for employees to feel comfortable that the company vision will continue throughout the ranks.

360 degree feedback pros:

  • Offers opportunities for development based on actual needs in accordance with organizational goals.
  • Employees will have more control over their careers.
  • Provides continuous feedback, which can be invaluable for forming a development plan.
  • Gives an opportunity for self-assessment and leadership development.
  • Promotes group efforts toward organizational goals by rewarding cooperation rather than competition between employees and increases employee engagement.
  • Improves performance through timely delivery of constructive criticism concerning performance strengths and weaknesses.
  • Creates opportunities for constructive, open communication and feedback between employees and their supervisors.
  • Enhances the effectiveness of the traditional performance appraisal process by providing an additional, non-biased source of information concerning employee performance and potential.
  • Improves management by allowing individuals to easily recognize both their own strengths and areas that need improvement.
  • Increases individual commitment toward organizational goals by rewarding effort rather than production or results.

360 degree feedback cons:

  • Creates circumstances where individuals may be tempted to manipulate their responses in order to receive more favorable ratings from other participants, which could lead to inaccurate results.
  • Results tend to be discussed with others, so even though confidentiality is promised, everyone involved in the evaluations knows how each person was rated. This can create awkward situations among staff members at work.
  • May be difficult to get employees to rate others on their performance, especially if they are not comfortable with giving negative feedback. Also, some people do not like to be evaluated themselves.
  • Can lead to inaccurate ratings if the person receiving performance feedback does not interpret it correctly or act upon it appropriately.

Understanding the process of 360 degree feedback

360 degree feedback is a multi-rater feedback evaluation system that allows peers, subordinates and supervisors to provide feedback concerning individuals' performance in their role(s). 360 degree feedback systems usually consist of the following components:

  • An online questionnaire for evaluating individual performance delivered via email.
  • A second email notification sent out after a set time interval has passed (usually about two weeks) which gets responses submitted by others (e.g., peers and subordinates) and presents it to the person being evaluated.

The first email is sent out by a manager and contains a link to an online questionnaire. The first email also includes instructions for how to complete the questionnaire, as well as a personalized message from the manager asking each employee to take part in the process. The second email (sent directly from 360 degree feedback software) alerts participants that their responses are ready and encourages them to provide feedback. This reminder email gives individuals approximately 15-20 days in which they can return their completed evaluations.

By following this process, people who work at your company will be able to rate individuals on competency and provide their thoughts on an employee's performance. This takes the pressure off an employee's manager and makes employee accountability something the whole team or organization is part of.

Using a 360 degree feedback questionnaire

To get accurate feedback, you must first provide clear instructions for how employees should answer your 360 degree appraisal questionnaire. The following tips will ensure everyone understands the questions and provides the information you need to improve your business:

  • State specific performance goals in advance. Not all people are skilled at giving feedback, so if the respondents do not know what 'good' looks like then you will have a problem with inaccurate ratings. Define which aspects of each role are important for evaluation purposes, and provide employees with written instructions on how they should complete the questionnaire.
  • Ask simple, straightforward questions that will allow people to provide an accurate response. Avoid asking leading or vague questions (ex: "how good is this person?") because they can be misinterpreted when people read them. Instead, use direct statements that clearly define exactly what it is you want to know (ex: "the degree to which Jim meets our company's customer service standards").
  • Ask about both professional and personal attributes. 360-degree feedback focuses on determining employees' fit for their role, so it is necessary to evaluate them as the whole person - not just as a worker. For example: do they show up on time every day, or do they sometimes come late? Do they routinely meet deadlines and produce quality work, or are there times when it looks like they don't care enough to give 100% toward their tasks? What might be causing this inconsistency in performance?
  • Focus on evaluating behaviors versus skills. Some people possess the right skill set for a particular role (ex: speaking), but their poor behavioral habits prevent them from reaching their full potential (ex: dominating team meetings with long, unbroken speeches). Sometimes skills can be taught and learned, but behaviors always stem from something deeper - so the latter should be the focus of your evaluation.
  • Tailor questions to each individual. There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all questionnaire that works for an entire company, because different jobs require different information (ex: salespeople might benefit more from feedback on closing techniques than their peers in customer service roles will.) Asking individuals about their personal areas of concern will help you better understand them as people and determine whether they are equipped to do what you need them to do on a daily basis.
  • Remember that the whole team benefits when everyone participates. A 360 degree feedback process creates a competitive environment where employees feel like they're all working toward a common goal - and it also allows you to encourage healthy competition without creating animosity between employees. Discourage employees from giving each other low ratings, because it will only cause confusion among your entire team. This is not the time for office politics, so focus on providing everyone with feedback that is both balanced and equitable.
  • Use multiple forms of feedback. A company survey is a good way to get more specific information about issues within the workplace, but if managers are responsible for submitting their own scores then there's an increased chance of inaccuracy due to personal bias. That said, surveys can show you how your business stacks up against similar businesses in your industry, which can give you ideas about how to improve what you do by emulating your competitors.
  • Provide feedback that is both positive and constructive. Individuals who are singled out for praise during the survey process should also receive constructive criticism so they can improve their performance in future evaluations. If you give employees nothing but positive feedback, then it will be difficult to determine whether or not you need to hold them accountable for anything because there will be no concrete standard against which to measure their work. However, don't go overboard with the criticism either - one or two helpful suggestions should suffice, and people dislike being told what they're doing wrong after they've already been praised for doing something right.
  • Assign a task manager whose job it is to provide a unified voice throughout the entire process. The task manager's job is basically to make sure everything runs smoothly and that employees get the feedback they need in a timely manner. They also make it possible for all managers to speak with one voice during this process, which helps avoid confusion and makes your company look more professional.

360 degree feedback sample 

For an example of 360 degree feedback, consider the following:

Company A is undergoing a 360 degree feedback process that allows employees to rate their peers and managers on certain key metrics. Each employee rates his or her performance by filling out an online questionnaire, which is then sent to the individual's manager for review and final approval. The manager has two weeks to accept or reject the scores before Company A takes steps toward correcting any discrepancies between the actual numbers and the submitted evaluations.

Once everyone has completed their surveys and Company A calculates all of the scores, it sends each employee a personalized report outlining where they rank in relation to one another. For example, if someone performs exceptionally well but there are concerns about his interpersonal skills, he might be given an opportunity to take etiquette classes with other professionals at Company A so he can learn how to speak more effectively during meetings or with clients. Employees who give extra attention to a co-worker's mistakes will not be allowed to participate in the next round of evaluations.

The process for your company needs to be clearly outlined from the beginning so that everyone understands what they're supposed to do and why it's important. There should also be consequences for those employees who fail to complete task manager assigned tasks or don't fill out their surveys on time. A 360 degree feedback program can be an extremely valuable asset if you want your business to succeed, but only if everyone is involved and contributing as much as possible.

Reaching your goals with 360 degree feedback

360 degree feedback has the potential to be a highly effective management tool if it's implemented correctly. The benefits of 360 degree feedback include clear performance standards and better communication between co-workers, employees, and managers. This can lead to a more open company culture that encourages constructive feedback and appropriate levels of transparency.

360 degree feedback is appropriate for any organization where individuals need guidance and/or evaluation. For example, it can be used in a school to help students receive advice from peers and faculty members so they can maximize their learning potential or build stronger social lives. In a work setting, people who are struggling to succeed should be able to ask their supervisors questions, while those who excel can also use the process as an opportunity to help others reach the same level of success.

It's important that everyone understands how these results will impact his or her future at your company before filling out the evaluations. Nobody likes receiving criticism, but receiving honest feedback about your shortcomings is sometimes necessary if you want to improve.

If you don't want to expose your employees to the pressure and competitive aspect of a 360 feedback program, a more relaxed feedback approach may be more appropriate. For instance, you could use the feedback app Matter to encourage your employees to give each other constructive criticism, praise, and kudos. Transparency is important, and a company culture that values employees will work positive feedback and appreciation into the everyday workday.

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