A workplace review of any form can be daunting. So when it comes to feedback from a whole circle of people that you work with, it’s understandable that some may feel all that more intimidated.

However, the personal and professional benefits of 360 degree feedback, both to the development of the individual and to the company, are unrivalled. To make sure you can use this process to benefit your employees, it's vital to manage it in the right way.

Here we take a look at what 360 degree feedback is, why it's important and also provide a template you can use to successfully conduct this process and reap the benefits.

What is 360 degree feedback?

360 degree feedback (or a 360 review, 360 appraisal, whatever you’d like to call it) is a system for employees to receive confidential and anonymous feedback from between 8-10 people who work around them. This gives them a clear overview of how their behaviour in the workplace is perceived by others.

Direct team members, managers, colleagues and any direct reports will be asked to give feedback on the recipient. This provides a wider range of perspectives than just getting feedback from their manager.

The employee receiving feedback will also respond to the feedback themselves, to give the full 360 degree view. This can highlight any gaps between how the individual feels they perform themselves, versus how they are perceived by others.

The depth of this feedback provides real insight into how those around you see you as a person. Strengths and weaknesses are highlighted, alongside any potential areas for development, which can then feed into the creation of a strong and effective personal development plan.

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Why 360 feedback is important

To be, and stay successful, companies need to look for ways to help guide the progression of their employees.

360 degree feedback helps employees get a view of their performance that they may not be able to get elsewhere. Seeing how other people view your performance can be invaluable for professional development and inform future learning opportunities that are important for success.

From managers to junior team members, 360 feedback is important for any stage of professional development.

Pros and cons of 360 feedback

The advantages of conducting this type of feedback include:

  • 360 feedback process is confidential, creating a safe space to give and receive possibly uncomfortable feedback

  • It’s a great alternative to receiving just one review from one manager – useful if their manager doesn’t have a full view of every activity the employees is involved in

  • 360 feedback can improve overall business performance by creating workplace cultures which are more open to giving and receiving feedback

  • The feedback shows how different people around you perceive your behaviours, making you more aware of your own input and action to help drive real change

  • It improves customer service and company performance as feedback allows employees to improve the quality, effectiveness and efficiency of their product/service

  • It provides a basis to build strong performance development plans and training needs, ensuring efficiency and boosting recruitment and retention by highlighting the company’s commitment to employee development

  • It’s a fair and transparent process, allowing recipients to gain better self-awareness without feeling personally attacked – making the feedback more likely to be taken on board

man receiving feedback from manager

Potential cons and things to keep in mind:

  • The questions need to be well thought out, well-executed and tailored to your organisation, it takes time to develop in order to be effective (we’ve got a template to help! Take a look below)

  • If this process isn’t clear, well-communicated or rushed, you can risk causing tension among teams

  • Giving feedback might not feel comfortable for some so give them plenty of time to provide it to avoid any stress being caused

  • Recipients are prevented from getting further information into any responses as the process is anonymous

  • There’s a potential to focus on uncovering negatives and weaknesses, so it’s important to emphasise positives and constructive feedback

  • Due to needing to collate the responses to keep them anonymous, this process can be time-consuming

How to conduct 360 degree feedback

360 degree feedback should be used as part of the overall appraisal process but its purpose isn’t to measure performance. The process should be used for observations surrounding behaviour, rather than reviewing performance.

woman providing feedback to colleague

Establishing the survey:

  • Explain the purpose of the feedback, let employees know it will be conducted fairly and encourage feedback to be given positively/objectively

  • Involve around 8–10 respondents per employee in the feedback process – they should be part of different groups throughout the business, with differing relationships with the recipient e.g. manager, direct report, team members, etc

  • The recipient themselves should also be asked to fill in the feedback form to provide the full 360 degree view

  • Base questions around observable behaviour and include different question formats – include questions which use a rating alongside open-ended questions

  • Dedicate an appropriate amount of time to the feedback process, allowing those taking part to give the feedback the time and thought it deserves

  • The whole process should be supervised by a HR manager, HR team or an external coach

  • Maintain confidentiality throughout the process

After the survey has been completed:

  • Responses must be provided as an average from each respondent rather than displaying any individual answers to keep the process anonymous and avoid any potential damage to relationships

  • The feedback should be given to the recipient by someone trained in how to correctly and objectively give feedback

  • The differences between what the employee rated themselves and what the respondents answered should be highlighted to the recipient

  • Feedback can be a lot of information to take in at once, so it can be helpful to provide a one-page summary as an overview and a more detailed report for deeper analysis

  • For the summary, include key strengths, development areas and any perception gaps between what the employee responded against what those around them think

  • In the more detailed report, greater insight should be provided into how each feedback group has responded, this will act as the guide for the creation of the performance development plan

  • Following the feedback, set up follow up meetings to discuss goals and progress

woman giving feedback to another

Read next: Employee performance - effective techniques to measure, evaluate and improve

What questions should be asked?

As with many things in life, there’s no one-sizefits-all approach to the questions that should be asked within 360 degree feedback. We’ve provided a template to act as a guide to follow for your own process – on top of which you can add or change any questions, or the tailor questions for your company or teams.

You should think about key behaviours, skills or traits that are important to your teams and company, and devise questions relating to these.

Questions normally fall into these categories:

  • Management & leadership capabilities
  • Communication & interpersonal skills
  • Creativity
  • Team working & collaborative skills
  • Alignment with business strategy/goals/vision

Download our FREE 360 degree feedback template

You'll also get exclusive insights delivered straight to your inbox (you can unsubscribe at any time)

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