All employers need to do 360 Degree Reviews.

Firstly, what is 360 degree feedback?

A 360 degree feedback survey is a system or process designed to give a wider perspective of the performance of an individual (or group) within an organisation by taking into account various perspectives from key stakeholders within the employee’s work environment.

Feedback is gathered from sources such as peers, direct reports, managers, and on occasion key customers may be involved.

Anonymous feedback gathered in a 360 degree review is provided to the employee concerned in an aggregated or summarised format (as a feedback report) and should provide a wide range of information about their skills, performance, and working relationships.

Who should 360 degree reviews be conducted for?

Given the time, cost & effort involved in conducting 360-degree feedback surveys, these processes are often reserved for those in management and leadership roles within an organisation. Some organisations use 360-degree feedback as a form of performance appraisal. The most successful outcomes in utilising these reviews are when they are used for training and development, as well as succession planning purposes.

A word of warning – although it sounds like a good idea to ask a wide range of sources for feedback to help evaluate the effectiveness of an individual, HR experts caution there are pitfalls in doing so. Companies need to carefully consider the design of their 360-degree feedback survey system to ensure it achieves the purpose for which it was intended. The process most definitely requires senior management support and a strong culture of communication and trust.

Purpose of the 360 degree feedback

In most cases, the purpose of doing a 360-degree feedback survey is to provide timely and useful feedback to help individuals (and their managers) identify where they can develop further to improve their skills, performance, working relationships and enhance their career development potential.

There is no doubt that detailed qualitative feedback gathered from a wide range of sources accompanied by coaching and supportive counseling from a manager can be very effective.

In some situations, a manager may not even work in the same location as the employee so is unable to observe their direct report’s behaviour which is where the perspectives of peers, direct reports & customers is invaluable – it can be an eye-opener to see what others see. A 360-degree review can also identify situations where a strong performance in one area – customer service, for example – may offset a not-so-flash performance in another area.

Occasionally, 360-degree surveys are used to improve ties between groups – perhaps when they are not working well together as a group, and there is conflict. In these cases, managers would focus the appraisal effort on the entire group rather than on particular members. Handled well, this process can form an ongoing channel of communication to identify and resolve conflicts between groups.

Tips for successfully executing a 360-degree feedback process

To ensure the best possible results from the 360-degree feedback process, it is important to ensure that:

  • questions are short, clear and relevant to the person’s job;
  • respondents are credible to the person being appraised (i.e., they are deemed as being in a position where they can credibly provide input);
  • both the employee and those who will complete the questionnaires are adequately briefed on the process;
  • feedback is never attributed to an individual respondent;
  • it is clearly stated how feedback will be given and by whom;
  • training is provided to those individuals who will provide the feedback and results;
  • issues of confidentiality are clearly communicated detailing who has access to the data and for what purpose;
  • feedback is concise, simple to understand, and provides guidance on how the information can be used;
  • the process is constantly monitored and evaluated.

Using survey feedback results

Once completed, the results from a 360-degree feedback survey are collated into an in-depth report of the findings and are provided to the employee by a person trained to provide feedback (e.g. the employee’s manager who has had coaching on how to deliver feedback or an external HR partner). This report usually summarises the responses, actual scores and average scores for each question as well as any comments offered by raters.

A discussion of the results allows the employee and their manager (or the HR partner) to identify areas where the self-appraisal responses are in alignment with the perceptions of their peers, direct reports & managers, and where they are not. An examination of this provides the opportunity to take on areas in the employee’s work behaviour, skills and performance that may need training and development to bring about a desired result.

Done well – the 360-degree feedback process has the potential to be a real motivator for change.