360 Feedback: What, How and Why

As we slowly emerge from the post-pandemic world, we find our working lives have changed drastically - most importantly, with less contact time with our colleagues.

While software such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom have enabled us to work from home seamlessly, the ‘human’ touch is lacking for many of us. This is particularly problematic when it comes to performance feedback.

While nearly all employers conduct some form of colleague feedback, in a world where in-person contact hours are decreasing, it can be difficult for a line manager to provide in-depth and beneficial feedback to their line reports, particularly if the appraisal is carried out on a traditional ‘1 to 1’ basis, where a colleague reflects on their strengths and weaknesses and their line manager responds in kind.

This is where the 360 method of feedback comes in. Read on to see exactly what this method is, what it involves and what benefits this method offers over the traditional method.  

Two employee discussing 360 feedback and what it means

What is 360 Feedback?

The clue is in the name – this method of feedback involves a colleague requesting constructive feedback or a performance review not only from their line manager, but also from their colleagues and other stakeholders (usually from those who the individual works and liaises with the most).

For instance, a colleague working in Sales may report to their Sales line manager however, they may find a lot of constructive feedback can be gained from colleagues who work in Marketing, as the role duties may frequently overlap and this can prove to be particularly insightful when reflecting on their strengths and weaknesses from the wider company team.

360 feedback is not only limited to internal respondents, it can also be used with clients and other external stakeholders to accurately reflect the capabilities and talents as well as opportunities for improvement for the appraisee. To sum up, this method enables the appraisee to gain invaluable feedback ‘all round’ from the wider company, external stakeholders, line managers and direct reports – thus giving them a ‘360’ overview of their performance.

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How to Carry Out 360 Feedback

The approach taken to collate 360-degree feedback is not dissimilar to the traditional feedback method, where the appraisee completes a self-reflective questionnaire to assess and reflect on their own perceived individual strengths and weaknesses.

Following the self-appraisal stage, the appraisee circulates the same identical questionnaire to around 10 to 20 people. Crucially, this should be a variety of people including managers, mix of grades, colleagues from different departments and various external stakeholders (if applicable).

Those who receive the questionnaire should be encouraged by the appraisee to be as constructive as possible in their feedback and for respondents to highlight both strengths and areas of development.

The respondents should remain anonymous and while it is important for the responses to offer constructive criticisms, it should not be used as a way of ‘sniping’ at the appraisee with negative feedback but rather provide a view of their strengths as well as weaknesses as a whole. Following this process, the line manager and the appraisee should have a clear picture of their performance and their strengths and weaknesses in the organisation.

Learn more about building a feedback rich culture and why it is so important in any organisation by having a readthrough of our blog on the basics of feedback culture development and implementation.

Quick Do’s and Don’ts of 360 Feedback

What to Do:

DO focus your questions on single behaviours/competencies

DO start with action verbs

DO ensure the improvement target can be acted upon if identified as a weakness

DO ask questions that match appraisal scales

DO measure relevant role-focused competencies only

What Not to Do:

DON’T include jargon or complex language

DON’T spread the survey thin and focus on wide-ranging or multiple behaviours and competencies

DON’T incorporate unnecessary adverbs (e.g. effectively, efficiently and so on)

DON’T ask complicated or technically loaded questions

DON’T ask anything culturally biased

Final Reflections on 360-Feedback: The Good and the Bad

Whilst this method of appraisal is far more detailed in providing a general overview of a staff member’s performance, it should not be taken as gospel. 360 degree feedback provides a general overview of how an employee if performing in their role and it is not an exact measure of their competence or ability.

As the line manager or direct report, you should not focus too heavily on the negative findings as they are little more than opinions. However, the positive comments and constructive criticisms are gold dust and should be taken on board in your one-to-one review as they offer some insights into which areas of the business the employee has potential to grow in as well as which behaviours or duties they may need to improve in before reaching their full potential.

Improve Feedback Processes Across Your Organisation with our Training Course

If you are interested in exploring the logistics of 360-feedback further and ways in which you can implement the process into your team, read the full agenda for our upcoming Implementing an Effective 360 Feedback Process course here.