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How to Design Your 360-degree Feedback and Make It Stick

July 28, 2022

360 degree feedback

Performance reviews can make your heads spin from all the new feedback.

A performance review is an ongoing process between management and employees that records past performances and future expectations. It involves giving and taking feedback, which can complicate or disrupt workplace relationships.

However, with 360-degree feedback coming into the picture, performance reviews have catapulted significantly over the years. Organizations worldwide use performance management platforms to collect comprehensive feedback on their employees' performance to measure and align their vision and values. 

360-degree feedback lays the foundation for appraisals that recognize high-performing employees, investigate the causes of setbacks early, suggest corrective actions, and encourage stakeholders with positive, progressive feedback to achieve organizational goals. Let's take a look at this all-in review strategy.

What is 360-degree feedback? 

360-degree feedback is a performance review method in which managers, peers, team members, and clients evaluate an employee's overall performance. It gives a comprehensive insight into employees’ performance and allows evaluators to rate them based on various parameters and criteria. 

Feedback is the cornerstone of human resources management (HRM). Healthy and progressive feedback serves as a meeting place for expectations and outcomes.

Organizations spend billions of hours evaluating, archiving, and providing feedback on employees' work and progress. To truly learn about the overall performance of your people and organization, you need to invest in an integrated feedback system that provides a bigger picture and suggests ways to narrow the insights. It should be a two-way street that benefits both the employees and the company.

360-degree feedback automatically tabulates the results and presents them in a format that helps employees anticipate an employee development plan. You can also validate the responses of everyone in the same rater category by making the feedback anonymous to give employees a clear picture of their strengths and weaknesses. 

What insights can you draw from 360-degree feedback?

  • Work performance
  • Soft skills and hard skills
  • Strengths and weaknesses 
  • Values ​​and priorities
  • Alignment with the organization's goals 

Why is 360-degree feedback important?

A 360-degree feedback system provides a detailed and accurate employee assessment. Here are some ways 360-degree feedback adds value to the performance review process.

  • The raters or reviewers in 360-degree feedback regularly interact with the employees and are well-equipped to provide appropriate and reliable feedback on employee performance.
  • Because 360-degree feedback occurs within teams that interact, it contributes to a more stable working relationship and increased communication and trust between team members.
  • When team members know their contributions are recognized, they’re willing to participate more in performance reviews.
  • The assessment report gives employers an understanding of employees’ unique strengths and weaknesses to improve and achieve better results.
  • Employees evaluate their own performance and identify the potential for improvement.

What to include in 360-degree feedback

Every organization's values ​​and goals are different, and the questionnaire in 360-degree feedback should reflect them. It aims to create an atmosphere of trust as it helps evaluate and measure employee performance.

A good feedback system assesses the bottom line, behavior, and competencies, followed by assessments of basic skills, performance goals, and job requirements. You can find many 360-degree feedback templates online, but the most relevant one is tailored to your business and employee needs.

Who should participate in 360-degree feedback? 

During 360-degree feedback, a manager collects information about an employee's job performance from colleagues, peers, supervisors, subordinates, and anyone else within the organization they interact with. In some cases, managers can also ask customers or suppliers to provide feedback to assess personal conduct and values and how well they support the organization's vision.

The first step in conducting effective 360-degree feedback is to identify the employees and evaluators, including:

  1. Administrators: Neutral third-party party or HR
  2. Reviewee: Employees, managers, team members, and colleagues
  3. Reviewers: Colleagues, employees, subordinates, team members, and managers
  4. Clients: Customers or suppliers

How to implement 360-degree feedback

Implementing proper 360-degree feedback requires preparation and a good understanding of the organization and its employees. Here are some easy ways to get started.

1. Identify the stakeholders in the exercise

Start by identifying the key stakeholders in the process.

Administrator

The administrator is in charge of conducting the assessment. It may be a third-party or internal HR staff. Here are some of the main responsibilities of an administrator:

  • Explain the reason for the review.
  • Ensure the entire process is clear to auditors, managers, and other stakeholders.
  • Design the feedback format.
  • Monitor the feedback process from start to finish.
  • Be ready to answer questions from auditors, managers, and other stakeholders.
  • Develop and provide opportunities and resources for discussion points on how employees can improve after the feedback exercise.
  • Inform the manager on how best to understand the results and advise on the next steps.

Reviewee

In 360-degree feedback, peers, managers, and team members review participants. The reviewee should keep the following in mind while receiving and responding to feedback.

  • A reviewer is not the enemy. They provide honest feedback on your performance.
  • The feedback aims at constructive criticism and nothing more.
  • Pay close attention to your weaknesses and find ways to work on them.
  • Bask in pride in your strengths, and always remember to use them.

Reviewer: Manager 

The role of a manager is very similar to that of a reviewer. They evaluate employee achievements, abilities, and interpersonal relationships.

  • Offer employees growth opportunities and create a safe environment to openly discuss and share their ​​performance review feedback.
  • Keep an open mind when discussing how an employee can improve.
  • Be willing to provide resources to help employees develop and thrive.

Reviewer: Team members and clients

Anyone in the organization (co-workers, team members, or peers) with whom an employee works closely can be a reviewer, not just a manager. They can also be customers or suppliers.

A reviewer’s responsibility is to evaluate an employee’s performance and suggest areas of improvement.

  • As a reviewer, you should provide constructive feedback.
  • Answer questions honestly and omit biased opinions.
  • Don't use the anonymity of the interview to spread hatred.
  • Ask when you encounter difficulties.
  • Avoid giving out personal favors.

2. Create an anonymous, customized feedback form

A feedback form or questionnaire typically contains dimensions of work performance that raters can use during performance reviews. These include communication, teamwork, leadership, and creative thinking. When creating a 360-degree feedback form, focus on open-ended questions to leave room for additional comments.

The feedback form should be anonymous to ensure confidentiality. The anonymity of participants encourages honest reviews without fear of judgment. You should use a third-party system to ensure that the entire process is bias-free from start to finish. Hiring an external administrator is the most efficient way to ensure the exercise is effective.

3. Collect and share results

Once the review is complete, the feedback is sent anonymously to HR. They conduct a baseline analysis, including a performance dimension analysis of the employee. Anonymity is the central theme of 360-degree feedback and attracts genuine feedback from reviewers. 

Analyzing the input and collecting conclusive performance highlights is another important step. The data collected through 360-degree feedback can be meaningfully analyzed to improve employee engagement.

4. Organize a one-on-one review session

Face-to-face interaction is essential when sharing feedback. The ideal way to start a feedback session is by appreciating employees' efforts.

Avoid leading with negative feedback, and be mindful of your tone and language. You can prepare a list of performance review phrases to add flair to your feedback.  When presenting, ensure that the areas where the employee needs improvement are well described and identified.

5. Create an action plan

Diving straight into the feedback without a proper action plan is a big red flag. You need a strategy to set the right expectations and results before your begin.

An action plan could be a template that helps admins plan and determine goals to improve employee performance over time. It can ask and answer the following:

  • The resources needed: Workforce, logistics, and budget
  • The timeframe for the goals to be achieved: Annual or semi-annual
  • Assessment criteria: Improved job performance, customer satisfaction, and improved skills
  • Employee development: Training, courses, and webinars

Finally, understand whether seasonal work performance creates a more favorable employee environment.

360-degree feedback examples

Getting an idea of ​​how to formulate the questions in 360-degree feedback is essential. Let reviewers know they need to stay professional and only provide honest answers. Here are some questions to include in your feedback.

Leadership skills

  • How efficient is the participant in assuming responsibility?
  • Are they active listeners?
  • How fast are they when it comes to making critical decisions?
  • Are they good at delegating or micromanaging?
  • Are they willing to take risks for successful outcomes?

Communication skills 

This survey question should focus on how employees communicate with colleagues and supervisors.

  • Is the employee an active listener?
  • Do their customer, peers, and supervisor relationships show transparency?
  • Do they actively engage with others in the workplace?
  • How well do they accept constructive feedback?
  • Do they communicate clearly and professionally?
  • How well do they understand and respect others’ perspectives in the workplace?

Interpersonal skills 

Understand what motivates employees and how well they contribute to organizational goals and objectives.

  • How well does the participant work with others?
  • Does the participant create an environment that fosters teamwork?
  • How willing are they to improve and learn new skills?
  • Do they possess a good working relationship with others?
  • Does the participant manage their emotions well when under stress?
  • Do their behavior show empathy, kindness, and respect for others?
  • Do the values of the participant reflect the core principles of the organization?

Strategic planning skills 

Gauge participants' problem-solving skills.

  • Can the participant work well and effectively without supervision?
  • Are their solutions to problems clear and competent?
  • Does the participant contribute effectively to group discussions?
  • Do they ask questions to assess problems?
  • How innovative is their problem-solving approach?
  • Does the participant understand the consequences of their decisions and take responsibility?

Organizational skills

These skills determine how well participants can organize their physical space.

  • How good are they at multitasking?
  • Are they prioritizing effectively?
  • How consistent are their communication skills?
  • How flexible are they, and how quickly do they adapt to new roles or responsibilities?

Here are some best practices to remember when adding questions to the feedback.

  • For best results, ask open-ended questions. Such questions help the reviewer suggest opportunities for improvement.
  • Ask questions that draw the reviewee’s attention to essential details.
  • Avoid questions that lead to confusing answers.
  • Keep the survey short and straightforward.
  • Use a scale for queries to answer with a single word or adjective. A scale of one to five is often helpful and easy to understand.

360-degree feedback advantages

When done right, 360-degree feedback boosts employee performance and professional development. Here are some of its main advantages.

  • Become self-aware: Helps employees become aware of their strengths and weaknesses. They can work on their weaknesses if they know where they stand professionally.
  • Identifies skill gaps: Provides an overall employee assessment. This knowledge is critical to growing your business as it guides training efforts that promote business success and individual development.
  • Improves productivity: Fosters good working relationships and increases employee productivity. Positive feedback boosts employee confidence and encourages them to do more.
  • Provides valuable insights: Managers can better understand employees' skills and decide which role best suits them.
  • Increases transparency: Helps build trust and facilitates open communication.

360-degree feedback disadvantages

Performance reviews can take a wrong turn when the feedback is inappropriate or fraught with bias or error. Below are some disadvantages of 360-degree feedback.

  1. Negative feedback: This could result in reviewers only focusing on the employee's negative sides and giving negative and untrue reviews.
  2. Dishonest reviews: When employees find that reviews measure performance, they may not provide honest feedback. Responses can be molded to satisfy reviewers – what they think reviewers want to hear, not necessarily the truth.
  3. Time constraints: 360-degree feedback is a tedious and time-consuming process.
  4. Biased information: Employees can choose raters close to them or those who would give them excellent or personal ratings. The reviews may be biased when admins aren’t from neutral sources.
  5. Distrust: Proper feedback communication avoids hurting participants' sentiments and doesn’t lead to real change.

Best practices for 360-degree feedback 

Communicating with employees and reviewers at every stage is key to conducting smooth 360-degree feedback. 

  • Stick to the facts and stay objective.
  • Get to the point and avoid unnecessary discussions.
  • Avoid generalizations.
  • Avoid comparing employees to colleagues.
  • Use external administrators, such as external evaluation officers.
  • Train and inform your employees on how to give feedback.
  • Style words professionally to avoid conveying the wrong message.
  • Understand the intent of the feedback. Do you want to convey a message that encourages professional advancement, or do you just want to make a comment? Understanding the purpose will help you better define what you want to say.
  • Pair reviewers with topics they have worked and interacted with for 1-3 years.

360-degree feedback: Do’s and don’ts

Confused about what to keep and let go of? Here are some dos and don’ts.

  • Don't let fear of hurting employees’ feelings stop you from giving honest feedback. Remember, the intent is for them to grow and perform better.
  • Don’t sound blunt and harsh. Use phrases that boost employee morale and show empathy during this process.
  • Understand that the employee may not use the input. That shouldn’t refrain from giving it anyway.
  • Consider and discard judgments based on malice.
  • Evaluations should be continuous and not a one-time thing.

Learn more, do more, be more

360-degree feedback gives employees a complete overview of their performance and colleagues' opinions. It helps both employees and managers. Employees can use their strengths and work on their weaknesses. Managers can gain insight into how the team performs and how well they contribute to the business's growth and development, setting the direction for employee engagement and growth. 

Once you have more clarity about the performance alignment with the business plan, you can identify future leaders. When done right, 360-degree feedback is a clever business tool for exceptional team performance review.

The right performance data is essential to assess employee performance and set them on the road to success. Learn how employee performance check-ins help managers gain a more complete picture of employee job performance.

OKR software
Objectives and goals go hand in hand

Set, communicate, track, and measure goals and results in your organization with OKR software.

OKR software
Objectives and goals go hand in hand

Set, communicate, track, and measure goals and results in your organization with OKR software.

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