360 degree feedback is a tool to support personal development as part of the wider performance management process. For the most effective results, best practice says that 360 feedback shouldn’t be used to judge a team-mate’s performance or evaluate if some has achieved their goals. Rather, how they went about their work and how they’re perceived. This could be how approachable they are, or if they’re willing to listen to others’ opinions, or if their way of working is the most effective it could be.

Benefits of 360 degree feedback

What’s 360 degree feedback actually about? It’s a way for individuals to understand their personal strengths and weaknesses using input from those who work with them the most. You could ask for 360 feedback from managers, team mates, subordinates, or one-off project peers. Customers, partners, and suppliers are also valuable feedback sources. It gives employees and their managers a more rounded and complete view, highlighting positives or areas for improvements that managers may miss.

1. More reliable feedback from a wider range of sources

360 feedback provides well-rounded insights from peers, reporting staff, colleagues, and managers. Collecting feedback from multiple sources gives managers a more complete picture. Managers can’t be everywhere at once. That’s especially true with the rise of hybrid working, so they can’t possibly see everything. Multiple sources of feedback also reduces the impact of biases.

2. Builds a better feedback culture within your business

When colleagues are involved with feedback for their peers, it sets expectations around behaviour. This helps break down barriers around giving and getting feedback more often. Feedback is critical to feeling engaged at work, and leads to better individual and team performance.

3. Build trust and accountability in the team

Team members work better together. Multi-rater feedback makes team members more accountable to each other. That’s because they know that they’ll provide input on each members’ contribution. A well-planned process can improve communication, trust, and team development.

4. 360 feedback identifies broken processes

360 feedback is one of the best ways to understand blockers. As a result, you can understand what things are stopping your people doing their job well. What’s stopping employees from working well together? Equally, you can see how your policies or procedures affect or even work against employee success.

5. Reduce discrimination and risk of bias with 360 feedback best practice

When feedback comes from several individuals in various job functions, the risk of discrimination because of race, age, gender, and other factors is reduced. The recency bias effect, where a manager rates performance based on his or her most recent interaction with the employee, is also greatly reduced.

6. Improve customer service

Each person receives valuable feedback about the quality of their product or services, especially in feedback processes that involve customers. This helps the individual to improve the quality of these products and services they supply.

7. Identify training needs

360 feedback provides really useful information about training needs. It shows trends where people might lack essential skills such as IT or product knowledge. It helps HR to plan effective and useful workshops or training.

8. Improves self awareness

Forbes reported that business leaders – and employees – needed better self awareness to become more effective. Significantly, people get more comfortable getting feedback the more often they receive it.

The challenges of 360 feedback

For every positive made about 360 feedback systems, there’s a downside. They’re important because it gives you a road map of what to avoid when you use 360 feedback. Here are some typical objections or perceived problems with 360 feedback. And on balance, some solutions to show the real value of 360 feedback best practice:

1. Resistance to rate peers

Feedback collected during a 360 feedback cycle will not be valuable to employees or the company if reviewers fear the consequences of giving candid feedback.

Your people may be reluctant to give honest back if they haven’t had the right training or experience. Often that’s because they don’t understand the importance of the process. If your employees aren’t comfortable giving feedback it could cause undue stress, especially if it’s negative.

People giving feedback might also be concerned about how the feedback will be perceived and used. And its impact on future pay and promotion decisions.

Solution: You must prepare reviewers to provide feedback. That means giving them resources and training to help them provide accurate ratings and useful, constructive comments. It’s also important to select the right questions and rating scales, focus on attitude and soft skills rather than performance.

2. Fear that employees might react badly to feedback

Receiving feedback, whether positive or constructive, can be stressful. That’s normal. Manager’s often fear how their people will react to negative or constructive feedback. However, the facts don’t support that fear; research h shows that employees tend to prefer constructive feedback to praise.

Solution: The first step to 360 feedback best practice is clearly defining it’s purpose. Do your people understand why they’re being asked to take part? Tell your staff the purpose of 360 feedback. Share the benefits and how the results will be used. You should also prepare individuals to receive feedback and provide feedback training to reviewers. Encourage reviewers to leave constructive comments.

3. Concerns over anonymity

Reviewers often fear sharing their thoughts about their colleagues. They may well have concerns over whether their comments will be anonymous. Or, worried that their colleague will find out what they wrote.

Solution: Be clear about the role anonymity will or won’t play in your 360 feedback process. Traditional practice is to make everything anonymous by default and leave it at that. However, 360 feedback best practice says open feedback is always more impactful in the long run. So if you can, shift how you share feedback and make it more open.

4. Inaccurate ratings because peers are overly positive the first time they take part

The first round of 360 feedback isn’t always objective because reviewers are often very lenient towards their peers. If this happens, the rating distribution will be skewed and the results will be inaccurate. In addition, like any other appraisal process, there are natural biases which can affect the rating validity.

Solution: Make it clear to your employees what you want to achieve. It will help to explain how 360 feedback will help them improve their leadership skills and performance. If the benefits are clear, employees will want to take part properly.

5. Feedback that focuses on performance not growth

While feedback can be useful for performance, 360 feedback assessments are most effective for growth and development. It should give the employee an idea of how their colleagues perceive them, rather than judge them on specific performance metrics which usually require input from their manager. Peers often will not have the necessary experience to rate their colleagues on their performance.

Solution: Always ask for 360 feedback linked to development and not performance. Cover skills that the employee can improve on in line with company values and desired behaviours. It’s then the manager’s responsibility to translate that into performance improvements.

Tips for running an effective 360 feedback process

1. Ask the right people

  • Collect feedback from a representative group of people. Aim for somewhere between 4 and 10 people to build a well-rounded view.
  • Collect feedback from the employee’s superiors and more junior staff members.
  • Ensure that employees have been working together for at least six months. The exception to this would be a 360 feedback request about a specific project.
  • Ask the employee to complete a self-review element as part of the process for a broader view.

2. Brief everyone in the process

  • Let employees know that their feedback can be anonymous if this helps them to be honest.
  • Check that everyone knows why the 360 feedback is happening.

3. Review the feedback before sharing it

  • Compile and analyse feedback data.
  • Use the data to identify patterns and trends. Create a summary to discuss during any performance conversation, not specifics.
  • Provide positive, constructive criticism and don’t focus just on negative findings.
  • Remember feedback is often based on perceptions. This means they aren’t necessarily accurate and are open to a range of biasing factors.

4. 360 feedback best practice uses the feedback to learn and develop

  • Ensure that both the company and employee learn from the experience and that both work towards changing.
  • Use feedback to shape development plans, set goals, and encourage future collaboration.
  • 360 feedback should be part of a wider, everyday approach to performance and employee development.

360 feedback best practice in Perform365

Getting, giving and using 360 feedback is easy in Perform365. Your performance management will be more objective and effective. It also means less goes unnoticed, particularly with more remote working. Your managers start to have better conversations with their people. Peer feedback and recognition help them to spot trends and gather talking points.

Conversations about progress and personal development are focused. Managers have a more rounded and richer view of their team’s performance and contributions. And the employee can see which areas they need to work on. Feedback is pulled into your performance conversation agendas with a simple click of a button. Choose from simple re-populated workflows or create your own.

Your people and their managers can also see the feedback as part of their Perform365 profile. And use it as agenda items, conversation ideas, or to help personal development.