Self-reflection can be tough, that’s where 360 degree feedback helps. 360 degree feedback is a tool to support personal development as part of the wider performance management process. It’s a structured way for colleagues to share their opinion about their peers. It shouldn’t be used to evaluate if some has achieved their goals. Rather, how they went about their work.

How to collect 360 feedback

360 feedback is when several people provide feedback. These colleagues should range from immediate co-workers to people above and below them. It can even be useful to include people from outside their department that they happen to have worked with. It’s also very common. According to Jack Zenger, CEO of Zenger/Folkman, over 85% of Fortune 500 companies use 360 feedback.

Managers need to get the most relevant insights. So it’s worth creating question sets for each type of feedback-giver. You might want to know about another boss’s experience managing that employee. So, the questions you’d ask them would be different to those you’d ask a junior staff member.

But, to reiterate, 360 feedback isn’t a way of getting staff to work harder. After all, it’s not like these people have been reviewing your employee’s progress updates each week. So, what is 360 feedback actually for?

What are the benefits of 360 feedback?

So, we’ve defined 360 feedback, and broken down what its focus should be. But the question remains, what does it specifically bring to the table? So, to put that question to bed, here are four (but by no means the only) benefits of 360 feedback:

360 gives you more reliable feedback

Even the best manager in the world can’t be everywhere at once. And, with the advent of accessible remote work, that fact is truer now more than ever. A big part of what employees do now goes on outside the view of their line manager. This creates blind-spots. Employees might find X criticism unfair, because you’re ignoring the fact that they did Y. But, if you weren’t around when Y happened, then how can you take it into account?

This is where the range and depth of insight afforded by 360-feedback is really useful. Feedback from a variety of sources gives you a more comprehensive overview. You might not have been there to witness every single accomplishment. But their colleagues can back them up on it.

But employees being able to highlight each other’s successes is only part of it.

People are also less likely to write off negative feedback if it comes from multiple sources. Negative critique is usually the hardest part of any feedback process. That’s true whether it’s 360 or otherwise. Nobody enjoys hearing they need to improve. You might tell an employee their people skills need work, only for them to reply, that’s just your opinion! But it’s harder to refute when backed by others.

Builds a company culture that welcomes feedback

We can’t oversell how vital it is to build feedback into your work culture. There are numerous statistics to support this fact. For starters, 40% of employees who get little-to-no feedback are actively disengaged. That’s compared to only 1% of employees who received positive feedback.

The great thing about 360 feedback is that it gets everyone involved. Typically, employees hate performance review season. The main reason for this is that they’re waiting for the boot to drop. But in a real feedback culture, critique can come from every direction.

And the benefits go beyond 360 feedback itself. Once you have everyone in that mindset, it can benefit your regular two-way feedback as well. That’s because it helps to break the idea that feedback can only flow in one direction.

360 feedback reduces the risk of discrimination bias

What is 360 feedback for, if not for cutting through bias? Nobody wants to think they work for a discriminatory employer. And identifiers like religion, race and gender have protections under the law. But that doesn’t nullify the issue.

Glassdoor conducted a 2019 survey on workplace diversity and inclusion. Their research shows that workplace discrimination is still a common experience for employees. 3 in 5 US employees had either experienced or witnessed discrimination at work. The reasons for this included age, race, gender, or LGBTQ identity.

But, before our UK readers get too smug, let’s acknowledge that the UK isn’t far behind, at 55%. Stats like this are why we need 360 feedback. Combined with diverse hiring practices, it can make sure that people get treated in a fair and balanced way.

Identify training needs and skills gaps

Managers often have to delegate tasks to their team. But, in a busy workplace, you don’t get to work directly alongside everyone as much as you’d like.

Their colleagues on the ground get much more direct insight into what they can be trusted to handle. That’s why it’s so important to include them in your 360 feedback surveys. In longstanding teams, there’s often a shared understanding of who’s good at what.

But that cuts both ways. 360 feedback can also expose when someone’s coasting on their colleague’s skills. You know what they say. ‘If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well. If it’s not worth doing, give it to that guy.’

But even identifying weaknesses is a good thing, because it’s something to build on. Employees are an investment, so it’s worth educating them to develop new skills.

Why you should run 360 feedback with your teams

So hopefully we’ve made a solid case. But, if you’re still wondering what is 360 feedback actually good for, then let’s summarize:

  • 360 feedback increases depth of insight by taking from multiple sources.
  • Taking feedback from different sources helps to mitigate the risk of workplace discrimination.
  • It’s a great way to get feedback on important soft skills.
  • 360 feedback helps to identify skills gaps and training needs in your organisation.
  • It helps to enshrine multi-directional feedback into your workplace culture.

So, there you have it. 360 feedback is one of the tools we offer alongside our employee check-in. And it’s an incredibly useful one that shouldn’t be overlooked.