Performance Reviews

What is 360-degree feedback and how to do it best?

If you're new to 360-degree appraisals, you may be wondering what the best way is to introduce this new process within your team. What do you think of when you hear the phrase “360-degree feedback”? Thorough? Complicated? Puzzling? There's no need to worry. Getting your team used to the process will take time but in the end it'll be rewarding for everyone. Here are the basics to help you get started:

What is 360-degree feedback?

360-degree feedback allows you to receive the helpful development advice you need from multiple sources. The sources are normally an employee’s immediate work circle. It includes direct reports, colleagues and line managers. In most cases, 360-degree feedback involves a self-evaluation. Some companies choose to include external parties, like clients and suppliers, but this is not always the case.

A 360 appraisal is an evaluation process carried out by a team in order to help each person improve and develop. The feedback in a 360 review is about spotting strengths, and possibly weaknesses, which are used to plan personal growth and map specific paths for development.

How does it benefit my team?

There are several pros that make 360-degree feedback well worth spending time on.

1. Improved Feedback

Feedback is more well-rounded because it comes from multiple sources, from peers to supervisors. For example, say you want to know more about your ability to collaborate well with others. Too gain a complete picture, it's much more helpful to request answers from all members in your team, including your managers, colleagues that you've worked with directly and your reports.

Moreover, you can look for patterns and trends in 360-degree feedback. For instance, say you always try to find new ways you can collaborate with other departments. If most of your team members notice this and respond with positive feedback, then you know you're going in the right direction.

2. Team Development

A 360 review helps team members learn more about how their behaviors impact others. With this information, they can then make well-informed adjustments in order to work more effectively together.

For example, say one of your teammates always has great ideas, but from the feedback she receives, she learns that she also has a habit of interrupting others and disrupting their flow of thinking. Rather than being in the dark about her actions, this information gives her the chance to remedy her behavior to make team discussions more effective. When each and every team member is open to receiving feedback, you'll see collaboration and productivity skyrocket.

3. Personal Growth

This is the main purpose of 360-degree feedback. With this information, each individual is able to better understand which areas they excel in and which they should focus on improving. After receiving and analyzing your feedback, managers and employees should sit together and come up with step-by-step action plans for advancement.

For example, say an adminstrative assistant receives feedback on her ability to prioritize tasks. Most people said that she often takes on multiple tasks at once. However, she occasionally fails to finish a task before jumping to the next one, becoming a bottleneck in the process. Having read the feedback, she now knows that prioritizing tasks is a skill that she should focus on so that she can grow and take on more responsibilities.

The admin assistant can then sit down with her line manager to work out a growth plan. Her manager can give her advice on how to avoid overloading: “Before deciding to take on a new task, you should spend some time going through the status of your current tasks and consider which are most urgent. Creating a timeline can be helpful."

Improved feedback, team development and personal growth will benefit the growth of each team member.

But there are also limitations to 360-degree feedback

It is not that 360-degree feedback is flawed. It's that way too many companies make mistakes while implementing 360 reviews. Be aware of the limitations to avoid the failure trap.

1. Impact lies outside the process

360-degree feedback processes can only have a positive impact if everyone continues to work on the feedback they receive. Employees need to know:

  • How to deal with receiving a large amount of feedback at one time, and

  • What the next steps are

Most people need coaching to learn how to take full advantage of 360 feedback but many companies forget to include this in the process. 

2. The need and the will to follow-up

Because 360-degree feedback is for personal development, there is no mandatory follow-up. Combined with a busy work schedule, no follow-up mandate can lead to neglect. This means that the results of a 360 review can often be received and subsequently neglected. A solution for this is to assign the follow-up task to a responsible person, most commonly a line manager. 

3. Focus on the wrong end

There is a tendency to focus on weaknesses rather than strengths when giving 360-degree feedback. Many people think of growth as correcting your mistakes and improving your weaknesses. However, you can reap much better rewards when maximizing your strengths and leveraging them to advance your team and your career. Feedback should be about building strengths rather than correcting weaknesses.

4. Making it a continuous process

The main difficulty when introducing 360-degree appraisals is that people tend to consider it as a one time event. Finding the best way to position a one-time 360 review into a culture of continuous feedback can be difficult. But building a strong feedback culture will ultimately improve, learning agility, productivity and engagement.

The success of a 360-degree feedback process depends mainly on the people involved. If you spend time to train your people on the best way to give, receive, analyze and integrate their results into an effective action plan, you'll see an employees driven process start to emerge. Make feedback a daily habit, rather than a one time event.

Photo by Alejandro Escamilla