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360 Degree Feedback: Best Practices for a Smooth Implementation

Get the feedback you need to success at work by asking for 360 degree feedback. Read on to learn more!

By Mara Calvello  •   September 17, 2021  •   7 min read

Some of us were raised under the idea that you shouldn’t care what others think about you.

And while yes, this is still true in some respect. If you don’t like my new haircut or new sweater, no — I don’t particularly care about your opinion. But what if a peer told you a way that you could improve at your job that you didn’t even realize? Or maybe they’d like to share a way that they’re grateful you were in their corner when they were faced with a potential bottleneck in their role.

Sometimes it can be helpful to get this kind of feedback from our peers at work. It’s easy to get siloed into thinking our performance at work is as good as it’s going to get — but that’s not always the case. To truly get the feedback you need to succeed at work, it’s best to go the route of 360-degree feedback.

What is 360 Degree Feedback?  

360 degree feedback in performance appraisals or performance reviews refers to feedback being given to an employee from their manager, employees in different departments, team members in the same department, and the employee themself.

This type of feedback can be incredibly useful to all parties involved because it provides a broader and more comprehensive picture of an employee’s performance instead of only receiving feedback top-down from only their manager. Additionally, employees will better understand their strengths while also becoming aware of new development opportunities and needing additional coaching or improvement. Having these varying perspectives from peers in their organization allows employees to get a complete picture of their strengths and weaknesses and new ways to grow. 

However, employees also risk-taking in various generalizations from outside sources who may not know how to provide constructive feedback or know everything that is really on their plate on a day-to-day basis.

6 best practices for implementing 360 Degree Feedback assessments 

Looking to incorporate 360 degree feedback at your organization? Follow these best practices to ensure you can implement this type of feedback strategy successfully. 

1 Plan accordingly

First things first, a 360-degree feedback strategy will never work until you put the planning in ahead of time. When you do, both managers and employees and the organization as a whole see benefits and improved performance across the board. 

In terms of time and money and the company’s specific needs, be sure there’s a plan in place. Find out what the overall goal you’re looking to achieve by gaining this type of feedback. You’ll also need to determine the number of times this feedback will be called upon for evaluation (maybe at the start of every new quarter), the length of the survey being sent out (narrow it down to a handful of questions), and how much time an individual will have to complete the survey (always include a deadline!).

Pro tip

Use a feedback tool like Fellow to easily ask and receive feedback all in one place!

Feedback Feature Fellow

2 Get senior leadership and managers involved

Once a plan is in place, be sure to get buy-in from senior leadership. Make sure the overall mission of what you’re looking to accomplish with a 360-degree feedback strategy is properly communicated and that key stakeholders are on board. There should be an understanding of advantages, disadvantages, and the end result of using this data across c-suite leadership. Because the process can be extensive, having support from senior leaders is a must.

Additionally, you’ll want to get managers involved in the process. They’ll need to better understand how they should introduce their team to the feedback surveys and be ready with the answers to the questions their team may have. Once the surveys are complete, managers should have the tools and knowledge they need to act on the results. Whether it be promoting their best employee into a manager or team lead position, or putting an employee who is struggling on a RIF knowing how to do both is crucial to this feedback being used correctly and leading to success.

3 Keep it confidential

When conducting a 360 degree feedback strategy, make sure it includes anonymous feedback. Unlike other types of feedback, like the feedback sandwich, anonymity and confidentiality is a significant proponent of 360 degree feedback, and it’s important that this is properly conveyed across all departments. Especially the fact that, no matter what an employee says about their peer or manager, it will not threaten their job. At the end of the day, you want to ensure everyone feels comfortable sharing the truth and their honest thoughts.

Also, if everyone is made aware that the survey is anonymous, the response rate will likely go up. While it can be challenging to get 100% participation, making sure everyone knows that the surveys are confidential can help get you there.

While the human resources department and department leaders will have access to the surveys, they should only be able to see the number of participants, but never the names of who gave each response or rating. In some cases, a summary can be provided to a manager or a team leader. However, it should never identify any individuals.

4 Use a 360 feedback tool

An absolute must when developing a 360-degree feedback strategy is to utilize a tool that boasts all of the features your organization needs. 

For instance, the 360-feedback feature within Fellow makes it easy to collect feedback about any individual from their manager, direct report, peer, or even themselves. This functionality effortlessly allows managers to “batch” send out requests in one organized package. Each person submitting feedback has their own unique form with questions that pertain to them. Then, the results are collected in one central hub so all feedback can be easily called upon when needed most.

Of course, deciding on the right feedback tool will depend on an organization’s budget, size, and growth rate. Regardless, it’s likely that choosing the right software solution will streamline the entire process, as well as minimize the learning curve for both the employee and their manager.

5 Focus on team development

The 360-degree approach to feedback has the overall purpose of helping team members learn to work more effectively and productively together. An employee’s coworker likely knows more about their work ethic and attitude than their manager, and this type of feedback helps bring that information front and center.

Multi-rater feedback ensures that all employees are held accountable to one another as they’re able to share their input on each team member’s performance. When you focus on team development, communication across the department will improve and how the team can work together to accomplish a unified goal.

6 Don’t forget to follow up

Since 360-degree feedback is designed to collect data from a variety of people within a company, it’s important that you take the data and know how to strategically act upon it. Having this feedback strategy in place can provide structure as it shows employee performance and ways that someone could potentially improve. 

It can be helpful for managers to meet with their direct reports to go through the anonymous feedback collected, discuss what’s working and where they excel, and narrow in on areas that may need some work. While an individual may not love hearing areas where they may need to improve, being self-reflective makes this feedback 360-degrees. 

What are the benefits of 360 Feedback?

When done correctly, 360 feedback provides many advantages to employees across the entire organization, from the newest hire all the way up to the CEO.

  • More accurate evaluations, which means better performing employees
  • Reveals cracks in team structures and areas of improvement
  • Time saved during performance reviews
  • Improved communication across teams and departments
  • Fosters relationships between team member
  • Ensures the team is accountable to one another
  • Provides a more comprehensive evaluation into ones performance
  • Improved perspective from direct reports, managers, and peers
  • Increased accuracy of every feedback session
  • Drive more informed decisions around raises, promotions, transferred, or fired
  • Reduces bias and discriminatory factors

Possible downsides of 360 Feedback

However, 360-degree feedback can also present some potential challenges. However, you can ensure these potential downsides aren’t hindering the process when you know what to look out for.

  • Can sometimes put the focus on weaknesses instead of strengths
  • Can require an extensive process of data collection
  • Can create issues within the organization if done in an incomplete fashion
  • Prevents an individual from getting more information because the feedback is anonymous
  • Presents a possibility that raters will inflate ratings to make an employee look better than they actually are, and vice versa

Thankfully, utilizing the right software can solve some of these downsides before they become too detrimental to the process. 

360 feedback makes the world go ‘round

In a world where feedback can feel lackluster and one-sided, 360-degree feedback is here to change that. With the right software in your tech stack, sufficient training, and the promise of confidentiality, this type of feedback can help your team better understand their strengths and weaknesses. 

Ready to learn more? Find out how Fellow can help your team give and get feedback as it happens while maintaining a healthy and strong culture throughout an organization. 

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