360-Degree Feedback

360-degree feedback is a comprehensive performance feedback strategy for employees. Traditionally, performance feedback was solely given by the employee’s direct superior. In 360-degree feedback, however, anonymous feedback is given by a range of individuals that the employee has a working relationship with. These include managers, colleagues, and in some cases, customers.

Understanding 360-degree feedback

In the evaluation itself, the employee is judged against certain behavioral, competency, and result-based criteria. Since this form of feedback involves consulting many people, a well-rounded opinion of the employee in question is formed. In turn, this guides future decisions in human resource management – such as who should be promoted, transferred, terminated, or earn a performance bonus.

Implementing 360-degree feedback

A performance questionnaire should first be distributed to the relevant participants by following these steps:

  1. Select 6-10 participants who can give an accurate and detailed evaluation of the employee. Remember to keep the evaluation anonymous.
  2. Group participants according to the nature of their relationship with the employee. For example, clients, colleagues, and customers.
  3. Survey questions should be open-ended and address core competencies such as leadership and communication
  4. The employee receiving evaluation should also answer the same set of questions. For best results, consider hiring an external agency to manage the evaluation process.

After the evaluation has been completed, it’s important that:

  1. Feedback is presented in a report highlighting areas for improvement.
  2. The information is used to provide direction for employee development plans.
  3. Survey participants must be adept at providing objective and constructive criticism.
  4. Support is offered to the employee to assist in professional development.

Strengths and weaknesses of 360-degree feedback

There are many strengths to this comprehensive strategy. Some of the more pertinent are listed below.

  • Increases employee self-awareness. Instead of simply being judged according to predetermined performance metrics, employees gain valuable insight into their personality, motivations, and strengths and weaknesses.
  • Encourages continuous improvement. 360-degree feedback emphasizes an incremental and collaborative approach to performance improvement. With less of a focus on hitting large milestones, the employee feels confident and empowered to meet personal goals gradually.
  • Suitable for large organizations with decentralized workforces. In larger businesses, many employees are autonomous and do not have much interaction with direct supervisors. This form of feedback ensures that employees get access to fair and constructive feedback.

However, there are some weaknesses to 360-degree feedback:

  • Conflicting feedback. With such a wide and varied range of participants consulted, it is perhaps inevitable that survey answers will contradict each other.
  • Non-specific questions. If survey questions are poorly designed, then the questions do not give any valuable insights that can be assessed quantitatively. In some cases, employees may also not be adequately trained in giving performance evaluation.
  • Vulnerable to manipulation. Some employees may deliberately target colleagues they’ve not enjoyed a sound working relationship with. Others may provide answers with the sole intent of winning the employee in question a promotion or raise.

360-degree feedback examples

In this section, we’ll describe some examples of 360-degree feedback for common workplace scenarios. 

Reinforcing feedback

Reinforcing feedback is a way to motivate employees and reinforce that their performance is beneficial for themselves and the company. In other words, this sort of feedback is given when the organization wants the employee to keep up the good work. 

  • A subordinate achieves a significant milestone – “Congratulations on exceeding your sales targets for the ninth month in a row. As a result of your great work, we have overtaken our main competitor to win dominant market share in your region. Your passion and commitment to your work and our company is very much appreciated.
  • A co-worker uses their initiative – “We want to thank you for taking the initiative to address the root cause of this problem instead of pretending that it didn’t exist. Your leadership in this situation will improve the efficiency of the process in future.”
  • An employee comes up with a great idea – “We’d like to recognize the idea you shared in yesterday’s meeting as a viable way for the company to cut costs this quarter. We appreciate you researching the idea and having the courage to put it forward. Your actions will inspire others to do the same.”

Redirecting feedback

Redirecting feedback is a way to facilitate the hard, uncomfortable conversations that sometimes occur in a workplace. While the 360-degree feedback method requires that feedback be anonymous, it’s important for individuals completing the survey to remember that their feedback will be read by a real person who has real feelings.

Here are a few ways someone can provide proper directing feedback:

  • A subordinate who is consistently late and misses an important deadline – “The delay you caused on this project caused inefficiencies in subsequent steps and resulted in extra completion time the company had not budgeted for. For future projects, could you ensure that deadlines are met and if delays are anticipated, let us know in advance?
  • A co-worker who is not a team player and prefers to go it alone. In this case, it’s important to respect that some people prefer one approach over another while still emphasizing the need for some degree of workplace flexibility – “We love that you have the ability to solve problems alone and power ahead. Sometimes, however, others are stuck and would benefit from your help. We rely on the collaborative nature of teamwork to offer support when needed and thrive as an organization.
  • A colleague seems withdrawn and does not communicate in meetings – “I’ve noticed that you have a tendency to remain silent in our team meetings. Is there something that is stopping you from speaking up, or are you naturally one to observe rather than take part? If it’s the former, we encourage you to reach out to us so we can offer assistance. If it’s the latter, we want you to know that your expertise and perspective is valued and that the organization cannot reach its full potential without diverse contributions.

Key takeaways:

  • 360-degree feedback allows an employee to receive a comprehensive performance evaluation from managers, peers, colleagues, and customers.
  • 360-degree feedback relies on quantitative data in survey answers to guide future direction on human resource management.
  • 360-degree feedback is process-centric and gives employees valuable personal insights. However, it is not immune to exploitation and manipulation by interested parties.

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