360 Degree Feedback – Five Steps to Perfect Feedback Culture

by Daniel Hannig

In every company, the personal and professional development of employees is essential for growth. A prerequisite for this is a consistent and healthy feedback culture, and 360 degree feedback is one method to accomplish this. Especially for managers, the multifaceted input obtained through 360 degree feedback is a strong pillar of support when it comes to developing into the kind of leader that will help the company and its culture flourish.

While there are many different ways to receive feedback, it is not always easy to determine what way is the most effective in a certain environment. 360 Degree feedback has proven to be an extremely effective method when implemented correctly. Therefore, in this article we will discuss the process of implementation and what to take into account.

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What is 360 Degree Feedback?

As you might have already guessed by the name, 360 degree feedback offers the recipient all-around feedback by various colleagues from different hierarchy levels. At best, the person being reviewed will receive feedback from someone senior, a colleague with the same level of experience, a junior, and someone working outside of the company. The question that comes to mind is: what exactly is the benefit of having so many different perspectives?

Simply put: it is a very effective way by which the direct supervisor of a manager can get an informed picture of that manager’s performance. Around 80% of a managers day to day is spent in meetings with people from different areas inside and outside the company. Accurate conclusions about the behavior, working methods and success of the manager can therefore often hardly be drawn by the direct superior, as he or she is not constantly involved in the work processes. As a consequence, one-on-ones often do not fulfil the desired objectives, meaning that other methods of review are necessary in order to obtain a more complete picture.

The Five Steps to Successful 360 Degree Feedback

There are a lot of common mistakes that can be made when introducing 360 degree surveys at work. Here are five easily implemented steps that will help you avoid these mistakes and improve the results of your survey.

Step 1: Communication is Key

If 360 degree feedback is to be introduced as part of an already existing feedback structure, this must be communicated to everyone clearly and in detail.

Employees must be aware of the changes this new tool will bring to the feedback culture and be equally willing to adapt in order to achieve the goals that have been outlined. Above all, it is important to let everyone know what the purpose of these changes are, e.g. what problems the new feedback structure is intended to solve within the company.

Actionable Advice Before implementation, a company-wide meeting should be held to clarify how the new tool will be used and why it is useful. The feedback culture in the company should also be discussed continuously.

Step 2: Continuity and Real Time

Feedback should be given constantly and in real-time. Introducing a 360-degree feedback survey that will be conducted annually or quarterly is not going to pay off. What it will do is reflect the employee’s performance at that specific moment in time. But that is not what 360 degree feedback is designed for. The actual information you are after, a detailed reflection of the person’s overall performance, can only be achieved through continuous feedback. With today’s projects and teams becoming more complex and multifaceted by the day, it only makes sense that the feedback structure should become more comprehensive as well.

Actionable Advice: Feedback as a continuous process can be implemented by using technology enabled tools, smartphones or online surveys. It is important to implement the process in such a way that it can be seamlessly integrated into the employees’ previous work routine. This makes it easier to see it as a weekly work practice, rather than an intermittent task.

Step 3: Anonymity

Anonymous feedback has its benefits and downsides alike. Let’s start with the benefits: your employees will feel more comfortable giving honest and candid feedback if the survey is anonymized and will thereby also give the recipient a more realistic picture concerning areas for improvement. Anonymity will also encourage the recipients to focus on the content of the feedback, rather than who it is from. The deficit of anonymous feedback is that it opposes a transparent company culture and makes it easier for people to criticize nefariously, rather than constructively. Let’s face it, negative dynamics exist in every office and not every person being reviewed will have the most likeable character. Some colleagues may use the opportunity of anonymous feedback to give that person a piece of their mind, knowing that they will not suffer any repercussions.

Actionable Advice Whether you make your surveys anonymous or not is up to you. No matter what option you go with, there are deficits to take into account that have to be minimized. Do that by instructing your employees to keep it professional at all times and by not making any important decisions based on the 360 degree feedback alone.

Step 4: 360 Degree Feedback as Supplement, not a Substitute

360 degree feedback is to be used as an addition to an already existing feedback structure and not as a substitute. While 360 degree feedback may be very comprehensive in a sense that it gives you input from a lot of different sources, it is still unable to reach the same level in-depth reflection that you will receive in a 1-on-1 for example.

Actionable Advice The new feedback culture does not end with the full implementation of your new tool. Further steps must be taken to maintain honest communication. The managers themselves should set an example here and continue to request 1-on-1s with their employees in regular intervals in which praise and suggestions for improvement are exchanged.

Step 5: Using the Information

In order for 360-degree feedback to be meaningful, the person under consideration must also be given the opportunity to react appropriately to the evaluation and the feedback received. The feedback process is not already complete when the feedback is given. The right consequences must also be drawn from it.

Actionable Advice: Introduce follow up meetings that take place after the feedback has been given, where the progress and development of the recipient is reviewed in detail. This can happen in the form of meetings or open discussions. Use these meetings to ensure that the recipients go about their received feedback with a growth-mindset and use it to develop themselves.

Examples Questions for 360 Degree Feedback Survey

When drafting a 360 degree feedback survey, you can think of including following assessment points into your questionnaire:

  • Communication skills
  • Leadership style / Competence / Decision making competencies
  • Teamwork / Management skills
  • Criticism and Conflict behavior
  • Learning capability
  • Strategic / Entrepreneurial thinking
  • Innovation
  • Target orientation
  • Productivity
  • Performance orientation
  • Team spirit

This is just a list of optional aspects that can be included into your survey. Of course every survey has to be tailored to the respective company culture and focus on what is needed most at the company.

360 Degree Feedback In a Nutshell

If you have the feeling that your current feedback structure is not comprehensive enough to give your employees the necessary information that they need to grow, you should consider introducing 360 degree feedback as a supplement. See to it that everyone knows about the planned implementation and ensure that everyone is on board before you start building it into your existing structure. Once implemented, train yourself and your employees in how to give good feedback for optimal results. And last but not least, continue to use 360 degree feedback parallel to your already existing methods to create a well rounded and intricate feedback culture which produces diverse results that come from various sources instead of one.


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