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360 Feedback in Your Workplace: Benefits, Pitfalls & Implementation Checklist

One Minute Takeaway

  • Organizations can benefit from listening to a broader range of voices
  • 360 feedback reinforces team values—but can be a slow process
  • Before implementing 360 feedback, seek alignment from leaders

When it’s time for performance reviews, 360 feedback is often an afterthought. Sure, it’s used at more than 85% of Fortune 500 companies and countless smaller businesses—but is it used effectively? The success of 360 feedback depends on how it’s implemented. Without the right planning, it takes up a lot of time with little reward. Done right, it can transform your performance management process.

What is 360 Feedback, Anyway?

360 feedback is the antidote to traditional hierarchical feedback, where the performance review process is limited to just a manager and who they supervise. 360 feedback is about collecting feedback from all relevant stakeholders, both internally (supervisors, peers, direct reports, subordinates) and externally (clients, vendors, board members).

Ultimately, the purpose of 360 feedback is to gather data on employee skills, competencies and work behaviors. The data collected can be used as a benchmark within an employee’s development plan or as part of the overall performance management process.

360 feedback is the antidote to traditional hierarchical feedback, where the performance review process is limited to just a manager and who they supervise. 360 feedback is about collecting feedback from all relevant stakeholders, both internally (supervisors, peers, direct reports, subordinates) and externally (clients, vendors, board members).

Ultimately, the purpose of 360 feedback is to gather data on employee skills, competencies and work behaviors. The data collected can be used as a benchmark within an employee’s development plan or as part of the overall talent development process.

The Upsides of 360 Feedback

360 feedback brings some big benefits:

  • Greater Self-Awareness
    Feedback identifies and reinforces strengths, recognizes effort and highlight areas to develop. If you hear the same comments over and over, you can be sure there’s truth to them.

  • Enhances Feedback
    It’s not all about repetition, though—you’ll also receive feedback you simply wouldn’t hear otherwise. Managers have a certain view; peers, and others with whom you interact, offer a differ perspective. This is especially true if you (or others) operate remotely.

  • Reinforced Values and Behaviors
    When team members understand each other, they can work more effectively together. It’s not just about personal opinion—360 feedback should also uncover the shared values that matter to a team and the specific competencies that are seen as crucial to success.

  • Inspiration and Motivation
    Performance management is only successful when the end result is increased motivation. 360 feedback helps, by providing a “louder voice”. Employees get multiple coaches, not just one.

Improved Employee Engagement
All these factors combine to produce an end result of engaged employees, who are aligned with their colleagues, well placed to develop and motivated to succeed.

How 360 Feedback Can Go Wrong

So far, we’ve been concentrating on the best case scenario, when you get your 360 feedback process just right. In reality, there are many ways you can slip up on the way:

  • Lack of Alignment
    Performance reviews work best when there are standards to judge behavior against. These can be values-based or measurable metrics. What matters is that they are consistent across the organization. 360 feedback can fail when not everyone is on the same page—otherwise feedback will be too subjective to be useful.

  • Poor Planning
    No performance management process is effective without planning, and 360 feedback is no different. To ensure successful implementation, you’ll want to invest in effective communication.

  • Absence of Employee Buy-in
    Employees at all levels of your company should be trained in how 360 feedback works. They may be afraid to say what they really think, worrying that they’ll paint colleagues (or themselves) in a bad light. Worse, they might try to game the system, giving favorable reviews only about those they like. If employees are convinced to be honest, 360 feedback will be a success.

  • Survey Fatigue
    360 feedback can have big benefits, but it shouldn’t bring a big workload. Don’t be too ambitious or you could end up overwhelming your team. Choose a few, targeted questions. Give respondents space to dive deeper if they wish.

  • No Follow-Up
    Too many companies invest time and effort collecting feedback, but make the mistake of leaving it there. Instead, they should make accountability a priority. Teams at all levels should be supported to build on feedback and improve performance.

Questions to Ask Before Implementing 360 Feedback

These questions will help you clarify what you want to achieve, and how you’ll go about it:

  1. Questions on the goal of using 360 feedback:
    • Is it a development tool?
    • Or is it an appraisal tool?
  2. Questions on facilitating the 360 process:
    • Is feedback anonymous?
    • Does it feedback Impact salary or not? If so, how will it impact salary and be measured?
    • Who will select the participants?
    • How much training is needed?
    • What will be the code of conduct for implementing 360s?
    • Are the results confidential? Who views, has access to or owns the data?
  3. Questions on selecting or building a tool:
    • Is it customized by an external agency or developed in-house?
  4. Questions on organizational readiness:
    • What are your organizational culture values?
    • Do employees currently give and receive feedback?
    • Do your employees have time to provide feedback to multiple people?

360 Feedback Checklist

Now, let’s take a look at critical steps for implementing 360 feedback in your workplace.

Create Management Alignment and Provide Support
As with any change management initiative, alignment with management or leadership is key. If your stakeholders are not aligned and supporting the process, you won’t get employees to prioritize taking time out to give feedback.

Define the Purpose of Your Program

  • What is the desired outcome of the program?
  • How will 360 feedback tie into your strategy for employee development and/or performance management?
  • Does it align with the values tied to culture, mission, and vision?
  • Is it a development tool for leaders only or will it be available to all employees?
  • Will it be tied to compensation and performance reviews?
  • Is it designed for career and personal development? Is it optional for employees?
  • Who will own the process? Employees, managers, or both?

Communicate the Purpose of 360 Feedback
Communicating throughout the planning and implementation process of 360 feedback will minimize the fear in the process. Think about the how, when and why, for all aspects of the program.

Train and Educate Employees
Depending on how your organization likes to facilitate providing and receiving feedback, leadership can spearhead training for teams to try 360 feedback.

Define Next Steps and Expectations
All participants should know how the process works and best practices. Are there tools to create a development plans and support for development goals? Who is accountable, and how?

Measure Success and Seek Improvements 
Celebrate successes and assess what is working and what’s not working. Make modifications as needed.

How Paycor Helps

Paycor builds HR solutions for leaders. With Paycor, you can modernize every aspect of people management, from the way you recruit, onboard and develop your team, to the way you pay and retain them. See how Paycor can help the leaders of your organization solve the problems of today and tomorrow.