A common performance management tool in the workplace is the 360 feedback method, also known as 360 degree feedback. It’s a system of evaluation intended to give employees or workers confidential, anonymised feedback from those who work with them.
This tends to include their managers, direct reports and peers – from their own team, or teams working with them.
This method provides a comprehensive assessment of the worker’s skills, competencies and behaviours. And by collecting feedback from various sources, it’s intended to give a well-rounded view of their performance.
Here we’ll look at the 360 feedback method, including sample questions, and the pros and cons of this approach.
- The 360 degree method is a performance management tool which involves gathering feedback from stakeholders who work with the employee in some capacity. This can include their manager(s), direct reports, peers – and even external stakeholders they work with regularly.
- Feedback gathered is confidential and anonymous, and provides an all-round comprehensive view of performance as seen from multiple sources.
- We’ve provided sample questions below. Hopefully these will help tease out comprehensive, valuable feedback, which can be used to increase employee self-awareness, while also presenting opportunities for personal and professional development.
What is the 360 feedback method?
The 360 degree feedback method is an assessment process for individuals which gathers feedback from multiple perspectives, such as managers, direct reports and peers. It may even be possible to gather feedback from external stakeholders, such as agency contacts, for instance.
Unlike traditional top-down evaluations, this method aims to provide an all-round, holistic view of the employee’s performance. The idea is to provide balanced feedback to promote self-awareness, while encouraging personal and professional development.
You might choose to employ this method during appraisals, for instance, or while allocating staff bonuses. They’re worth conducting consistently and regularly to ensure that progress is tracked.
How is the 360 feedback method applied?
While it may be common to simply request feedback from stakeholders via email, Microsoft Teams, Slack or other preferred messenger, the ideal way to gather information is namelessly via a web form or app. This ensures that feedback remains anonymous and confidential, and could temper any potential biases held by the manager delivering the evaluation.
In delivering the assessment, it’s common for the manager to divide feedback into three categories:
- What the employee should stop doing;
- What they should start doing; and
- What they should continue doing.
This is how 360 feedback is approached in Admiral, for example – which is one of the largest employers in our native South Wales, with some 8,000 staff. The 360 degree feedback method is also employed by tech giants Google and Netflix, among many other high-profile organisations.
What are some 360 feedback sample questions?
While some managers may leave the questions relatively open-ended – eg “What should they start / stop / continue doing?” – others may find it more effective to provide stakeholders with a list of relevant questions. In particular, it’s worth ensuring that questions can provide actionable answers.
Here are some sample questions commonly used in 360 feedback assessments:
- How effectively does the person communicate and collaborate with team members?
- Do they display a commitment to meeting deadlines and delivering quality work?
- Do they keep you regularly updated on progress?
- Do they take on extra responsibility when required?
- How well do they adapt to change and embrace new ideas?
- Do they provide constructive feedback and guidance to others?
- How effectively do they manage their time and prioritise tasks?
- How well do they handle conflict and resolve issues?
- Do they demonstrate a strong customer focus?
- Do they meet client expectations?
- To what extent do they take initiative and drive innovation?
- How empathetic are they? Do they demonstrate emotional intelligence?
- Is how they act a reflection of the organisation’s values?
- To what extent do they demonstrate leadership qualities?
It’s common to use a scale of ratings to effectively score employees, which can be tabulated and presented in a fashion which is easily understood. But it’s always important to allow for written comments too, which provides more targeted feedback.
Example: The 360 feedback method in action
Once all feedback from various sources mentioned has been collated, leaders and managers can then write up a report and a plan of action for each individual.
Here is an example of a completed 360-degree feedback report:
360 Feedback Evaluation Report – John Smith
The purpose of this report is to present the findings of the 360-degree feedback evaluation conducted for John Smith, a valued team member in the Sales Department. The 360 feedback method was employed to gather insights from various perspectives to support John’s professional development. The evaluation involved colleagues, direct reports, and supervisors, and focused on assessing John’s strengths and areas for improvement across different aspects of his work.
- Communication Skills: John received consistent praise for his excellent communication skills. Feedback providers highlighted his ability to articulate ideas clearly, actively listen, and engage with others effectively. They appreciated his communication style, which fostered collaboration and created a positive work environment.
- Teamwork and Collaboration: John was recognised as a strong team player who actively contributed to the success of the team. Feedback indicated that he consistently supported colleagues, shared knowledge, and encouraged open dialogue. Several individuals noted his ability to build strong relationships and resolve conflicts constructively.
- Leadership: While John demonstrated strong leadership qualities, some feedback providers mentioned that he could further enhance his leadership skills. They suggested that he could provide clearer direction, delegate tasks effectively, and empower team members to take ownership of their work. Developing a more strategic approach to problem-solving and decision-making was also identified as an area for growth.
- Customer Relations: John was highly praised for his exceptional customer relations skills. Feedback highlighted his ability to build rapport, understand customer needs, and provide timely solutions. His dedication to customer satisfaction and going the extra mile was recognised as a significant strength.
- Time Management: A few feedback providers mentioned that John could benefit from improving his time management skills. They suggested that he prioritise tasks more effectively, delegate when necessary, and set realistic deadlines to ensure optimal productivity and efficiency.
Based on the feedback received, the following action plan is recommended to support John’s professional growth:
- Leadership Development: Provide John with leadership development training and resources to further enhance his skills in providing clear direction, delegation, and strategic decision-making.
- Time Management Skills: Offer time management workshops or coaching sessions to help John improve his ability to prioritise tasks, delegate effectively, and manage his workload efficiently.
- Mentorship Program: Pair John with a senior team member who can serve as a mentor, providing guidance and support in his professional development journey.
- Cross-Functional Collaboration: Encourage John to engage in cross-functional projects and initiatives to broaden his understanding of the organisation and develop his collaboration skills further.
The 360-degree feedback evaluation provided valuable insights into John Smith’s performance. Overall, he received positive feedback for his communication skills, teamwork, and customer relations abilities. The evaluation also identified areas for improvement, particularly in leadership and time management. By implementing the recommended action plan, John can continue to enhance his strengths and address areas of growth, ultimately contributing to his professional development and overall effectiveness within the organisation.
Senior Sales Manager
360 degree feedback: pros and cons
While 360 feedback is clearly a useful and popular assessment tool, it’s good to bear in mind both its benefits and drawbacks – as is the case with any method which assesses individuals.
What are the benefits of the 360 feedback method?
#1. Enhanced self-awareness
The 360 feedback method can provide employees with a broader understanding of how their behaviours and actions impact others. It may help them identify blind spots and areas for improvement, promoting self-awareness and personal growth.
#2. Comprehensive evaluation
By collecting feedback from multiple sources, this method offers a comprehensive assessment of someone’s performance. As such, this panoramic view gives a more accurate picture than assessments based solely on a single source, such as their supervisor alone.
#3. Highlights developmental opportunities
The feedback gathered can highlight specific areas where it may be beneficial to focus developmental efforts. So it may serve as a roadmap for designing targeted training programs to enhance skills, knowledge and competencies.
#4. Strengthened relationships
The process of seeking feedback from various sources can promote open communication and collaboration. It also facilitates constructive discussions about strengths and areas for improvement.
What are the limitations of the 360 feedback method?
#1. Potential for biases and inaccuracies
The feedback collected via this method could potentially be influenced by personal biases, workplace politics and other interpersonal dynamics. Some respondents may provide inaccurate or skewed feedback, for instance, which ultimately compromises the assessment’s validity and reliability.
In addition, the feedback also has to pass through the manager’s lens, which presents an opportunity for bias to creep in.
#2. Lack of anonymity
Gathering honest and open feedback will ultimately lead to a more accurate assessment, and anonymity safeguards this. However, in certain cases, it may be difficult to guarantee the anonymity of respondents. This could lead to apprehensive, guarded responses – impacting the quality of the feedback.
It may also be possible for the employee to identify the respondent given specific feedback.
#3. Overemphasis on weaknesses
If the 360 feedback focuses on identifying areas for improvement, this can potentially overshadow the employee’s strengths. If so, this can create a negative perception of their overall performance, which may be understandably demotivating. As such, it’s really important to strike a balance between addressing weaknesses and recognising strengths to maintain employee morale.
#4. Emotional impact
On a related note, receiving feedback from multiple people – especially when it highlights areas for improvement – can be emotionally challenging for individuals. For this reason, it’s a good idea to provide support mechanisms and follow-up discussions. This can help the recipient of the feedback process and act upon it in a constructive manner.
Should managers employ the 360 feedback method?
In spite of some potential drawbacks, the 360 feedback method is nonetheless a useful and worthwhile method of performance evaluation. If you’re looking to provide a comprehensive assessment of an individual’s performance within your organisation, it’s a great place to start.
As mentioned, the 360 degree method can have a positive impact on self-awareness, and its multiple sources ensures the feedback isn’t all one-sided. It can also provide a springboard for personal and professional development, presenting angles which may have otherwise flown under the radar.
*If your employees need to develop their leadership skills as a result of the 360 feedback method, we have a range of suitable leadership development training courses – available in a classroom, online or via e-learning.