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How 360-degree feedback surveys can help you develop your team

Use surveys instead of a traditional performance review to learn more about behavior, productivity, collaboration efforts, and more.

When it comes to how your employees view their leaders, managers and co-workers throughout your organization, it’s important to get the full picture. You want honest and candid feedback about an individual’s strengths and weaknesses, and potential blindspots that may be impacting employee performance or morale.

A great way to get that depth is  through 360-degree feedback surveys. 360 degree feedback surveys can be a powerful tool to help everyone grow. This type of employee survey captures comprehensive insights from those working closely with an individual whose performance is being evaluated. That means it gathers feedback from managers and peers.

Through feedback, team members can gain an understanding of their actions and behaviors and how they affect the greater team. This can vary considerably from how they view themselves. By receiving useful insight into what others see, they can take action to enhance their strengths and improve upon their weaknesses.

Of course, it’s important that these reviews are presented in a thoughtful and constructive way and employees are willing to incorporate the feedback they receive in their professional growth and efforts to achieve organizational goals. When that does occur, 360-degree surveys can be a real game changer for the success in your organization. 

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What does it mean to collect 360-degree employee feedback?

Unlike traditional performance reviews, a 360-degree feedback survey is aimed at gathering anonymous feedback about an employee from the people working most closely with them, including direct reports, peers, and managers. 

During a 360-degree review, a team member can expect to receive feedback from a wide range of perspectives, with supervisors, direct reports and peers sharing their views on that person’s skills, behavior, and impact on the rest of the team.

The data collected via 360-feedback surveys is then combined into a report that identifies the strengths and weaknesses of the individual being assessed.

It’s important to keep in mind that this type of feedback doesn’t actually focus on performance, rather, it assesses the full range of aspects that can be attributed to an employee’s behavior. The feedback can be eye-opening—or at times, alarming— to the individual being assessed. But it truly is one of the most effective ways to help the person improve their interactions, their communication, and ultimately, their job performance.

How does a 360 review work?

The approach to developing a 360 review is relatively straightforward, starting with the development of a questionnaire and concluding with sharing the results with the individual being evaluated and discussing an action plan for maximizing strengths and addressing weaknesses or blind spots. Here are the steps the process:

  1. Develop an employee questionnaire

Rated on a point scale of 4 to 7, this questionnaire asks about a range of aspects of an individual’s behaviors and interactions, specifically communication, teamwork, leadership, initiative, and judgment. It also includes open-ended questions so others can provide additional feedback.

2. Ensure confidentiality of participants

Protecting the confidentiality of your participants is important if you want to collect their most accurate and candid feedback. While the purpose of the survey isn’t to bash or make anyone feel bad about the feedback they receive, sometimes even providing constructive feedback can cause awkward break room encounters.

Therefore, to ensure that participants are protected and no one is singled out, you may consider summarizing feedback responses. This can mask the participants whose answers stand out and helps to ensure that the results are genuine —but won’t create problems.

3. Provide training and orientations

Training is important to the feedback process because it takes the results and helps employees understand how to apply it to their professional growth. Therefore, it is key to provide some kind of training where employees can learn and ask questions about 360-degree feedback surveys. Most importantly, having this understanding will give them the confidence to answer the questions openly and honestly.

4. Start to elicit feedback from the survey

When distributing the survey, be sure to provide clear instructions, so that employees know what exactly is expected from them. If possible, post the questionnaire to your company website, so that employees can access it conveniently.

5. Analyze the data

You may find it easiest to analyze your data by department or division. This way, you can conveniently identify organizational strengths and weaknesses and use it to promote training and development.

6. Develop and distribute results

After your analysis of the results is completed, conduct review sessions that will allow employees to sit with a facilitator and to go over the results and establish appropriate goals and objectives.

How 360 reviews differ from traditional performance reviews

For starters, traditional performance reviews are aimed at assessing performance. These reviews certainly have their place in terms of ensuring employee growth and development by assessing the productivity and results generated by a particular employee. 

Traditional performance reviews typically are administered by management alone with a manager assessing and sharing with the team member how well he or she is performing their job. 

Yet, performance reviews don’t have the capability to capture the full range of aspects that contribute to an employee’s success. 360-degree feedback fills that gap by not focusing primarily on performance, but rather on all aspects that contribute to an employee’s behavior which can help improve that employees’ interactions, communication, and overall job performance. 

Beyond that, 360 reviews help diversify and deepen performance data and measurement, provide unique vantage points and perspectives, and show managers and leaders where they can improve.

Ultimately, with 360-degree feedback, you and your employees will learn things about yourselves that you likely would have never discovered otherwise.

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Advantages of 360 feedback

There are a wide range of benefits generated through conducting 360 degree feedback evaluations. Once an organization starts adopting this approach, they can see clear advantages such as:

Improved feedback from multiple sources

Simply put, when you know better, you do better. When employees see the full scope of the factors and components that make up their job performance, they can adjust accordingly. For instance, if people have difficulty communicating with an employee, that employee may use that feedback to develop a plan that will help him or her communicate in better ways.

Team development

It’s been said that 360-degree feedback surveys help build productivity and effectiveness within teams. Through this process, strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities for improvement can be identified. Also, it allows for each team member to recognize their own contributions to the team and make any necessary adjustments. 

Build even more efficiency into your team when you work on employee surveys together.

Personal and organizational performance development 

Most employees have some level of self-awareness regarding their strengths and weaknesses, but 360 reviews will help them to fine tune certain behaviors and prioritize areas of focus. Feedback can reveal the areas of improvement, which would then allow individuals and departments to develop action plans to increase performance. As a result, staff may develop goals that would hold individuals accountable for their own work and contributions to company goals.

Career development

Receiving feedback from multiple sources is essential to career development because it offers the most candid assessment of an employee’s performance. In addition, it provides insight into the areas that employees need most to advance their careers. Improving deficiencies, building strengths, aid alignment with organizational goals, becoming a better leader are all areas in which 360 feedback can support career development. 

Training needs assessment

Since 360 reviews provide feedback that identifies areas for improvement, employees can use this information as a guideline and participate in trainings that would help them improve.

Reduces discriminatory tendencies and bias 

When feedback comes from multiple sources, within various job functions, discrimination because of age, sex, gender, and race is reduced.

Challenges of 360 feedback 

While there are many advantages to using 360-feedback surveys, they are not a cure-all for more traditional performance review and other tactics and approaches to evaluating how employees are doing in all aspects of their work.  Here are some of the potential downsides or limitations to 360 feedback. 

Rater inexperience and ineffectiveness 

Because these surveys are relatively new, many participants still lack the experience to effectively provide feedback to the areas of focus. Employees can also inflate the ratings to make a colleague look like an exceptional employee. Conversely, ratings can be deflated to make a colleague look like they’re not doing a great job.

Insufficient information 

Since surveys are oftentimes anonymous, it prohibits employees from seeking out clarification or deeper understanding regarding particular responses. That is why it is important to develop 360 process coaches, so they can help employees understand their feedback and develop action plans.

Design downfalls

Sometimes the devil is in the details. If a 360-degree survey is designed without careful planning it can be difficult to get buy-in from managers and leaders or elicit responses that are productive or relevant to improving an employee’s performance. To avoid a poorly designed survey, the development process should extend beyond solely your HR department to include input from a cross-section of people throughout your organization. 

What is 360 feedback good for?

It’s obvious 360 feedback offers myriad benefits—to the person being evaluated, those who work closely with him or her, and ultimately, to your entire organization. Here are 3 of those potential benefits:

Greater self awareness

One of the most unique and powerful ways that 360-degree feedback can be useful is by creating greater self awareness among those who have been evaluated. It’s human nature for each of us to have a perception of ourselves and also work off the assumption that others view the world in much the same way we do. 

The 360 feedback exposes us to how others perceive us, which can prompt greater introspection and self awareness that can lead to modifying behaviors for the better. These insights are not always negative either. In some instances, individuals are not aware of behaviors they exhibit or actions they take that are valued and appreciated by their peers or direct reports. Having a greater awareness of these strengths is not only a confidence booster, but also can help an individual be more intentional about maximizing those strengths for the benefit of themselves and those they work with. 

More meaningful dialogue

Often in the process of reviewing results, those who have been evaluated via 360 feedback will look for some additional clarification one certain aspects of the findings. This could be a certain observation that departs dramatically from how the individual thought he or she was perceived. This opens the door to more meaningful dialogue on issues that might be far more difficult to discuss without the supporting data from the 360 feedback. 

Stronger relationships

The best relationships are those built on honesty and trust. In reality, 360 feedback has the potential to build on those two factors, creating meaningful and mutually beneficial exchanges as opposed to traditional performance reviews that often amount to one-sided conversations. It’s also true that 360 degree feedback encourages an open exchange, and the feedback can often be the foundation for improving a wide range of workplace relationships by providing guidance on how to more effectively interact and communicate with others. 

Ultimately these benefits and more can lead to stronger performance and happier, more satisfied and productive employees. 

Use cases of 360-degree reviews for your team

Since 360 reviews focus on behaviors, they can be used widely in order to promote the kind of culture that the organization needs.

In their book The Art and Science of 360 Degree Feedback, Richard Lepsinger and Antoinette D. Lucia recommend using them when the company wants to:

  • Promote culture change
  • Achieve a particular business strategy
  • Enhance individual and team effectiveness
  • Improve human resource management systems

It’s clear, then, that one of your first steps in deciding to conduct a 360-feedback exercise is identifying which behaviors make a difference in your company—since you will want to promote them.

Another important factor to decide whether to use a 360 review is that the subject of the review has to believe in it. The team member being evaluated must be committed to using the results in a constructive manner and take the chance to develop as a professional and a person. After all, it’s a rare chance they will get off having everyone else focused on them and their participation in the team.

How to create a 360-degree employee feedback survey

Creating 360- =degree feedback surveys have come a long way. What used to take months to plan, execute, and implement, can now be done using our 360-degree employee evaluation survey template. Using a template will allow you to customize it according to each employee, and edit it to focus on your company’s larger goals and desired behaviors. 

Establish criteria for rating employees 

Before creating your survey questions, you must decide on the competencies you would like to receive feedback on. Some example competencies include interpersonal skills, communication, conflict management, and collaborative leadership.

Choose assessors 

When it comes to selecting assessors, it may be a good idea to allow the employees to select because they are more likely to take the feedback seriously. However, they are also more likely to choose people with whom they have a good or familiar relationship with, which could result in bias or favoritism in  the responses. Including a manager or HR may be ideal to ensure a more objective process. 

Send out the survey to employees and assessors 

Email is the easiest and quickest way to distribute feedback surveys. You can reach a larger group when sending surveys via email, but also cut costs by not having to pay for envelopes and postage stamps. 

Review ratings with the employee 

Once the results have been submitted, it is important to schedule a one-on-one session with each employee to discuss the results and establish the next steps. It’s also during this time where action plans are created to achieve professional goals and put focus on the areas that need improvement.

Follow up about progress 

Following up on how an employee has responded over time to 360 feedback is key to continual improvement. Make sure to establish check-ins throughout the year, during which you can discuss the actions being taken based on the feedback received. 

How to write 360 review survey questions 

When it comes to writing your survey questions, you want to make sure that they are going to yield answers related to your overall purpose or goal. Therefore, your questions should be specific and straightforward. 

Other things to keep in mind when crafting your survey questions include:

  • Focus on asking open-ended questions
  • Avoid asking leading questions–or questions that have an opinion in them and can influence participants answers
  • Keep a balanced set of answer choices

Bear in mind that respondents are more inclined to participate in your survey when they are not forced to answer all of the questions. Therefore, allow most of your questions to be optional to answer.

Example questions 

Here are some examples of the types of questions that are asked on a 360 degree feedback survey.

  • What would you say are this employee's strengths?
  • What is one thing this employee should continue doing?
  • How well does this person manage their time and workload?
  • What’s an area you’d like to see this person improve?

The next time performance reviews come up on your calendar, you may want to consider the option of using 360-feedback surveys in your team. It is a great way to help key members of your team develop in their careers and to build a positive culture inside the company.

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