The 360 review process has a growing importance in employee and leadership development. The comprehensive feedback it provides can lend transformative insights for employees, managers, and executives alike.
What makes 360 reviews so vital? A manager’s observations, while valuable, can be limited—especially on remote teams. 360 reviews draw out a range of perspectives on an individual’s performance to provide a robust set of insights. By doing so, 360 feedback assessments can pinpoint hidden issues or strengths that employees can develop and utilize.
For these reasons, 360 degree feedback surveys have the power to transform people management. We’ll discuss how to establish a 360 review process, enhance its benefits to employees, and conduct a 360 degree leadership assessment.
Table of Contents
Demystifying the 360 Review Process
Let’s review the main steps in a 360 feedback assessment, from preparation to completion.
1. Decide on what you want to accomplish with your 360 surveys. What pressing problem will this help solve? What business outcomes do you hope to accomplish?
2. Create a calendar for the 360 review process, mapping out when reviews will occur throughout the year.
3. Assign roles, like an internal 360 process administrator, as the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) recommends. Determine who will review results with each individual, including top leaders.
4. Clarify goals and explain what to expect from the process. 360 review feedback should be used to enhance personal growth, not to make decisions on promotion.
5. Choose the survey tool that you’ll use. The best 360 feedback tools will let you create as many questionnaires as needed, tailored to particular roles.
6. Design questions for your 360 reviews (we’ll discuss this in the next section).
7. Set up one-on-one meetings to review results and make a plan for growth. Proper follow-up will maximize the ROI of your 360 initiative, as CCL notes.
As these steps show, 360 degree reviews require a collaborative process. Thoughtful preparation and follow-through will bolster organizational transparency and trust.
Crafting Convincing 360 Surveys
Design 360 survey questions that elicit clear, actionable feedback. Good questions focus on specific, observable behaviours. Questions will vary by level and role—the questions on an executive’s 360 survey will differ from those on a manager’s or employee’s.
Refer to the key competencies needed for the role, then center questions around them. For an executive, core competencies may include strategic thinking, analytical abilities, and communication, for instance. The best 360 feedback tools will suggest questions for each individual.
Include 3–4 rating questions under each competency. Here’s an example of questions related to communication:
How effectively does this person…
The Management Center suggests including a few simple open-ended questions on a 360 degree feedback survey as well:
- Name 1–2 areas in which the employee excels (with examples).
- Name 1–2 areas in which the employee most needs to grow (with examples).
- What is the number-one developmental goal this employee should focus on this year?
For leaders, you can ask questions like, “On a scale of 1–10, how likely are you to want to keep working for this person for a long time to come?” You can also ask the same question for peers: “On a scale of 1–10, how much do you wish to keep working with this person for the foreseeable future?”
Testing the effectiveness of your questions and response rates to them is important, as Don A. Dillman says in Advances in Questionnaire Design, Development, Evaluation and Testing. Consider holding focus groups or conducting pilot tests for this purpose. Such efforts can help determine whether any questions cause confusion, for instance.
Keeping your 360 surveys fairly short will help you gain the most relevant information. Plus, this will improve response rate.
The Art of Receiving 360 Review Feedback
Receiving feedback from multiple sources at once requires a high level of emotional intelligence (EI). Strive to grow your EI so you’ll be ready for these moments. Using tips like those shared by Russ Laraway on Radical Candor will help you receive feedback effectively:
- Prepare mentally. Remind yourself that feedback is a gift that will benefit your growth.
- Ask for the feedback. It’s much easier to accept feedback that you’ve requested. You can ask specific people to participate in your 360 review, for instance. And when you sit down to hear the results, you could say, “Please tell me about the trends, patterns, and areas for growth you’ve found.”
- Be curious. “If you get deeply curious about the feedback you are receiving, it starts to feel more like a problem to solve,” says Laraway. Ask follow-up questions like these:
- “Can you tell me more about that?”
- “What do you think I should do differently?”
- “Could you share an example or two?”
- “What if I used X approach instead—would that work better?”
- Treat the issue as a problem you’re working to solve with the help of the feedback giver.
- Paraphrase what you’ve heard to ensure understanding.
- Take time to think about changes you’ll make, if needed.
- Follow up within a week or so to discuss actions you’ll take.
Learning how to constructively receive 360 feedback will prepare you for the next step: making an action plan.
360 Feedback Assessment: Interpreting Results for Growth
The person delivering the 360 feedback should interpret the results to make them easier to digest. Then, this person should help create a plan for growth. We’ll address how to handle these steps, as well as sharing 360 feedback examples for peers and managers.
Analyzing the Results
Begin by reading over the results of the 360 in full, looking for patterns and themes. Make one pass through the document before taking notes, suggests John W. Fleenor, Sylvester Taylor, and Craig Chappelow in Leveraging the Impact of 360 Degree Feedback.
Curate the feedback carefully, looking for actionable feedback in the responses. If feedback shares strong opinions that are not actionable, HR can follow up with the respondents, as David Dodson notes in The Manager’s Handbook. For instance, if an employee says their manager doesn’t care about their growth, perhaps they really mean that one-on-one meetings rarely happen. To allow for such follow-up questions, consider making the responses anonymous to everyone but a particular HR manager.
Let’s look at a few 360 feedback examples to clarify how this can look in practice. 360 feedback for a manager could highlight key themes like these:
Kathy has sharp analytical skills and shares her knowledge with others. However, she can be too quick to write off others’ ideas. Her direct reports often feel silenced in meetings when they voice a suggestion. This undermines team collaboration and creates a great deal of frustration. Kathy should practice listening fully, discussing new ideas with the team, and mentoring people in developing and using their own analytical abilities.
And here are some 360 feedback examples for peers:
Luis generally brings a positive attitude to work and completes his tasks on time. However, he seems to shut down when change is happening. This has become more of a problem lately, as we’ve been going through a lot of disruption. If Luis can become more adaptable and optimistic in the face of change, the whole team will benefit.
Janet shows real passion for her work. However, she frequently doesn’t take accountability for her mistakes and work to fix them, causing others to scramble to do it for her. She could strengthen her performance by owning her errors and learning to remediate them. This would also enhance her relationships with peers.
The person interpreting the results should have a strong understanding of what particular scores mean, recommends Fleenor. This individual can write a concise summary of the findings to share with the reviewee.
Designing a Personal Action Plan
Follow these steps to help each leader and employee craft a personal action plan based on the 360 feedback assessment.
1. Identify your “One Big Thing”: the highest-priority area of focus. Then name 2–3 other key themes.
2. Pinpoint key strengths, which will support this person’s efforts toward growth, as Forbes says.
3. Define the steps the leader or employee can take to grow in the focal areas. Discuss training, resources, and support you’ll provide.
4. Leverage goal-tracking software to monitor progress in these areas. Make sure the leader or employee understands how to use these tools in their daily work!
5. Set a schedule for check-ins to assess progress. During these sessions, you can assign stretch projects, share additional resources, and provide mentoring.
Most importantly, set up a regular method for sharing real-time feedback and answering questions as they arise. Instant feedback tools can ensure employees get the support they need in the moment.
360 Degree Leadership Assessment: A Tool for Transformation
A 360 degree leadership assessment can play an important role in developing leadership qualities. Foster a culture of continuous improvement at all levels by implementing 360 degree reviews for leaders.
“The feedback contained in anonymous surveys can improve the performance of an already-effective manager who may have stalled on a few executive training goals,” says the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). “This type of coaching can also be used to assess those newly promoted to leadership positions and give them the tools they need to succeed.”
Leaders and managers should specify 2–3 goals they want to achieve from the 360 degree feedback survey. Then, HR can tailor the questions to those goals. They should then personally invite their direct reports to give them feedback in these areas.
Many companies provide designated coaches to help managers and leaders utilize the feedback from a 360 degree leadership assessment. For example, biomedical company Boston Scientific has internal 360 coaches and has made 360 coaching a core part of leadership development, says SHRM. Consider implementing a similar practice in your company.
Starting with a Strong Culture of Feedback-Sharing
According to the Management Center, 360 degree reviews work best when you already have a culture of sharing feedback. The 360 review feedback will complement the input they receive in performance evaluations, in one-on-ones, and from peers.
The 360 review process has an incredible transformative potential when conducted with the right tools and mindset. By adopting a 360-degree feedback approach for leadership assessment, utilizing the best 360 feedback tools, and nurturing a culture of feedback sharing, you’ll set up each individual for success.
Want to learn more about how software can enhance feedback-sharing in your organization? Demo our product.