A 360 review provides valuable insights from a holistic perspective. Also, that’s why 9 of 10 Fortune 500 companies use them. The 360 feedback questions in a survey help employees learn how colleagues view their performance.
Peers, superiors, direct reports, and others may take part in the survey. For a manager, each direct report will ideally complete it. Several peers and colleagues in other levels and areas of the business should also participate. For executives, choose people who work with them both closely and less directly. After all, their leadership matters to everyone.
But not every 360 survey is built equally. Choosing great 360 feedback questions is the cornerstone of a good review. Let’s explore why choosing the right ones matters. Then, we’ll take a look at the best questions to ask—and which ones to avoid.
What Are 360 Feedback Questions
Good 360-degree feedback questions ask raters about a colleague’s specific behaviours. More specifically, the questions address particular traits and skills their colleague should display. The answers help their colleague understand how to improve and advance their career. Importantly, the results should not be used as a performance review. The 360 survey should strictly be a tool for learning.
Why Choosing Good Questions Is Important
Good 360 feedback questions help employees identify their strengths, uncover blind spots, and find areas for potential growth. They may even feel surprised by some feedback, but that means growth is happening.
“There are usually a few pieces of feedback that are confusing and cause the leader to question, ‘Why would someone think that?’” writes Harvard Business Review. “All of this is part of the expansion of their self-awareness, as they learn more about their strengths and weaknesses. Their world makes more sense.”
Software can facilitate the creation of great 360 feedback questions. For example, Primalogik’s highly developed 360 module allows you to choose from lists of curated questions. Or, you can simply select a template geared toward employees at a certain level.
We’re going to look at some great 360 questions in a moment. But first, let’s take a quick look at what not to do. When you understand what to avoid, you’ll know how to get it right!
Examples of Bad 360 Feedback Questions
Bad 360 feedback questions are often too vague. They don’t allude to specific behaviours. Or, they may be “yes or no” items that don’t provide real insights. Employees may learn what others think of them but not how to make improvements. This leaves them feeling demoralized and disempowered.
Here are a few bad 360 feedback questions to avoid:
Does this employee…
- Manage others effectively?
- Care about others?
- Communicate well?
“Is this leader ethical?” is another. You get the point. While those are important issues, these questions are not specific enough. They’re also very subjective since they’re not behaviour-focused. Each of them should be broken down into component parts. For instance, “Does this manager give instructions clearly?” is more specific and actionable.
What Do Good 360 Feedback Questions Look Like
Make sure questions focus on behaviours that are proven to matter, as Zenger and Folkman emphasize. Too often, people creating a 360 survey in-house are guided by their opinions of what matters. Consequently, they don’t rely on objective research about the qualities and behaviours that matter most. Using a well-designed template can help avoid this issue.
Examples of Ideal Questions
Good 360 feedback questions act as a springboard for professional development. Why? They also prompt detailed and accurate feedback on the skills and behaviours that matter most. Let’s discuss two primary types of questions you might use on a 360 survey.
As mentioned, 360 surveys commonly use rating questions. They ask reviewers to rate effectiveness in specific behaviours on a scale.
Raters may indicate their agreement with a statement by selecting the appropriate point on a scale. Options may include “Strongly Disagree,” “Disagree,” “Neutral,” “Agree,” and “Strongly Agree.”
Or, the scale could consist of numbers. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) uses a 10-point scale, for instance. This allows for more nuance than a 3-point or 5-point range. If reviewers select a rating of below 3 or above 7, they must provide specific examples.
Here are some good examples of rating questions:
Does this employee…
- Listen actively? N/A 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
- Strive to meet deadlines? N/A 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
- Welcome feedback? N/A 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
- Seek to build new skills? N/A 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
- Collaborate well on a team? N/A 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
- Manage stress well? N/A 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Open-ended feedback is vital in a 360 review as well. It complements the rating questions, providing nuanced insights and examples.
“Knowing that you scored 3.9 in communication or teamwork compared to the norm of 4.1 isn’t really that helpful,” writes Industry Week. “To improve, you need specific examples of how you can be more effective, circumstances that you could have handled differently, and suggestions for how you can do better in the future.” Questions should prompt reviewers to provide such details.
For example, questions on communication could ask:
- How could this person improve their communication?
- Describe this person’s communication style in group settings.
- Explain how effectively this person articulates ideas.
Typical questions often ask about greatest strengths and weaknesses. You can ask, “What behaviours should this person engage in less?” and “Which behaviours should this person engage in more often?” But use probing questions as well, as Industry Week urges.
Also, creative questions could ask things like, “Have you ever witnessed this person navigate a crisis or major challenge? Describe their approach.” or “How could this person take their performance to the next level?”
Open-ended questions should also explore strengths. “Emphasizing strengths in the 360 feedback process changes how people feel about receiving feedback.
It transforms a potentially negative experience into a positive one of discovery,” says Zenger and Folkman. Hence, it can teach employees and leaders to go from above-average to extraordinary.
Here are several strengths-based questions:
- What are this person’s three greatest strengths?
- Of these strengths, which needs the most development, and why?
- If this person were even stronger in this area, what would that look like? Please name specific changes or behaviours you’d expect to see.
360 Feedback Questions Template
SHRM provides a good 360 feedback template. It includes questions similar to the ones discussed here. As you’ll see, they’re grouped into specific categories. As a result, this strengthens insights about particular skills.
Now, let’s look at specific 360 feedback questions for employees at three different levels.
360 Feedback Questions for Employees
Identify the main competencies you need to measure for specific roles. Consider the skills they need to reach the next level of their career path. Then, centre questions on these skills. For example, creativity might be especially important for a designer. Problem-solving ability might be vital for an engineer. And interpersonal skills are probably crucial for both.
The following questions pertain to many roles. Choose a balance of questions that speaks to the skills needed for a given role.
- Does this employee engage in creative thinking?
- Does this employee ask good questions to understand issues better?
- Does the employee follow directions well?
- In meetings, does the employee participate actively?
- When given feedback, does the employee work to integrate it?
- Does the employee work well independently?
- In group projects, does this employee fulfil personal responsibilities?
- Does this employee prioritize tasks and projects effectively?
Now, let’s examine questions specifically for managers.
360 Feedback Questions for Management
The following 360 feedback questions pertain specifically to managers. They focus on helping others perform at their best and work toward goals.
Does this manager…
- Follow up with employees on progress toward goals?
- Help employees manage stress?
- Guide employees in finding their own solutions?
- Model how to remain emotionally balanced?
- Strive to accommodate different learning and working styles?
- Handle conflict effectively?
- Delegate appropriately, allowing others to take on greater responsibility?
- Thank or reward employees for good work?
For managers, a 360 review should measure direct reports’ engagement, HBR says. Several questions could pertain to the rater’s personal motivation. For example, these questions could appear on surveys completed by direct reports:
- Do you feel confident in your manager’s ability to lead a team?
- Do you feel engaged and motivated on a daily basis?
- Do you feel satisfied in your job?
- Do you feel personally supported by this manager in achieving your goals?
- Does this manager give you the resources you need to succeed?
In addition, managers might tell their team about their results. They can emphasize specific areas they’re going to work on.
Now, let’s look at questions tailored to executives.
360 Feedback Questions for Executives
Consider the qualities executives need to display in their high-level roles. Then, centre 360 feedback questions on these abilities. Here are some examples of qualities and questions that apply specifically to these leaders.
The following behaviours reveal strong strategic thinking, according to HBR’s research:
- Client management
- Innovative problem solving
- Trend analysis
- Vivid communication
- Stretch goals
Questions in this area can include the following:
- Does this leader seek input from others about plans and ideas?
- Does this leader strive to learn relevant new information?
- Do you feel confident in the solutions brought forth by this leader?
Questions should also focus on ability to share a vision. Use rating questions like these from SHRM:
- “Creates enthusiasm about the future.”
- “Provides direction around a vision.”
- “Translates the corporate vision into actionable plans.”
Here are a few more questions in other relevant areas:
- After making a mistake, does this leader work to be accountable?
- Does this leader create a great impression on customers?
- Does this leader show empathy for others?
Like managers, executives should reach out to reviewers personally. And after getting the results, they might highlight the key findings. This sets a positive example and promotes accountability.
How to Get the Most Out of 360 Surveys
Keep these key points in mind as you plan your 360 survey. They’ll help the process flow more smoothly and increase engagement.
- Make sure people can complete your 360 survey in roughly 15 minutes. This will boost participation rates. If it’s longer, they’ll have trouble finding time for it. Remember, having completed surveys from more raters will improve accuracy.
- Managers and leaders should personally reach out to their reviewees to ask them to participate. This simple action conveys that they genuinely want the feedback.
- Employees should complete a self-assessment as well. This will show how well they understand their strengths and weaknesses.
- Having a culture of trust will make employees more receptive to 360 feedback. They’ll truly believe colleagues have their best interests at heart.
Now, let’s look at how to approach answering 360 feedback questions.
How to Answer 360 Feedback Questions
Give raters clear instructions on how to answer questions. If using a rating scale, share a rubric that explains what each point means. Results will be more valid when they’re all following the same guidelines.
Share directions like these with reviewers:
- Be honest! Your candid feedback will benefit your colleague’s career.
- Base your responses on your personal experiences, not what you think others feel.
- Think back to less recent events as well as recent ones. This will give you a fuller perspective of your colleague’s behaviours.
- In open-ended feedback, share specific examples whenever possible.
- Please read over the rubric before beginning. Feel free to ask questions if you don’t fully understand the rating scale.
People should also have the option to not answer a question. If they have no meaningful input about an item, they should choose “N/A.” This will keep them from selecting “neutral” and skewing the data.
Creating A Culture of Feedback
Lastly, don’t stop with the survey—promote feedback-sharing throughout the year. Instant feedback tools can help people share immediate feedback at any time.
Having a culture of feedback also promotes honest responses on a 360 survey. In open-ended questions, respondents may fear losing anonymity by providing detailed answers, as Nonprofit Quarterly says. But if they’re used to sharing candid feedback, they won’t feel so concerned. Nonetheless, this in-depth feedback will be extremely valuable for their colleague’s growth.
Using well-designed 360 surveys will enhance each employee’s development. From entry-level employees to leaders, you’ll help everyone set and achieve great goals. And as you make the 360 a part of your feedback-sharing culture, engagement will increase too!