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How to make 360 feedback really work!

Updated: Apr 9

Having helped manage the implementation of over thirty thousand 360 feedback surveys across 1000s of different organisations we have learned a lot, and seen what works well. However, we have also heard from individuals and organisations that have been put off by the poor implementation of 360 projects in the past.

We couldn’t agree more that 360 “can become an incredibly frustrating experience and a waste of time for everyone involved if not done correctly.” (credit Brian Houp, Forbes)

There are many benefits to a well thought out and widely supported 360 programme across any size of organisation, but it is not always the right solution. The first and most important step in any 360 project is working out if 360 is really the tool for what you are trying to achieve.

The first question we ask when a client approaches us looking for support to implement a new 360 programme is "what are you trying to achieve?" There are lots of different ways to grow and develop individuals within an organisation and the same approach will not be right for everyone.

A bad 360 is much, much worse than no 360 but it doesn't have to be like that! Here are GFB's top tips if you are considering implementing a 360 degree feedback project to help ensure you get the most out of it...

Confirm 360 is the right tool - Is the organisation ready for it - is it the right tool to use and the right time to use it? What will happen with the results? How will individuals be supported in their development? How will success be measured? Be prepared to answer and clearly communicate why, when and what you are doing, and the organisational and individual benefits you expect to see.

Start from the top - In our experience if the senior team buy into the process and lead by example, requesting feedback on themselves before offering it to others, this can take a lot of the fear and apprehension out of the process. Leaders shouldn't just undertake a 360 survey, but actively doing something with the results, demonstrating the benefits and taking action.

Make it relevant

  • ask questions that people both feel comfortable and able to answer

  • ask clear questions that are observable

  • don't assume detailed understanding of frameworks or individual roles

  • make sure your questionnaire is set at the right level

  • make sure that individuals are asking the right people for feedback

Give people the power - give individuals the ability to make their own nominations (with guidance), to own their report and their action plan. 360 should not be a process that is "done to" someone it should be driven by the individual themselves. If individuals believe that the report and process is purely for their benefit and developmental then they will be much more likely to ask people who will give them honest feedback and also be keen to receive it driving a higher response rate and buy in to the results.

Communicate clearly - Why are you doing this? Who will see the results? How will the data be used and stored? When will people receive their feedback and how? What additional support is available to them as part of this process. This is key information that should be confirmed and shared widely before you get underway with any 360 survey.

Encourage people to talk - technology is a great enabler but don't rely on it - encourage colleagues to talk to each other. If an individual engages with a colleague to ask them if they would be prepared to provide feedback, and explains the reasons behind what they are doing, nominees are much more likely to respond, and respond in a positive, developmental way.

Close the loop - both as an individual and as a group - encourage individuals to review the data, report and identify what they are going to do as a result of the process and share the actions with those around them. If people know the developmental steps individuals are undertaking they are much more likely to support them in their goals and also provide feedback again if they are doing something with the results.

Take action - however you want to do it, individuals need to take action as a result of the 360. Set SMART or even PASTIE objectives. One of our clients wanted to link 360 to performance reviews and ultimately pay. Linking 360 performance to pay does not work, don't do it. What can work however is using 360 to help individuals identify their own developmental objectives and performance and measure progress against the objectives set.

Work with experts - whether choosing an off the shelf tool or creating a bespoke 360 make sure you know what you are doing, use technology that works and reports that are clear to read. Train people internally if required both in the 360 process and how to deliver feedback or work with an external coach or facilitator.

Talk to us! We have a wide range of off-the-shelf 360 surveys that are ready to use and a wide range of services to support your 360 project:

  • Branding our 360s to your organisations or using your own verbatim questions

  • Creating a 360 survey using your own competency framework

  • Providing 360 feedback using our experienced consultants

  • Training your team to provide 360 feedback

  • Group reports and training guidelines

Call us +44 (0) 333 090 2580 or email if you are interested in talking through your project and requirements.

We also have a definitive guide to 360 feedback available.

Learn from organisations that have used 360 well and are prepared to shout about it, including:

Further client case studies can be found on our website

Interesting articles

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