What is 360 degrees feedback?

What is 360 degrees feedback?


360 degrees feedback is one of the most comprehensive forms of employee appraisal.  The process of giving 360 degrees feedback is focused on the coordination of other people who are willing and able to give feedback on the employee. With 360 degrees feedback, feedback is given by a diverse group of stakeholders, commonly including the employee’s manager, a collection of peers, direct reports, and even customers or clients. 


A 360 degrees feedback process can be incredibly powerful and meaningful, but it can have its drawbacks as well.  As such, it must be administered carefully.  This blog will discuss what 360 degrees feedback is, its advantages and disadvantages, and some tips on how to make it work in your organisation. For more information on why feedback is important in the workplace view our blog


What is 360 degrees feedback – the process


Sometimes referred to as ‘multi-rater’ feedback, 360 degrees feedback begins with the person being reviewed in mind.  Employees are asked to complete a self-assessment, meaning that the first person to be reviewing them will be themselves. This self-assessment can often be used as the benchmark or control for feedback received from other reviewers.


Managers must then select between five to ten other individuals to review the employee.  This will include the employee’s manager, and a collection of other stakeholders, such as direct reports, colleagues, peers, or clients.  If many employees are being reviewed, the same selection of people should be used for all.  These individuals will then be given the same self-assessment form as the employee and be asked to appraise their performance.  These assessments can be conducted anonymously or openly, depending on the organisation and their approach. 


The information from these assessments is then collated and presented to the employee to reflect upon.  The outcomes can also be built into future-focused business goals and personal development plans.


Implementing 360 degrees feedback properly takes a lot of work and coordination and, as we will explore later, if it is not undertaken in the right way, or not prepared for carefully, then the advantages the process offers can be negated and detrimental to the employee and the organisation. Despite the effort needed, 360 degrees feedback can give employees valuable insight into how they are performing at work from many different perspectives, not just their managers.  Now let’s explore some other advantages of this feedback model. 


Advantages of 360 degrees feedback


360 degrees feedback can positively impact the individual, their team, and the organisation.  Let’s take each of these in turn:


 1.  The individual


Different perspectives of feedback can offer employees a more rounded and accurate picture of how they are doing at work.  For example, an employee could be excellent with their team but not effective when it comes to supporting clients. 360 degrees feedback offers them a holistic view of these very different but equally important parts of their job.  This in turn will give employees a clear indicator of where their career development needs to be focused.


Employees who are empowered to give feedback on others can also benefit from 360 degrees feedback. Experience in giving feedback is a common request from those getting ready for leadership roles; getting involved in the 360 degrees feedback process is an easy way to develop this skill.

 2. The team


If teams are allowed to get involved in 360 degrees feedback, for example, by being allowed to review their peers and taking an active role in the process, then this can be a very empowering feeling.  The process of giving each other feedback can also drive cohesiveness and teamwork, making teams bond and grow stronger together.  This can in turn have other benefits, such as improving communication within teams and between different teams, as well as driving employee engagement.


 3.  The organisation


Organisations can use 360 degrees feedback outcomes to drive talent mapping and succession.  The candid feedback received by employees can benefit the organisation through enabling it to see where individuals’ strengths and development areas lie.  This will mean leaders can create accurate talent succession plans and pipelines, based on their team member competencies. 


Ultimately, as a well-run 360 degrees feedback process will benefit employees and teams, the organisation can benefit through improved bottom-line measures, such as higher customer satisfaction, higher team engagement, higher revenue, and lower employee turnover.


Disadvantages of 360 degrees feedback


360 degrees feedback is only as good as the processes underpinning it.  If 360 degrees feedback is rushed or not managed carefully, then the same stakeholders (employees, teams, and the organisation) will be negatively impacted.

 1.  The individual


Poorly managed 360 degrees feedback can demotivate individuals. They might feel ‘ganged up on’ or overwhelmed by feedback that might be unnecessarily critical or imbalanced.  This might be compounded by employees who review others using 360 degrees feedback to settle grudges to the detriment of the receiver. 


Training on how to give feedback is essential to an effective 360 degrees feedback process, but micromanagement might result in feedback that is not genuine or realistic, which will be to the detriment of the employee’s development.

 2. The team


If 360 degrees feedback is used to settle scores or is undertaken in an artificial or controlled method, then teams will fall apart.  Trust might be lost, and rumours or gossip might take over.  If the panel used to give the feedback is selected in an improper or biased way, then this will impact the quality of the feedback. 


Good quality 360 degrees feedback can help managers understand the development needs of their teams as well as their employees; poor quality feedback will mean that managers might not receive a good idea of how their teams are faring as a collective unit.


 3. The organisation


Put simply, if 360 degrees feedback is not planned and prepared for effectively, this impacts on both employees and teams, which can lead to long-lasting challenges for organisations.  Poorly managed 360 degrees feedback can impact organisations operationally, in terms of the work they do, and at a deeper, more strategic level, by affecting the firms’ reputation for good leadership and a healthy work culture.


How to make 360 degrees feedback work in your organisation


360 degrees feedback works best when led from the top.  Getting senior leadership buy-in for your feedback process demonstrates to employees that thought has gone into making it work, and that the feedback process is attuned to organisational strategy, culture, and values.  This only works if culture and values are truly considered.  Creating a competency framework in step with the organisation’s purpose is a vital part for making 360 degrees feedback effective.  This framework can then be shared with the reviewers as part of a thoughtful and consistent approach.


Organisations should live and breathe their 360 degrees feedback process.  This might mean uncoupling it from standard employee review periods.  Such periods are usually ‘closed’, i.e. the manager gives the employee their review, followed by a mid-year check-in, and that’s about it.  Encouraging a continuous cycle of smaller, ongoing 360 degrees feedback sessions might sound laborious, but this will create a culture of openness, communication, and trust, resulting in continuous development and a tightening of teams.


360 degrees feedback can bring organisations together. Many different people can get involved, and it can result in good quality feedback that results in long-lasting development plans which positively impact on every level of the organisation.


For this to be the case, 360 degrees feedback needs to be executed in the right way, and thought must go into how 360 degrees processes are developed.  Critical to this are getting senior leaders to drive the change, developing consistent feedback processes and competencies, and ensuring the process is cyclical.  Get these elements right, and 360 degrees feedback could be the tool which drives performance within your organisation.


Plotkin & Chandler has expertise in providing HR training on all aspects of performance management including 360 degrees feedback, to ensure that the process is effective and those involved are confident in their roles. We also provide HR consultancy where we advise on particular issues and undertake tasks on behalf of clients.



We work exclusively in the areas of HR and employment law. To discuss your needs, and find out the ways in which we can help, call us on 020 3923 8616 or email us at info@plotkinandchandler.com



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