01 Oct 2021

360 Degree Feedback in Performance Management

Two people in the office discussing something behind a desk.

Keeping your employees working hard is quite a challenge a lot of the time. In order to make sure you are getting the most out of your employees, you will generally need to think about having a strong performance management procedure. Indeed, no business can really do without this, and it is one of the most important things of all in keeping your employees in line.

A major aspect to the performance management in any business is providing plenty of feedback as required. The more that you give your people appropriate and responsive feedback, the more they learn about what they could do better, and the sooner and easier they improve in general with their performance.

If you are looking for a way to improve your feedback as part of performance management, one such option you might want to consider is something known as 360 degree feedback. With this, you can rapidly improve how your people engage with their work in a radical way.

Let’s take a deep dive into360-degree review in performance management- what it is, how it works, what the process is like, and some pointers for how to make the most of it and do it right.

What Is 360 Degree Feedback?

So first of all, let’s take a look at a brief overview of just exactly what 360 degree feedback really is. You might have heard a little about 360 feedback in the past, but perhaps you’re not entirely sure of what it is or how it actually works. Read on and all will soon become quite clear for you, so you can start using this procedure and technique in your own team.

In essence, 360 degree feedback is a system of feedback wherein an employee receives feedback from their colleagues and people who work near or around them. Crucially, this feedback is anonymous and confidential, and it will usually come from those people in roles who are directly aligned to the individual in some way: a manager, peer, or similar person in the team.

The basic procedure is that around half a dozen to a dozen people will fill out an online form about the person, which covers a lot of different competencies that are relevant to their role. The individual in question will also self-rate on a number of topics too.

All in all, it is a very effective way to work out the strengths and weaknesses of an individual in the team, and to provide ideas for what might need improving in the future.

Is 360 Feedback Designed For Senior Employees?

Who can utilise 360 feedback, and who is it best used for? In truth, 360 feedback has its place for every single person within an organization. But that doesn’t mean that it is always used this way, across the board. In fact, it is very often used specifically as an HR development tool for those in more senior positions. So yes, it is designed for senior employees on the whole, but it is also something that can be applied to any employees in the company as necessary.

Who Should Be Asked To Give 360 Degree Feedback?

When you are collating data on an individual, which colleagues should be asked to give feedback? This is one of the most important things that you need to work out when you are doing feedback of this kind, as it will affect the results massively. Some of the most important people to ask are as follows:

  • The individual themselves is arguably the most important, as their own self-reflection is invaluable in the process.
  • The individual directly above them, their line manager or supervisor, should also be sought for feedback, as they have a unique insight into how the person works.
  • Any colleagues who work closely with the individual will also be able to provide some decent feedback as required.
  • Customers and clients who have had dealings with them might also be able to help out here, and provide a different and important perspective for customer-facing employees in particular.

With those people all giving their feedback, you will truly be getting that 360 degree response that is vital for this process to work as it should. Asking these people is an important part of the feedback process.

How Does 360 Degree Feedback Work?

Now that we have seen a brief overview of the process, it’s time to take a deeper dive and see exactly how the 360 degree feedback procedure is supposed to work. You might be wondering just why it is that performance reviews of this kind can make a difference to someone’s behavior in the workplace. As it happens, it can be incredibly powerful indeed.

360 degree feedback works by taking both the self-assessment of the individual themselves, and the opinions and observations of those around them, to see what common ground might be found in all of those direct reports. In general, it is a great way of getting a really good picture of someone’s overall development and drawbacks.

During the process, the individual might be asked how they see themselves in different situations like dealing with other people at work. They will also rate their own strengths and weaknesses and other relevant markers too. This, plus the multi-rater feedback from other people, means that there is a more holistic view of the person - hence the 360 degrees of the name - and a much clearer picture is found.

Because you are seeking the assessments of not just colleagues, but also managers and customers too, you get a much more rounded view of the person, which sets this kind of feedback apart from many of the feedback types of the past that you may have attempted.

The 360 Degree Feedback Process

Now that we have seen why exactly it is that this all works, it is time to look into the specifics of the 360 degree feedback process itself. The more you know about this at the start, the more you will be able to make use of it, and it could prove to be one of the most useful tools that you have at your disposal. The 360 degree feedback system is both simple and profound, if used correctly and in the appropriate manner.

The following process can be changed somewhat to suit each situation, but these are the most important signposts along the way that you are going to want to follow as closely as you can.

  1. Implementing The Process

Before doing anything else, you need to make sure that your employees are actually ready for the process to begin. If you don’t do this, it means that you are only going to rush into it and not get the results you are really hoping or looking for. You need to communicate to the team, and to the individual under performance review, what is going to take place and why it is important. This is important for the sake of transparency and to ensure that everyone appreciates the relevance of doing it.

  1. Preparing The Feedback Round

The most important part of the whole procedure is, of course, the feedback round, so you need to make sure that this is being prepared in the best possible way. To achieve this, take some time to decide on who is providing feedback for whom, and start putting together the actual questionnaire that you are going to be using. You can even hire a professional HR team or agency to craft this for you, but make sure that it is suitable for your business specifically, as that will produce better results.

  1. Obtaining & Evaluating Feedback

Now comes the part where you actually go and get that feedback that you are going to evaluate. You need to source the feedback from each person that you had listed. Bear in mind that this might take place over many days and even with different methods, especially if you are including customers and clients as well as managers too. It is generally best to ensure that the responses are submitted anonymously, because this provides the best possible answers - which are honest and direct.

  1. Acting On Obtained Feedback

Of course, the whole point to all of this is that you actually act on what you have discovered. This might mean a whole range of things, depending on what kinds of responses you receive and what the results seem to be. But you need to make sure that you are working out some specific goals for people to put into place, based on the feedback they individually received. You can also set up regular review meetings to see how these are being met.

You need to keep up with this, monitoring and checking as you go along, to ensure that those goals really are being sought out, and that behavior is changing accordingly. If there are any negative developments, these too need to be made aware of and dealt with as swiftly as possible to ensure that all goes to plan as well as possible.

How Do You Give 360 Degree Feedback?

In order to make sure that all of this is as effective as possible, it is vital that the feedback is being given in the appropriate manner and in the right way. But there is actually a delicate and subtle art to giving 360 degree feedback, and it is one that you will need to work on as best as you can to ensure that you are really helping your employees to improve in the ways that they need to. Above all, you need to impress upon them the main points that have been discovered.

First of all here, bear in mind that there is a major ethical component to all of this that you need to keep aware of at all times. Specifically, that refers to the fact that the feedback everyone has given was done so anonymously, and it is your duty to ensure that it stays that way. If you do anything to reveal an identity, that is potentially going to be a huge mistake, and could be very difficult to overcome as a company, so it’s important that you are not doing this.

The main focus as you speak to the individual should be on development, their own development personally. That means that you don’t dwell on the negative, you just use it as fuel for what needs to happen in the future. If you can do it that way, you are going to find that people respond to this pretty positively, and it means you are empowering them with actions that they can take in order to improve in the future. Most people will be happy to learn how to improve.

At all times, ensure that the feedback you are furnishing them with is relevant to their role in the company. If they work in IT and don’t engage with customers at all, for instance, there is little use in talking about customer engagement. You need to keep it relevant and honest, and direct, and this way you are bound to get so much more out of it.

Should 360 Degree Feedback Always Be Anonymous?

We have spoken a lot already about the issue of remaining anonymous in the feedback that is provided, and with good reason. It can cause untold tensions in the workplace otherwise, and it could even lead to some dramatic scenes which you would rather not have. Anonymity also allows people to remain honest, which improves the effectiveness of the feedback procedure massively too.

All that being said, it is always a possibility, if you like, to leave an option for someone to leave their name, should they wish to. This should only be an option and never a necessity, but a lot of people will find that they want to make use of it, so it is something that could be considered. In general, however, aim to maintain the anonymity of the feedback, for all of those reasons listed above.

What Are The Benefits Of 360 Degree Feedback?

Now that you can see what this is all about and how it works, you might be wondering what some of the major benefits of the process might be. A lot of businesses make good use of 360 degree feedback, and it is definitely one of the best forms of providing employee development plans and feedback in general. But what are some of the specific benefits that you can expect when you use 360 degree feedback with your team members?

One of the primary benefits of 360 degree feedback is that you get a decent overview of how a person is seen by people in many different relations to them. That provides a certain level of objectivity, or at least a majority opinion, which allows you to get a really good sense of what they are all about, which is an invaluable human resources need.

Because of that too, you are often going to find that the feedback you collate this way has a fantastic nuance that is often lacking in some other template feedback options. You get not only constructive feedback this way, but feedback which is nuanced of the picture it gives you too.

You might also find that many of your employees are more accepting of the feedback they receive this way because it has come from many anonymous sources. This also helps to improve teamwork across the board. When there is agreement on something like this, it is less easy to shrug off than it might be coming from just one or two people. Of course, that can also sometimes mean that there is a hard pill to swallow, which a lot of people can find tough.

What Are The Challenges Of 360 Degree Feedback?

By now you should be convinced that this is a great employee engagement tool for performance appraisal with very few blind spots. The use of the feedback survey is very powerful. But nothing is perfect, so what are some of the challenges of this way of collating feedback on a person? There are a couple of major challenges that you should be aware of in particular.

One of the main ones to consider is that this is quite a high effort means of gathering feedback. There is a lot of prep, it can take a long while to do, and can be all-consuming for a while. You definitely need to choose a good time to do it and make sure you have resources for it.

Also, the anonymous feedback aspect of this procedure can also be a negative thing at times. Sometimes a vindictive employee will use it to hurt the individual under review. While rare, this does happen, and it’s something that you need to be aware of and look out for.

Conclusion: 360 Degree Feedback As Part Of Performance Management

All in all, this is a very valuable way to gain an honest and objective view of an individual, and work out some reachable and important goals for them to aim for in order to improve their personal career development and employee performance and improve the company’s productivity as a whole. It helps with decision making and it’s well worth trying it out in your company.

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