A Guide to Conducting 360 Feedback Surveys

Imagine a circle with an employee or manager in the centre and employees who work with that manager or employee, placed around the circle. That’s a snapshot of how 360 feedback surveys work. Those around the circle namely peers, reporting staff, coworkers and supervisors who regularly work with the manager or employee, are asked to give their feedback on that manager or employee’s strengths, performance and abilities. 

It’s easy to see how this wide-ranging feedback might be a better way to check and boost the well-being and effectiveness of your workforce seeing as how feedback from one individual runs the risk of being biased. As noted in a Harvard Business Review article entitled “Getting 360 degree reviews right,” by Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman, “… your own perception of yourself is rarely accurate or predictive. For a GPS system to get an accurate picture of your location, it requires four different satellites. For leaders to get an accurate picture of their own effectiveness, they need feedback from their manager, peers, direct reports, and others in the organization.”

Also, if done properly, 360 feedback surveys can benefit your organization in many other ways as stated by Eric Jackson, Forbes magazine writer, in his article called, “How to Get the Most Out of Your 360 Survey Feedback.360 surveys are one of the most common management development tools available in the market today. They are used for general career development, as well as for more targeted interventions to improve leadership skills. Sometimes they are even used to foster self-awareness for employees who are derailing, in a last ditch effort to prevent their exit from an organization.”

Plus they do the following: 

  • Uncover areas for career development
  • Minimize rater bias and discrimination
  • Reveal areas where additional training might be needed

However, in order to get the strongest participation and the most useful results, organizations are wise to consider a few important lessons-learned from this process and apply them to their survey. 

  • Think about why your organization is conducting this 360 feedback survey and what they want to get from it
  • Explain to the person being reviewed and the participants, why this is being done and how the information will be used
  • Aim to avoid open-ended survey questions that might result in long-winded and complicated answers. Those types of answers may be difficult to untangle when you’re trying to summarize all of the feedback.
  • To ease the processes of gathering data, summarizing the results and developing an action plan, have reviewers respond to each question by using a combination of rating scales from 1-6 that run from “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree” and “not applicable,” and give them space to add a brief explanation of the reasons for their choice, if they’d like.
  • Develop short surveys that take 15-20 minutes to complete
  • Make sure that questions match the work skills, roles and responsibilities of the individual being reviewed 
  • Ensure participants understand that their feedback is confidential
  • Categorize questions into skills and abilities you want to measure for this person’s position
  • Make sure that the results can be easily organized
  • Present the survey results to employees in a way that makes it very easy to understand and easy to plan their way forward.

Consider the following examples of question categories:

  • Leadership skills
  • Problem solving skills
  • Organization skills
  • Communication skills
  • Interpersonal skills

For example, under the leadership category, an organization might state the following and ask reviewers to rate their responses: 

  • Encourages learning and growth in others

          1. Strongly disagree, 2. Disagree, 3.  Neutral, 4. Agree, 5. Strongly agree, 6. Not applicable

  • Deals with conflict in an appropriate way

          1. Strongly disagree, 2. Disagree, 3.  Neutral, 4. Agree, 5. Strongly agree, 6. Not applicable

  • Works quickly to solve problems

         1. Strongly disagree, 2. Disagree, 3.  Neutral, 4. Agree, 5. Strongly agree, 6. Not applicable

Putting in the time and effort into customizing your 360 feedback survey is critical so that it yields actionable results you can use to shape a better and happier workforce. 

As noted in an article on Netigate.net, called, Sample 360 review questions for employees, all organizations have their unique values and characteristics, so 360 feedback questions should be modified to best reflect the organization. Plus, “if you have an organization that values continuous improvement and professional development, then 360s are a must in your HR toolkit.” 

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