How to do 360 feedback surveys and help your entire team develop

360 feedback isn’t your typical performance review.

During a 360-degree review, a team member can expect to receive feedback from all angles. Supervisors, direct reports and peers will all chip in with their views on that person’s skills, behavior, and impact on the rest of the team.

It’s a completely different way to approach the traditional performance review, in which the manager alone tells the team member how well they’re doing their job.

360 feedback doesn’t actually focus on performance, but rather on all aspects that can be attributed to an employee’s behavior. In this way it can help the person improve their interactions, their communication, and in the end, their job performance.

Since it’s done anonymously, it can be a great way to find out about your ‘blind spots’ (the differences between how you perceive yourself vs. how others perceive you) without adding strain to your professional relationships. Maybe the silly jokes you feel embarrassed about making every now and then are actually helping others go through their day with a smile on their faces.

And that is exactly the point of a 360 review: You learn things about yourself that you would never have discovered otherwise.

Why is 360 feedback important?

360 reviews can be a very powerful tool to help employees develop and grow–as long as the reviews are constructive and employees are willing to incorporate the feedback they get.

Some 90% of Fortune 500 companies use 360 reviews with their employees. As consultants Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman wrote in the Harvard Business Review, “There is one thing we’ve personally seen that profoundly and consistently changes lives–what’s generally referred to as the 360-degree feedback process.”

You know how you start fiddling with your hair the minute you start a video chat and see your own image on the screen? It’s because you suddenly see yourself as others can see you–and you want to make sure that you project your best possible version to them.

It’s the same with 360 reviews. When team members get an unfiltered outside view of their actions and behavior, they can immediately see what others see and take action to enhance their strengths and improve upon their weaknesses.

This effect can do wonders for the team as a whole if the review is centered on helping team members along a long-term track of personal growth that is aligned with the organization’s goals.

What is 360 feedback good for?

A 360-degree evaluation needs to be anonymous, but it shouldn’t turn into a chance to snipe at a colleague. Those managing the process need to make it clear to everyone taking the survey that the goal is to discover strengths as well as weaknesses.

Another important point is that 360 reviews should only be used to help team members as a development tool: Providing feedback that helps people grow in their careers.

This exercise should not be used as a performance rating instrument, and especially not for deciding promotions or raises.

When to do 360 reviews for your team

Since 360 reviews focus on behaviors, they can be used widely in order to promote the kind of culture that the organization needs.

In their book The Art and Science of 360 Degree Feedback, Richard Lepsinger and Anntoinette D. Lucia recommend using them when the company wants to:

  • Promote culture change
  • Achieve a particular business strategy
  • Enhance individual and team effectiveness
  • Improve human resource management systems

It’s clear, then, that one of your first steps in deciding to conduct a 360 feedback exercise is identifying which behaviors make a difference in your company–since you will want to promote them.

Another important factor to decide whether to use a 360 review is that the subject of the review has to believe in it. The team member being evaluated must be committed to using the results in a constructive manner and take the chance to develop as a professional and a person.

After all, it’s a rare chance they will get of having everyone else focused on them and their participation in the team.

How to create a 360 degree feedback survey

Performing a 360 degree review used to be a complex and expensive process, many times involving outside consultants and lots of company time.

But technology and online surveys have made it increasingly easy to apply this effective tool to more members of your team. (Heck, even a robot can get a job review these days.)

This means that this highly effective tool can be used more often and by more people to increase cooperation and collaboration in your team.

Our expert-certified 360-degree employee evaluation survey template is set up to offer evaluations for supervisors, coworkers, and subordinates. You can customize it for each employee you want to review, edit it to focus on your company’s larger goals and desired behaviors, send the survey via email invitation, and then analyze the results—without ever leaving SurveyMonkey.

Here are some important tips to take into account:

  • Keep it confidential so people feel free to tell the truth
  • Make sure the managers are involved and committed to acting upon the results
  • Give clear instructions that comments need to stay constructive
  • Have a plan for follow-up after the results are in
  • Have a plan for following up on the follow-up to prevent this from becoming a one-off exercise

How to write 360 review survey questions

What to write in a 360 review is as important as why you should conduct it in the first place.

Good survey questions are specific. Keep them simple, use an easily understandable language, and avoid any bias in formulating them.

It’s also important to keep the survey short enough that everyone will complete it and avoid survey fatigue.

Our Question Bank has hundreds of great questions that you can use in employee performance reviews. Just click on through to the Human Resources category to find them. And you can customize your questions to the specific needs of your team–including using the person’s name instead of “your coworker.”

The next time performance reviews come up on your calendar, you may want to consider the option of using 360 feedback surveys in your team. It is a great way to help key members of your team develop in their careers and to build a positive culture inside the company.

Want more tips for making a perfect survey every time? Download our free eGuide for writing surveys that real people can take. Get guide

Editor’s note: This blog was originally posted in 2011 and has been revamped for accuracy.

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