360-Degree Feedback: How to Do It and How It Works

Feedbackgespräch Personio Mitarbeiter

360-degree feedback is a method for assessing performance and competencies. It is, above all, different from other approaches in that employees receive feedback from several parties rather than from their manager alone.

Regardless of how many people provide feedback: Sound documentation is essential if feedback is to lead to helpful professional development activities. Find out more here.

What Does 360-Degree Feedback Mean?

360-degree feedback is an HR development tool that is commonly used for people in senior positions. In contrast to review meetings between employees and their supervisors, there are several people assessing the performance and competencies of the person who will be receiving the feedback. Possible perspectives to include when providing this type of comprehensive feedback are:

  • The relevant employee themself (in the form of a self-assessment)
  • The employee’s direct supervisor
  • Colleagues
  • Employee
  • External persons such as customers

What Makes 360-Degree Feedback So Effective?

This method is about synthesizing self-assessment and external assessment to gain a good picture of an employee’s potential for further development. On the one hand, employees perform a self-assessment, e.g. by answering the following questions:

  • How do they see themselves in their dealings with other employees or managers?
  • Where do they see their strengths and weaknesses?
  • What successes and failures have they had in the most recent performance interval?
  • What was it that prevented them from reaching their full potential?

These answers allow employees to build up an informed self-view, which they can then compare with an external perspective.

The external perspective consists of performance reviews provided by colleagues, managers or customers. This approach offers the advantage that employees receive more comprehensive feedback on their performance and a subjective assessment by their manager is avoided. After all, employees may have a different relationship with their supervisors than with their peers.

More Feedback Perspectives Combined in a Single Place

Feedback SoftwareHave all meetings been conducted, and what has been agreed? Personio ensures that you no longer have to worry about these questions, as the software bundles all feedback centrally.

How Does 360-Degree Feedback Work?

The 360-degree feedback process comprises several steps:

Implementing the Process

Before introducing 360-degree performance reviews in your company, you should communicate this extensively. Explain what this feedback tool is all about and be open to any concerns your employees may have.

Preparing the Feedback Round

Define who is to provide feedback on specific employees. Let these people know about the process. Create the 360-degree feedback questionnaire, for example by using HR software. It is essential that the questionnaire is validated and specific to your company. This ensures that results are robust, deliver practical value and are relevant to your company.

Questions can either be prepared by trained experts, or an agency can be asked to select existing questionnaires that match the specific purpose.

Obtaining and Evaluating Feedback

Source feedback from the various feedback providers and evaluate it. If questionnaires are completed online, it is easy to analyze the resulting data. Digital online questionnaires also offer the benefit that all participants submit their responses anonymously. This produces more honest replies, which add more value to the process.

Acting on Feedback Obtained

Inform the employee about their results. Define goals and establish steps for reaching them to ensure that feedback is effective. These should be reviewed regularly, for example during regular review meetings. It is recommended that you consider the following questions particularly carefully:

  • What is the occasion for the feedback and what is the hierarchy is it produced from?
  • What role does the feedback giver have?
  • What conclusions can the employee draw from the feedback, and how are they to respond to it most effectively?
  • Which aspects of the feedback would the employee most like to implement?

These questions represent thought processes on which the employee is invited to reflect with their manager’s support. Finally, it is important that initiatives are discussed for future implementation.

Furthermore, these initiatives need to be monitored and checked, just like any other process where a system or change is introduced. The employee’s line manager should monitor and guide the planned further development initiatives above all. But how are managers expected to stay on top of this process if they have teams of ten people or more? This is where software can be helpful, as it allows staff development to be documented and tracked. This in turn ensures that negative developments among staff can be identified and addressed sooner.

360-Degree Feedback at Personio

Personio’s employees value the feedback they give to each other, above all the fact that it relates more closely to their practical work. Read this article to find out more about what 360-degree feedback looks like at Personio.

What Does 360-Degree Feedback Ideally Entail?

If 360-degree feedback is to promote your employees’ development in the long term, there are a few points you should keep in mind:

  • Anonymity: Employees should be assessed on an anonymous basis. Otherwise you are unlikely to receive honest evaluations of their performance and potential, as those giving feedback may only provide superficial assessments or leave some important aspects out, if they believe that their comments could have negative consequences.
  • Focus on development: Make sure that the 360-degree feedback questionnaire is designed to assess competences that are genuinely relevant for staff development. Avoid asking only about an employee’s weaknesses – also ask for feedback about their strengths.
  • Relevance to the employee’s position and the company: The data collected from the questionnaire should be related to the evaluated person and the company. It is, for example, pointless to assess an IT specialist in terms of how they engage with customers if they have no or almost no customer contact.

What Advantages and Disadvantages Does 360-Degree Feedback Have?

A 360-degree assessment offers a number of benefits over standard review meetings between supervisors and employees. These include:

  • Objectivity: Feedback is not only dependent on a single person. As a result, the basis from which you source your information is broader. Colleagues and customers working with the evaluated employee are often in a better position to assess them than a supervisor.
  • Greater nuance: Each of the people who provide feedback will notice something different about the employee. You’ll therefore get a more nuanced picture of the person and will be better able to identify potential for further development.
  • Acceptance: Many people are more prepared to accept feedback when it comes from several people rather than just one. However, there are also critical voices regarding 360-degree feedback.

Its disadvantages include:

  • High effort: Due to the number of people and steps involved in the process, this type of feedback is very time-consuming. For example, the questionnaire needs to be developed and evaluated. Smart HR software can make these processes easier.
  • Anonymity: Anonymity is a double-edged sword. While it allows those giving feedback to express their opinions freely, this can also be exploited if they wish to harm the evaluated employee through vengeful reviews.

The Success of 360-Degree Feedback Depends on Two Core Competencies

It is essential that everybody involved receives intensive advance training about how the process works. Two core competencies must be kept in mind when using the 360-degree feedback approach.

First: It is crucial that everybody approaches the process with the right attitude. On the one hand, you’ll have those providing feedback: They need to understand that the process is not about finding fault in their colleagues and highlighting their shortcomings. It’s much rather about constructive feedback. To be able to provide this, feedback givers should identify and analyze their colleagues’ strengths and weaknesses. Which of their behaviors have delivered the best and poorest outcomes so far? The goal is to support colleagues’ professional and personal development by analyzing their weaknesses, above all. This is to ensure that their strengths can be deployed in a targeted manner, while their weaknesses can be minimized.

On the other hand, there are those who receive the feedback: They should be able to accept any negative feedback and see it as an opportunity to identify their weaknesses and then work to improve in these areas. Otherwise, a reproachful mood may spread, in which case the employee concerned will most likely respond negatively to the feedback and not take any positive action to address it. They might even leave your company.

Second: Be careful when you use 360-degree feedback. This method is not suitable for times of crisis or just before new positions are to be filled when people are working in small teams, as this increases the risk of getting skewed results. Why? Colleagues might be tempted to try and gain an advantage for themselves, or to give positive feedback on a colleague they are friends with, even though it is unjustified.

360-Degree Feedback As Part of Performance Management

In terms of performance management, 360-degree feedback establishes a sound basis, as it supports the holistic, objective assessment of employees’ performance. The approach is therefore particularly well suited to intensive, detailed employee reviews.

However, it is time-consuming, and it is therefore not feasible to apply it at regular, short intervals, e.g. every month. But this is precisely what’s required for good feedback: It must be regular, specific and forward-looking. So, how can you ensure that performance reviews are consistent throughout the year? One means to achieve this is an approach to performance management that meets your employees’ needs.

Stay on Top of All Your Review Meetings

 Depending on the review process you choose, you can set up review meetings directly in Personio orremind managers that they need to do so.