Guide to 360-feedback (individual)

360-degree feedback is a method that gathers anonymous feedback from several sources, known as raters, who are usually people you have working relationships with. This often includes peers, direct reports, managers, more senior colleagues and customers. This variety of feedback can offer you a wide-ranging perspective, reduces bias and helps you to identify development opportunities.

This guide has been created to assist you in identifying when to use this development tool.

What is 360-degree feedback?

Gartner defines 360-degree feedback as:

A component of the performance management process whereby evaluations of employee performance are collected from supervisors, subordinates, peers, and customers. This feedback can be used for employee performance appraisal and development.

The 360-degree questionnaire usually consists of several statements clustered against the competencies that the review intends to measure. These can be linked to the organisational goals, behaviours and values.

The raters grade several organisationally defined statements on a scale, for example from 1 to 5, and often include written comments.

The ensuing report summarises the ratings given for each statement, as well as averages for each competency and any written comments.

Getting the most out of 360-degree feedback

Regardless of job role, 360-degree feedback is a powerful tool that can help you identify not only where your strengths lie but also aspects of your work that could be improved or developed and where you might benefit from specific assistance. The graphic below illustrates the benefits of 360-degree feedback.

Makes you aware   
One of the most important benefits of receiving 360-degree feedback is increased self-awareness. You are given a complete report that includes your strengths and areas for improvement. This gives you insight into how others perceive you. A deeper understanding is reached when you compare your self-assessment with those of the raters.

Relationship of reciprocity and accountability
360-degree feedback reviews are useful as they provide a well-rounded and balanced view of your skills and behaviours; a variety of people in the organisation provide the feedback, not just your manager. This provides a fair and more accurate picture of your strengths and areas for development.

Provides developmental opportunity
360-degree reviews can complement 1:1 sessions, coaching, mentoring and reflection to identify your strengths. Identifying strengths in a competency allows for the creation of a tailored development and training plan; with additional development, you may excel in an area in which you already exhibit strengths. Developing strengths is important for your career growth and for the organisation’s effectiveness.

Improves performance
As 360-degree reviews offer multi-rater feedback, they reveal overlooked behaviours that can assist to improve performance. This enables you to understand the behaviours that you are exhibiting but may not have noticed yourself (360 Feedback #4: The Johari Window), which is important for continuous improvement. Highlighting unseen or unknown behaviour allows you to focus on learning and development needs that are applicable to those overlooked behaviours.

Facilitates communication  
Completing a 360-degree questionnaire facilitates open and effective communication (see ‘NFCC giving and receiving effective feedback for leaders/team members’).

Development of skills
An important aspect of 360-degree reviews is that they give you a starting point for the development of new skills and behaviours. This includes building on current strengths as well as developing new skills. The 360-degree process gives you ownership of your improvement through the creation of a personal development plan.

Selecting raters

This is one of the most important steps in the 360-degree feedback process. However, how do you decide who to include as a rater, and how many raters should be involved? To gain the most value from this process, consider the points in the table below.

Recent experience
Only those with experience of working with the participant should provide feedback; it is important that raters know the participant well so that they can provide valid, constructive feedback. Raters should have worked with the participant for at least four months.

Cross-section of raters
It is important to select raters with different working relationships with the participant. Having a cross-section of raters will provide a balanced and objective evaluation of the participant’s strengths and areas for improvement.

Possible raters include:

  • Participant (self-assessment)
  • Manager
  • Direct reports
  • Team members (different job levels)
  • Peers (same job level)
  • Customers and business partners

Number of raters
Choose between 5 and 20 raters. Feedback from more raters will provide a more accurate and balanced view of the participant and represent useful feedback. Generally, If there are three raters in a category (for example, peers), feedback is included as a distinct category. If there are fewer than three, their feedback is amalgamated so people cannot be identified, excluding the line manager.

Rater anonymity
It is critical to the 360-degree process that raters be given total anonymity. It must be clearly communicated that feedback will remain confidential to ensure reviewer participation. Providing anonymity allows the rater to be open, honest and constructive.