360 Best Practices
There are many benefits to 360 feedback. However, a lot of 360 projects can go wrong, which results in poor ROI
and can give a bad impression of 360 feedback. It is unfortunate some perceive 360s in a bad light because 360s
were created to generate positive change within an organization.
When conducted properly, a successful 360 process has proven itself valuable to many organizations by providing
insight into where people can benefit from development and growth.
To help dispel any confusion about 360s, we have decided to highlight the best practices for 360 feedback.
So here it goes.
Just like with any new endeavor, you need to lay down the groundwork for 360 feedback. If the employees donít
understand the 360 feedback process, it wonít be as effective Ė simple as that. So, the company implementing
a 360 needs to ensure that its employees understand exactly what the 360 process entails, what is expected of
them, and how it will benefit them. That way everyone can truly prepare for the process and not be blindsided
by a survey invitation.
The company needs to explain the following:
- The 360 feedback process provides leaders with a way to solicit feedback from peers, colleagues, direct reports,
and their own leader. The feedback can be used as a starting point for action planning, or to plan training
and set development goals.
- The 360 program can have a powerful impact for both the individual and the organization. It helps leaders
get a clear picture of performance to identify weaknesses that need to be improved as well as strengths that
can be leveraged. 360 feedback can also renew focus on goals and objectives, encourage constructive feedback,
and clarify the roles of managers, leaders, and individual contributors.
Role of the Participant
The participant is the person evaluated in the 360 process. Typically, the participant identifies the stakeholders
that work directly with them, and is encouraged to invite as many as possible to maintain anonymity in the process.
Along with gathering feedback from others, the participants complete the survey themselves, which can help show the
leader blind spots (where they rate themselves significantly higher than they are rated by others) and strengths
that can be leveraged (where others perceive them as much stronger than they think they are).
Role of the Raters
Raters are key to the success of a 360 project because they see the leaders in action day-to-day, and as a result
they provide the most useful and reliable feedback. The raters can include the participantís manager, peers, direct
reports, and even external stakeholders such as customers, suppliers and board members.
The role of the raters is to provide honest and constructive feedback on their colleague's leadership development.
Raters should feel they can provide feedback without fear of identification or retaliation. The knowledge that
their identity is confidential can allow the raters to focus on each question individually and think about specific
work-related examples to justify ratings.
Anonymity and confidentiality
Anonymity and confidentiality is a vital component of the 360 process. The company needs to inform the employees
that the 360 project is implemented by a third-party partner that provides systematic methods for maintaining
anonymity of raters and confidentiality of survey results. In other words, no matter how the rater answers the
questions, it will not threaten their job.
Important steps for maintaining anonymity and confidentiality:
- Response rate
Participants should ask for feedback from a large number of raters, if possible, in order to preserve the rater
anonymity. If survey response is low, data should be combined in a way that prevents the participant from identifying raters.
For example, in order to preserve anonymity a participant should collect survey data from at least three direct
reports and two peers. If fewer respond, some surveys show the combined responses as ďAssociatesĒ in the feedback
report, others show the combined responses as "Combined." If fewer than three associates respond, the participant
will not receive data from these categories in the report.
- Administrative access
Administrative access by human resources is expected in order to track statistics such as the number of surveys
initiated and completed. HR might see the number of participants, but shouldnít have access to individual ratersí
responses or to the finished reports. In some cases, a summary can be provided to a supervisor or an executive team,
however, it should not identify any individuals.
- Open-ended comments
If raters are especially concerned about anonymity while making comments in the open-ended questions, they can word
their answers in a way that avoids identifying themselves. Comments should also be reported in random order and
shuffled for each question.
- Maintain ratersí anonymity
If the participant tries to reach out to respondents and address their input or to find out more information, they run
the risk of harming the 360 process. Leaders should respect ratersí anonymity and make no effort to identify individuals.
Survey questions should be clearly focused and specific around a particular set of skills, competencies, or behaviors
that are trainable. Common competencies measured in 360 surveys can include:
- Business acumen, decision making, team leadership, empathy, and relationship building
- Characteristics of the self, such as self-awareness and energy
- Demonstration of the values of integrity, collaboration, responsibility, and innovation
- Conflict management, performance standards, and several others
Survey results should not affect performance assessments or incentive compensation
The 360 process is not designed to be used for performance reviews or appraisals, but rather to provide an individual with
feedback on their demonstration of leadership competencies and skills.
Since the 360 process does not assess performance, there is no direct link between 360 feedback and incentive compensation.
Development is the fundamental purpose of 360 feedback surveys, and proper interpretation of feedback results is the first step
to acting on them. We strongly encourage first time participants to attend a facilitated training session or one-on-one coaching,
either in-person or virtually.
Proper guidance can increase the success of a 360 feedback program by teaching participants how to interpret results and tie
them back to career and performance goals through development planning.
Working with a coach is important because coaches can help defuse emotional responses, focus on behavior for improvement, and
help put the results in context in the participantís role, environment, and those around them.
A participantís development plan should include specific activities and timing, but keep in mind that leadership skills are
learned and developed over time. We believe the 360 feedback process should be repeated every 12 to 18 months, so participants
can measure progress and identify ongoing development requirements and make adjustments to their development plan.
There you have it. When the 360 process is done properly, you will see measurable results in the organization.