How to create an effective 360° feedback process

Written by
Changeboard Team

30 Nov 2012

30 Nov 2012 • by Changeboard Team

The benefits of a 360° feedback process

In our ‘more for less’ culture, organisations are increasingly looking to optimise the ongoing contribution made by employees. To do this, they are utilising talent management processes and, when it comes to helping individuals to identify their strengths and development needs, the 360° feedback process is becoming more and more popular. 

There are so many benefits to be gained from implementing this method, with outcomes such as greater self-awareness and learning, improved individual and organisational effectiveness and a more open and trusting culture. However, the process only works if it’s carried out in the correct way. It’s only as strong as the quality of the design and delivery, the skills of those who provide the feedback, and the company-wide commitment to employee development activities. 

Set clear objectives

It’s important that you understand your objectives from the start because the ultimate success of the process will be determined by how relevant and accurate they are. This involves making sure that you know the answers to questions such as: is it for development or appraisal, what will be measured, who will be involved, and how will the data be used? If you’re unsure of what you’re trying to achieve, it will be extremely difficult to recognise whether it was beneficial or not.

Agree ownership

Ensure that you obtain buy-in from key stakeholders at the outset, including from senior managers and the board. Also, consider who is going to be responsible for the different elements, such as administering the questionnaires, analysing the results and providing feedback. It may be that you decide to outsource the administration of your 360° process due to time pressures, giving you the opportunity to really focus on participant development. 

Design your questionnaire

There are a variety of software packages available in the market, which deliver online competency based 360° questionnaires and can collate responses into simple reference feedback reports for you. Results for each competency are given, making it easier to design effective development plans afterwards. Following this, the next stage is to determine how responses will be measured and who will be invited to give feedback. You may also decide to include importance ratings and open text questions, but the key is to design it around your objectives in order to get the most out of it. 

Pilot test your questionnaire

It’s recommended that you run a pilot to check the relevance and reliability of the questions that you’ve chosen. If the process is to be administered online, it is a good opportunity to test the sending and receiving of data and the analysis of responses too. There’s nothing worse than putting in a great deal of time and effort, only to find that when it comes to using the tool, there are elements that you wish you’d have done differently. 

Communication & feedback

When you’re ready to launch, it’s fundamental that everyone involved, such as managers, participants and coaches, is fully briefed on the process and their responsibilities in order to prevent mistakes. If possible, it’s a good idea to provide a point of contact for any questions that may arise. 

We always advocate face-to-face feedback with a trained coach or facilitator. So, it’s important to identify a suitable team from the start and make sure they are familiar with the questionnaire, the report, and how to assist participants at each stage. 

Invest in development

When undertaking this process, you need to remember that 360° questionnaires are at best a diagnostic tool. It’s what participants do to develop themselves afterwards that is really key, and it’s up to you to support them wherever possible with this.

They will need access to different resources, often tailored to their individual learning styles and preferences, including reference books, courses, e-learning, team projects, secondments, coaching and mentoring. If you invest in this early on, you’ll see the results in the long term. 

Create personalised development plans

Individuals should then be encouraged to design and implement their own development plans, and it’s up to you to help them set goals that can be integrated into the performance management/appraisal process. 


Support the learner

After the participant receives the feedback, involvement shouldn’t end there. A coaching or mentoring relationship should follow this process. The coach can help during the implementation of their development plan, identifying alternative approaches and, when required, removing roadblocks and giving additional feedback on progress. This is such an essential part of the process that, if possible, the support should be provided by people who are trained in coaching and mentoring techniques. 

Evaluate the results

Once completed, a review should be undertaken to determine how successful the process has been. This should start at the individual level, for example by finding out whether participants were able to develop the areas that were identified. It should then look at the impact on the organisation, focusing on whether organisational performance has been improved as a result of developing the participants.