360 Degree Feedback: Benefits, Pitfalls and Implementation Tips

by Kylee Stone Feb 20,2019

The People Strategy Leaders Podcast

with Srikant Chellappa, CEO

360 degree feedback is a great tool for employee self-development. As such, it can help you uncover a lot of useful employee insights.

However, 360 feedback programs only work when they are executed well. If not done well, they end up being a waste of time and energy. HR administrators and employees will have nothing to show for the program, despite investing time and energy on it. Because 360 feedback programs don’t take off as well as always expected, it is natural that people are leery of them.

The main trick with 360 feedback is to figure out what you want to achieve from it. Keep in mind that most 360 feedback programs are used for self-development, that is, to help employees know more about themselves and better themselves as well.

They typically aren’t used to measure performance, which is a task that performance reviews are better suited too, and neither should they be used to. 

This article will help you identify the benefits and pitfalls of a 360 feedback program as well as implementation tips that can help make the program a success.

Also read: How To Give Effective Feedback To Peers?

Benefits of 360 Feedback

  • Multiple sources of feedback – One of the biggest benefits of a 360 feedback program is that it allows for feedback from multiple sources. Collecting feedback from multiple sources also reduces the incidence of bias. Mind you, bias never truly goes away but at least the pool of feedback is broad.

Also read: 10 Best Employee Feedback Tools To Track Performance

  • Find out what others think of you – 360 feedback helps employees see how they are perceived by others. All employees have idealized versions of themselves. As such it can be helpful to get a different perspective on how they come across to others.  
  • Identifies developmental opportunities – 360 feedback is useful for identifying development opportunities for employees. It can help them see where they are excelling and where they need help.

Cons of 360 Feedback

  • The accuracy of feedback cannot be guaranteed – There’s always the chance that the feedback an employee receives during a 360 feedback cycle might not all be accurate. This happens sometimes because of inbuilt biases, or incomplete information about an employee’s job responsibilities etc.
  • Without feedback parameters, no way to control feedback – Since there’s no rule that says what kind of feedback that can be shared during a 360 feedback cycle, there’s no way to guarantee what kind of feedback an employee will receive. Some employees might end up receiving more negative feedback than positive which might blindside them. Alternatively, there’s no way to guarantee if the participants will even receive actionable feedback. 
  • Anonymity not promised – Some organizations want to keep 360 feedback as transparent as possible and remove all traces of anonymity. However, in the interest of transparency, by not making feedback anonymous, organizations risk crippling the 360 feedback program. Because when anonymity is not promised, employees might not feel comfortable sharing what they actually think and instead, they will share feedback they think the person wants to receive.

Implementation Tips

Create a clear process

One of the biggest mistakes that organizations make with respect to 360 degree programs is not having a clear purpose. Organizations tend to carry out 360-degree programs because it is the ‘in’ thing to do, not because they actually need to carry out a program. An important question to ask yourself before running a 360 degree review is what do you hope to achieve?

Also Read: How To Ensure An Effective 360 Feedback Process

Ensure confidentiality of information

Don’t cripple your 360 feedback program by getting rid of anonymity. Instead, ensure that employees are comfortable enough to participate and share their feedback.

Set parameters for feedback

The process of giving feedback during a 360 degree review process can very quickly become a vague activity if you don’t establish a few rules. Before you invite employees to participate in the process, share a set of feedback guidelines with everyone who is participating. That way, they know what to say, what they shouldn’t say, how they should frame the feedback, what phrases they should avoid etc.

Sources of feedback

Some organizations prefer to just collect from an employee’s peers. Others might prefer to also collect it from managers in addition to peers. There’s a third subset of organizations who might also want to collect feedback from external clients, vendors etc. The more people are included in the process, the more important it is to keep everyone on the same page with regard to the 360 feedback process.

If you want to implement 360 feedback the right way, at your organization, Engagedly can help you.

Request a live demo from our experts!


Kylee Stone

Kylee Stone supports the professional services team as a CX intern and psychology SME. She leverages her innate creativity with extensive background in psychology to support client experience and organizational functions. Kylee is completing her master’s degree in Industrial-Organizational psychology at the University of Missouri Science and Technology emphasizing in Applied workplace psychology and Statistical Methods.

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