Everything You Need To Know About 360 Degree Feedback

by Kylee Stone Apr 22,2022

The People Strategy Leaders Podcast

with Srikant Chellappa, CEO

When you initially introduce 360-degree feedback in your organization, most of your employees might be reluctant to participate.

They might find the process useless or prefer another performance review to a 360 feedback survey. So here’s everything you need to know about 360 degree feedback. 

What Is 360 Degree Feedback?

what is 360 degree feedback

360 degree feedback is the feedback that employees receive about their performance not only from their managers but also from colleagues, vendors, customers, etc. It is a fairly intensive type of assessment because it involves collating a lot of data, which in turn is also subjective because that is the very nature of feedback.

In traditional performance reviews, it is commonly seen that the entire feedback process is handled by the superior employee, which can sometimes be biased. It is also a known fact that as the rank of an employee rises in an organization, he receives less information about his performance. 360 feedback offers an opportunity for both superiors and subordinates to give and receive accurate feedback. This, in turn, improves the superior-subordinate relationship.

Also Read: The Importance Of Peer Feedback At Workplace

Why 360 Degree Feedback?

Evaluating employee performance through the medium of feedback is an important part of the workplace. It isn’t something that is not ignorable. But which is the most effective way of reviewing an employee’s performance? The two options that are available to managers are performance reviews and 360-degree feedback. Both these processes have their pros and cons but when used correctly, they can work wonders.

A recent study conducted by Software Advice asked a question based on the above premise: do managers have enough insight to assess their employees?

The study surveyed around 300 employees based in the US and made a few illuminating discoveries.

Key findings from the survey:

  • Thirty-seven percent of employees say they have regular one-on-one meetings with their manager once a month or less.
  • Thirty-one percent of employees find one-on-one meetings with their manager minimally or not at all productive.
  • Nearly one in five employees (19 percent) are minimally or not at all confident that their managers have enough information to adequately assess their job performance.
  • Half of employees say their department coworkers—not their managers—have the most insight into their job performance, other than themselves.

These findings emphatically answer the question posed in the survey. Employees don’t feel confident that their managers know enough to evaluate their performance accurately.

There is also one another finding that managers might find interesting. Employees feel like their colleagues/teammates have a better understanding of job performance than their own managers do.

Managers might know what an employee does, but only peers will know how an employee does it. It stands to reason that while a manager can offer feedback on the kind of work an employee does, peers will be able to offer better feedback on how that employee works, simply because they spend so much time in close quarters or on the same team.

Also Read: How To Create A Good Employee Engagement Survey

“At the heart of this report, we had a simple question: Do employees feel like their manager has enough information from their limited one-on-one time to do a sufficient performance review? Our survey results show that 1 in 5 workers don’t feel they do, which is a problem.

A manager’s perspective on their workers’ performance is inherently limited—any singular point of view by itself would be. This is why 360 feedback is so important, because it combines multiple points of view to create a more comprehensive, reliable picture of how an employee is doing in their day-to-day. This gives managers more data to work with to assess their employees, which then gives employees more faith that their assessment is accurate.”

– Brian Westfall, senior market researcher for 360 feedback tools consultancy Software Advice

The above comment perfectly illustrates why performance reviews fail sometimes. They offer limited perspectives which employees find lacking. But where performance reviews might lack, 360 feedback can step in to fill the breach. The beauty of 360 feedback lies in the fact that it allows users to experience the benefit of feedback from multiple sources. Employees are more likely to trust an aggregate of reviews or feedback, as opposed to feedback and review from a single source.

Organizations are understandably hesitant when it comes to 360-degree feedback evaluations. After all, the process is tedious and hard to pull off.

A good 360-degree feedback process must contain the following elements in order to be successful:

  • Reviewer anonymity
  • Customized feedback templates
  • Customizable feedback cycles

Engagedly’s Multirater or 360 Degree Feedback module checks all the above requirements. And more importantly, it gives HR administrators complete control over the feedback cycle. Once the feedback cycle has been set up, the rest of the process falls into place. HR administrators need not have to constantly keep track of what is happening in the feedback cycle. Thereby taking a lot of the pressure off them.

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.
  • Find out what others think of you–360 degree 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.

Challenges In 360 Degree 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.

The Right Time For 360 Degree Feedback

Some organizations do it annually and some do it monthly. Some might even do it half-yearly, but there is no one-size-fits-all version for 360 degree feedback.

It is important to decide in advance on how long you have to carry out the work and set time frames for designing the survey, distributing it and analyzing the results.

Performance reviews can be conducted annually or half yearly because employees are evaluated based on their performance and based on how they achieved their goals. But 360 degree feedback purely depends upon your organization’s work culture and your leadership approach.

The main objective of a 360 degree feedback is to provide individuals with constructive feedback that helps them develop themselves. As long as a 360 degree survey motivates the employees to develop themselves, it is ideal to have them twice a year.

Implementing 360 Feedback Software

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. When more people are part of the process, it is important it is to keep everyone on the same page. 

Also Read: 10 Best Employee Feedback Tools To Track Performance

Choosing The Right 360 Feedback Software For Your Company

To make the process easier for you, we have created a list of things that you should look for in a 360 feedback software before choosing the right one for your organization.


Every software which is being implemented for the first time in an organization should be easy to understand and use. A 360 feedback software should be simple enough to understand by employees without any specific training.

There are many 360 feedback software available online; on a free trial basis. So, before you purchase a 360 feedback software for your organization, try it out and understand how easily the software can be implemented. Let your employees also try the software so that you can choose the one that best fits your organization.


When selecting a 360 feedback software, you can either choose a standard software which is developed by a vendor and is being used by different organizations, or you can choose a software that is flexible and supports customization based on your organizational needs.

When choosing a 360 feedback software, you should consider the fact that the world is fast moving and your needs may differ from day to day.

Also Read: Why do you need a customized 360 degree feedback survey?


how to choose a 360 degree software

Another very important thing to consider when choosing a 360 feedback software is the security of your information. 360 feedback in general includes feedback received from managers, colleagues, direct reports etc. which is very sensitive and confidential information that could cause a lot of damage if leaked or if it falls into the wrong hands.

So, when you are choosing a 360 feedback software, be sure to ask the potential vendors how secure your data is and how the information is protected.

P.S–Information security laws vary from country to country; so be sure to pick a software that follows the security laws of the country your organization belongs to.

Support And Guidance

Every software is unique in itself. No matter how simple it is, the vendors of the software need to walk you through the entire process of giving and receiving 360 feedback through their software.

A software that has good customer support, helpful user documentation, and is receptive to your needs and concerns is the one that your organization needs.

360 Degree Feedback Best Practice Guidelines

Don’t Just Evaluate The Job, Evaluate How It Is Done

Evaluate your employees based on how they do their job and not based on the outcome. Outcomes do not always reflect the amount of work that goes into getting a job done. You need to identify the core skills and competencies that you want your employees to possess and assess them accordingly.

Constructive Criticism Is The Key

The purpose of a performance review is to help your employees grow as professionals. And criticisms are definitely an important part of performance reviews. But criticism is one of the places where performance reviews tend to go horribly wrong. An employee is entitled to their opinion. But before you begin a performance review, lay down the ground rules for what counts as fair criticism and what does not.


Good criticism: John is not very punctual to work. However, I have noticed that he completes all of his assigned tasks on time.

Bad criticism: John is not punctual and spends a lot of time in the office doing nothing.

If you look at the first example, you will see that while the reviewer in question is not pleased by John’s tardiness, he/she does note that John is dedicated. The criticism has some value to offer.

The second example offers no information except for seems to be a malicious observation. What can John learn from it? Nothing!

Criticism is only of use when it is constructive. That is one of the most important things you need to keep in mind when carrying out performance reviews.

Review On A Regular Basis

If you do not review your staff’s work on a regular basis, then using 360 degree performance reviews doesn’t count. Reviewing your employee less frequently makes them think that their work doesn’t need any improvement, and the organization is happy with their current working style.

When a 360 degree performance review finally happens, your employees might be astonished to find that everything is not alright. And this only leads to disengagement. If you decide that you are going to have a performance review yearly/quarterly, etc., then do make sure that you have been having frequent reviews until then.

Give Supportive End Review

A performance review is a great way to achieve the company’s goals, but it also has a few potential dangers. One of those potential dangers is disengagement in employees. Whatever the end result of a performance review, it is the duty of the manager to be supportive and helpful. If an employee’s end review displays less than good results, then the manager and the employee need to come together and hash out a plan or an agreement that helps that employee get better or maybe even find a career more suited to them. The end result of a performance review should motivate an employee to do better, not make them feel demoralized and hurt.

Don’t Exempt The Managers From The Review

This is obvious, nobody should be exempt from feedback and review but we often, we are really talking about reviews from the reporting employees and peers. At the end of the day, a higher level executive, a manager, a CEO, all are a part of an organization. They, too, provide input and work towards the betterment of the organization. If the higher-ups of an organization do not get proper 360 degree performance feedback, then how will they know how to lead better?

In conclusion, though it has some potential risks, when used appropriately, 360 degree performance review can help your employees engage themselves in work, and accomplish the company goals.

360-degree Feedback

Do you want to know how to use 360 degree feedback to improve productivity in your organization? Request live demo to get in touch with our experts.

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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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