360-Degree Feedback

The word “feedback” has gotten a bad rap over the years. It seems “feedback” has become the new “criticism” in the professional world—and not the constructive kind. In fact, a survey conducted by Harvard Business Review revealed that 44% of managers found dishing out negative feedback to be difficult or stressful, while 21% of another group preferred to avoid giving negative feedback altogether.1 But feedback isn’t the problem. After all, how would any of us know how we’re doing in our jobs (or our day-to-day lives) without some form of external feedback? Feedback is the precursor to improvement, and without it, we risk becoming stagnant in our assignments and our careers.

The way we approach feedback and performance appraisals could be the differentiating factor, but organizations must acknowledge that managers and employees alike need more feedback. A recent study showed that almost 60% of managers would like their employees to speak their minds, but only 29% of employees claim to have a manager that actually asks for their thoughts.

Of course, there are many ways to provide employees and managers with feedback, but in this whitepaper, we’ll be covering one of the most holistic approaches—360-degree feedback.

What is 360-Degree Feedback?

360-degree feedback is a holistic approach to performance management that takes feedback into consideration from the employee being reviewed, their manager, and key colleagues to provide a 360-degree view of someone’s work. Each of these contributors (or stakeholders) throughout the feedback process has different experiences with and thus a unique perspective on the employee being reviewed. 360-degree feedback is also known as "multi-rater feedback." As a result, the collective insights gained from this approach are far more complete than the feedback received from any one stakeholder.

In the pages to follow, we’ll cover the ins and outs of 360-degree feedback, and how employees and managers can each get the most out of it.

Using 360-Degree Feedback

For Managers

Managers who receive
feedback on their
strengths are shown to be
12.5%
more productive then
those who dont.2


Feedback is Just the Start of a Conversation

You’ll be receiving feedback from multiple sources on individual employees. Some of it will be good, and some of it will be bad, but all of it can understandably become overwhelming. Fortunately, you don’t have to act on any of it right away.

The fear that most professionals have surrounding 360-degree feedback and other peer review systems stems from their lack of control in the matter i.e., they won’t know what’s being said about them until it’s too late, but as a manager, you can play a key role in curbing these apprehensions. Reassure your employees that anything that comes to light during the feedback process will be the start of a conversation—and not the end of the line.

Not only does this approach take the pressure off of you to make snap judgements, it also allows you to dig deeper into any areas of concern to address the root cause.

Who Should be Involved?

If you’ve been empowering your direct reports to take ownership over their projects and assignments, you likely don’t have a complete understanding of their collaborative efforts. You may see the progress as well as the end result, but there’s likely another person or persons involved in this project that can provide some deeper insights about what it’s like to work with your employee.

Challenge yourself to think of those coworkers who have worked closely with your employee—not just the colleagues whose opinions you value. Although you might consider your trusted colleague to be an excellent judge of character, if they don’t have substantial experience working directly with your employee the most you can hope to gain from their review is a surface-level opinion.

Raising the Stake(holder)s

If you’ve been empowering your direct reports to take ownership over their projects and assignments, you likely don’t have a complete understanding of their collaborative efforts. You may see the progress as well as the end result, but there’s likely another person or persons involved in this project that can provide some deeper insights about what it’s like to work with your employee.

Using 360-Degree Feedback

For Employees

Employees who receive
feedback on their
strengths are shown to be
14.9%
Lower turnover rates
than those who dont.2


Know Your Weaknesses as Well as Your Strengths

When reviewing themselves, many employees tend to believe that exposing their flaws is essentially the same as shooting themselves in the foot, but this is far from the truth. And while this is certainly not the place to downplay your strengths, remember that nobody’s perfect—as cliché as it may sound. In reality, an inability to acknowledge or address your own weaknesses is more likely to raise a red flag than land you a raise.

This process is an opportunity for you to address any areas for improvement that you’re aware of, and reassure your manager with a concise plan of action for strengthening that area. When using 360-degree feedback, it can be nearly impossible to hide from your flaws. If you don’t point them out, someone else will, so at least take the opportunity to be part of the conversation.

Who Should be Involved?

If you’re given the option to select your own contributors, it may be tempting to “stack the deck” with reviews from all your closest friends at work, but having your manager sort through vague praise won’t be beneficial to them. Instead, focus on those coworkers with whom you’ve worked directly with in a meaningful way. Think of all the collaborative projects that you’ve been directly involved in for some time, and request contributions from the coworkers you worked most closely with.

The reviews you receive from your collaborative partners will provide your manager with the holistic perspective they need to truly understand who you are as a professional. Strategically select colleagues who know what it’s like to work with you, and you will end up with an outstanding performance review.

Don't Wait for Feedback

Receiving feedback from your coworkers can be scary, but not if you know what’s coming. Request feedback from your colleagues as you’re working with them—not just during performance reviews. This will give you an opportunity to address and correct any misunderstandings or concerns before they turn into a negative review

Using 360-Degree Feedback

For Everyone
 

Whether you’re providing feedback on a manager, a colleague, or even yourself, presenting actionable insights that will benefit the recipient can be challenging. And if you’re on the receiving end of the feedback, there’s one key question you can ask yourself to keep your cool and thrive as a result.

 

Giving
Feedback

Receiving
Feedback

Be Specific

Compliments and criticisms both lose value when they can’t be substantiated with evidence. Telling a coworker that you dislike their emails will likely cause them to send you fewer emails. On the other hand, if you let them know that sending emails in all capital letters is not preferable, you may just see a positive change.

Be Concise

Do you have a lot to say? Try to narrow it down to the most important, high-level concerns or recognitions. When it comes to feedback, less is certainly more. If you overwhelm your recipient with your thoughts, the most important items might get lost in the crowd.

Be Honest

The feedback you provide should be neither overly gratuitous nor soul-crushing. Instead, speak purely from an objective standpoint. Keep this in mind and you won’t have to worry about hurting anyone’s feelings.

One Rule—Learn From It

It’s important to remember why you’re receiving feedback in the first place: to get better. Before taking any criticism to heart, or letting any compliments go to your head, simply ask yourself, "What can I learn from this?" Framing your mind to learn from the feedback instead of trying to label it as good or bad is the key differentiator of professionals who continue to evolve and grow.

Giving
Feedback

Be Specific

Compliments and criticisms both lose value when they can’t be substantiated with evidence. Telling a coworker that you dislike their emails will likely cause them to send you fewer emails. On the other hand, if you let them know that sending emails in all capital letters is not preferable, you may just see a positive change.

Be Concise

Do you have a lot to say? Try to narrow it down to the most important, high-level concerns or recognitions. When it comes to feedback, less is certainly more. If you overwhelm your recipient with your thoughts, the most important items might get lost in the crowd.

Be Honest

The feedback you provide should be neither overly gratuitous nor soul-crushing. Instead, speak purely from an objective standpoint. Keep this in mind and you won’t have to worry about hurting anyone’s feelings.

Receiving
Feedback

One Rule—Learn From It

It’s important to remember why you’re receiving feedback in the first place: to get better. Before taking any criticism to heart, or letting any compliments go to your head, simply ask yourself, "What can I learn from this?" Framing your mind to learn from the feedback instead of trying to label it as good or bad is the key differentiator of professionals who continue to evolve and grow.

 

Bringing it Full Circle

When done correctly, 360-degree feedback can be an empowering and fair process that enriches everyone. Feedback isn’t something that should be shied away from. Learning to let go of the fear of criticism and creating a culture in which feedback is shared and received freely makes everyone involved better.

 

It can take some time to get the process of 360-degree feedback fine-tuned for your organization, but it is well worth the effort—increased productivity and lightning-fast innovation are just on the other side. And while the thought of having feedback coming from multiple sources may seem like a lot to manage, having the right HCM solution makes it much simpler. You can request, submit, and review feedback on customizable goals and competencies, and store all the results for year-over-year (YOY) comparisons with comprehensive, cloud-based people management.