Five Steps for 360 Degree Best Practice

Written on the 6 July 2018

Five Steps for 360 Degree Best Practice


360 feedback programs are utilized by companies of all sizes to provide employees with an invaluable tool for personal and career development. Careful planning ensures the success of these initiatives and helps a company to maximize the benefit to all involved.


What actually is a 360?

The essence of a 360-degree assessment program is that employees are assessed by a full range of people they work with - peers, managers, subordinates, and in some cases, internal or external clients. The employee also does a self-assessment. The results (usually anonymous) go back to the employee, completing the circle.

The 360 is typically used as a self-development and coaching tool. While 360 programs may be part of a broader performance appraisal program, this must be approached with care to ensure it will not interfere with the level of trust on which a good 360 program is built.


Below are FIVE best practices to keep in mind for your own 360-feedback programs:

1. Survey Design

A 360 survey typically consists of ratings of behaviors and competencies, combined with an opportunity for open-ended comments.
Design the survey using attributes relevant to your organization and relevant to employees' development. Use either internal resources, or engage an outside HR consultant with expertise in 360 programs to construct the assessment questionnaire.

Open-ended comments often provide the most valuable feedback to the employee; however, they are also the most time consuming for assessors to givethoughtful responses. A proper balance of scaled closed-ended and open-ended comments should be the goal in survey design.



Keep in mind that a crucial element for success is broad participation. You'll want employees to complete their assigned assessments with a high degree of focus, thoughtfulness, and attention to their responses. This takes time, and employees' time must be respected. Be sure to allow adequate opportunity for employees to complete their assessments.

Avoid administering a 360-program during the company's busy season, and wherever practical, make allowances for employees who may be travelling or on holidays.



3. Communicate

Excellent communication of the program will contribute to its success. Involvement of senior management will help show a top-level commitment and also can be used to dispel anxiety relating to employees' trust and openness of responses.

Full and clear explanations of the purpose, how data will be used, and how it will be protected should be communicated to all stakeholders in the process - those being assessed as well as the feedback providers. The use of a third-party administrator is also highly recommended to increase the level of trust of the program.


4. Implementation

For those providing feedback (the assessors), the implementation should facilitate an organised, well-structured and easy-to-complete design.

Participating employees may be tasked with completing assessments for several peers, managers, etc. The process should make it easy to organise his or her assessments and track which are completed.

A well-designed web-based 360 implementation will send just a single email to each assessor, with a link to a web page which monitors the status of survey completion status for each assessment they need to complete. This "status page" can be a simple table which displays the names, survey links and completion status for each assessment that employee is responsible for completing.

Real-time reporting of response rates will give program administrators the information they need to gauge participation and help determine which additional reminders are required.


5. Reporting

Typically, the results of 360 programs are disseminated directly to the participants. The output must be user-friendly and understandable to employees at many levels. Keep it very simple - average ratings on behaviors and competencies broken down by the level of response (peer, manager, etc.), along with a complete listing of verbatim comments. Often the comments are "cleansed" to remove names and sometimes profanity. In the data analysis, steps can be taken to combine small groups so anonymity of responses can be maintained.



Promoting Employee Development.

Following a few simple guidelines can help ensure a 360 program is a successful part of your company's efforts to promote employee development. These initiatives are easily scalable from small companies or departmental workgroups to company-wide efforts, fostering the growth of individual contributors, middle managers and, senior leaders.


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