Is 360 feedback right for your business in 2021?

What is 360 feedback? Who is it for? Why do it? How to do it? What to be aware of? This article answers all these questions and more.

360 feedback has some bad branding.

Some time ago it got a reputation for being time consuming, vague and unhelpful. A "tick the box" exercise. It doesn't need to be that way though.

In fact, done well, it can be one of the most rewarding things your people do each quarter.

Let's break it down and answer the key questions.

What is 360 feedback?

You get 360 feedback when many people give you feedback at the same time on the same things.  

E.g. Mary the Marketing Manager emails the Marketing Director and three Marketing Executives. She asks them to reply to her email and answer the question,

"What did I do really well this last quarter?"

This differs to 1:1 feedback, where Mary asks the Marketing Director this question face-to-face.

Here's a short video which goes into a little more detail.


Who is 360-degree feedback for?

A lot of people think that 360 feedback is only for big businesses with complex reporting lines.

At Howamigoing we've seen 360 feedback have an enormous impact in startups with 15 staff.

It really just depends on the type of work you do.

If you don't work with others (e.g. as a tradesperson or solo Salesperson), then there's no need for 360 feedback. Client feedback or manager feedback is about all you need.

But if you work in a team - if you rely on others to get your work done and they rely on you - 360 feedback becomes very important.

Why bother with 360 feedback?

If you work in a team, you need to work as a team.  That means adapting your work and communication style to suit people that might not be your boss.

360 feedback gives you the best picture of where you stand with your team. Your teammates will have valuable insights into your work style that your boss won't have.

The other advantages of 360 feedback vs in-person 1:1 feedback are:

1. Time to think

Giving feedback in a written format gives you time to choose the right words.

2. Anonymity

Aggregating written feedback means you can remove people's names from their comments. This allows people to be more open and honest. More honesty is not a bad thing - more honest means a clearer picture of what people actually think.

3. Compare responses

The feedback you receive comes in the same, consistent format. This allows you to compare and contrast different people's opinions.

4. There for later

Because it's all written down, you can come back and re-read comments at a later date. It's hard to make notes of 1:1 feedback when you're trying to be present in the conversation.

To be clear though, 1:1 conversations are very important. While 360 gives you richer data, it doesn't help you to build relationships.

How to do 360 feedback?

There are four steps, which will take about four weeks from start to finish for a business with 50 staff.

Step 1 is for team/ business leaders to choose the feedback questions. At Howamigoing we maintain a "question library", worked on with clinical psychologists and customers. Here's a snippet:

Let’s say that your COO has chosen the below 4 questions for a quarterly 360.

  1. What have I done recently that impressed you or helped you get results?
  2. What have I done recently that prevented you or the team from getting results?
  3. What have you noticed lately about my wellbeing or demeanour?
  4. Thinking about my strengths and the team’s goals, what one thing do you think I should focus on most for the next few months?

Then Step 2 is for each employee to pick 3-5 people they’ve worked with recently to answer these questions. An employee’s manager will almost always be one of those 3-5 people giving feedback.

Step 3 is for everyone to submit their responses online. Three weeks is usually fine for this.

Step 4 is for employees and their managers to view and discuss the aggregated responses. Transparency is best here. Distribute the feedback exactly as it's written - no re-writing, summarising or paraphrasing. Not only does this cut out admin time for HR and team leads, but it gives everyone extra buy-in to the process.

Be aware of...

Anonymity

It’s human nature to worry about giving feedback to those we work with. We fear hurting other people’s feelings or we worry that being “too honest” to our boss could come back to bite us.

This is especially true if it’s a small team or a small business where you know everyone well.

The way to get around this is to provide an environment of “psychological safety”. This means removing names from comments and ratings.

More on that here.

Pay

If 360 feedback ties to salaries or bonuses, then you'll get lower quality feedback.

People can withhold positive feedback if the recipient shares the same bonus pool. A dog-eat-dog mentality can prevail. People focus on negative feedback, putting others down to make themselves look better. This seems nasty but it happens. Especially in Finance where bonuses make up 40%+ of annual pay.

More on that here.

Getting started with 360 feedback

If the thought of doing a full company-wide 360 is too daunting, then just start with one team. Focus on making some small, positive changes.

And...software helps.  

Trying to run a 360 with Excel or Sheets will leave you in tears. You'll spend so much time organising, aggregating and filing documents. It's not scalable. Also, you risk leaking sensitive employee information.

Send an email to hello@howamigoing.com if you'd like help. We're always happy to have a chat and provide advice, even if we're not a good fit for you!


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