360 Feedback Review Process

Colin Newbold, 23rd December 2019 in Development, Feedback, Hiring, Human Resources, People Management, Testing

The 360 degree feedback process may vary slightly from company to company, however, each follows a similar structure.

Below we identify the model click-360 degree feedback review timeline and give you an idea of how long each stage might take within your organisation. From designing the questionnaire to communicating the awareness briefing and applying the results.


How 360 Reviews Are Different To Appraisals

At click-360SelfDrive we refer to the 360 review process as an ongoing development, typically for existing or aspiring leaders and managers. It shouldn't be used as a one-off assessment but should be used to make continuous improvements and assess progress over time. This is because the process of learning and changing behaviours occurs over time, rather than overnight. 

The overall aim of the 360 degree feedback process is to help managers and leaders grow their capability through canvassing the opinions of staff members and key stakeholders within the organisation. 

HR Managers, Directors and other general users of 360 feedback software often mix together the appraisal process and 360 feedback, whereas in reality, they are very different processes and shouldn't be confused. 

Below is a list of key differentiating factors between 360 feedback and performance appraisals:

  • Long Term Development: Appraisals can be a one off task, a snapshot in time, whereas 360 is long-term. Some would argue that 360 feedback is becoming a much more relevant tool for ongoing development, rather than performance appraisals. 

  • Goals and objectives are very different. Performance appraisals review employees achievements towards preset goals. The ‘what’ needs to be achieved. 360 feedback does not concern itself with what the end work objectives of the employee are. It’s about development, development and development. The ‘how’ goal achievement will be made.

  • Anonymous or not? Anonymity is at the core of the 360 feedback, the responder can provide honest inputs with the objective of helping the employee. Performance Appraisals cannot be anonymous as the employee knows who the reviewer is and discussions about performance need to happen in the open. Moreover, an appraisal is one observer’s view, whereas 360 captures the perceptions of many reviewers.

  • Developing behaviours vs rewards for meeting objectives. Employees perceive 360 Feedback as a tool for self development and Performance Appraisals as a tool for rewards. One can change names, processes, and measurement tactics; do whatever – employees will always associate the evolved tool with either of these two purposes – a) Is this going to help me improve? or b) Is this going to get me my increments?

360 Review Process Map

1. Showing An Interest or a Need

The very start of the 360 review process is the stage in which potential customers are browsing online (and potentially offline) for the right solution to their problem.

Organisations looking for 360 feedback often identify similar needs based on their inability to provide useful feedback, hindering the development of future leaders. 

360 degree feedback allows each individual to understand how their effectiveness and behaviour is viewed by others. The feedback provides insight into the skills and behaviors desired in the organisation to accomplish the mission, vision, and goals.


2. Understanding The Project Scope

All projects need to start with a scope, determining and documenting a list of specific project goals, deliverables, features, functions, timelines, and ultimately costs. In other words, it is what needs to be achieved by the end of the project.

Questions often asked during the project scope include:

  • “Why are you interested in carrying out 360 degree feedback, what do you hope it will give you?”
  • “Have you carried out 360 feedback before?”
  • “If yes - how was your previous experience?”
  • “What else is going on internally, are you re-organising, changing, merging or acquiring a new business?”  Worse still “Are you downsizing?”

Regards this last bullet, major change initiatives such as any of the above will have an adverse effect on the receptivity of employees, thereby reducing levels of engagement and buy-in to a 360 feedback implementation. It is likely that your motives will not be trusted.

It is also at this stage that consideration should be given to the optimal rater networks: categories typically include:

  • line manager
  • peers
  • direct reports
  • others (key stakeholders both internally and externally).

3. Standard Questionnaire Design or Bespoke?

It is important to understand the organisation’s needs and wants at this point. It is our job to consult on the best approach towards your feedback process, whether that means deploying a standard questionnaire or creating a bespoke questionnaire. 

A bespoke questionnaire is built around the organisations competency framework, desired leadership behaviours and values. This helps to ensure that employees are rated on those things that matter most to the organisation. This also gives it excellent face validity.  If your competencies are newly formed, 360 is an excellent way of helping to embed them inside the organisation, even with customers and suppliers as well. 


4. Awareness Briefing 

Some would argue that the awareness briefing is one of the most important stages in the overall 360 feedback review process. It is a prime opportunity to explain to employees why the organisation is carrying out the feedback process, how it will benefit them, as well as clear instructions on how to complete the questionnaire.

Also, it’s important that each participant (the person at the centre of the 360, the one getting the report at the end) approaches each rater (the person providing them with feedback) with a verbal invitation, either face-to-face or on the ‘phone. It is not only more courteous but it builds much stronger commitment. So, what should you say in the awareness briefing invitation conversation? Below are a few great sentence starters:

  • ““I’m doing this 360 primarily because I want to…”
  • “How much do you currently know about 360-degree feedback?”
  • “The questionnaire will roughly take you...”
  • “The process will kick off…”
  • “Given what else you’ve got going on, will you be able to devote sufficient time to this?”
  • “Thank you for taking the time to give this information…”


5. Deploying The 360 Survey 

Running the actual 360 questionnaire is one of the easiest parts of the process. It takes the form of a user friendly online questionnaire that can be shared via email. Participants (those at the centre of the 360, the ones getting the reports at the end) can either nominate their raters (the people providing them with feedback) online, or the participant/rater networks can be provided in advance and uploaded into the application.

Participants and raters are then able to log into the questionnaire and simply begin giving feedback. If several participants are involved in a cohort, there may be raters who have been invited to give feedback to more than one colleague at the same time. With click-360SelfDrive, they can choose to give this feedback ‘simultaneously’, which not only saves them time but also improves accuracy. If they find themselves pulled into different tasks (which happens to the best of us), they can save their progress and return to it later. 


6. Generating Reports

In the report, you will be presented with a Summary Graph (and/or the Spidergram/ Summary Table). At this point, you should ask yourself the following:

  • “Is any one rater group scoring you consistently higher or lower than the other groups, including your own self-rating?”
  • “Do you consistently rate your own performance higher or lower than the other groups? What could be the reasons for this?”
  • “Inside each cluster, what are the trends?”

You can then use the Detailed Analysis pages in the report to reflect on what the overall analysis is telling you. There are around 8 in-depth stages to analysing the report, which you can read here.  The click-360SelfDrive digital report even has an integrated workbook which allows participants to capture their reflections and conclusions.


7. Coaching Session #1

During your coaching sessions it is important to start with identifying your key strengths coming out of the report. As well, you will be looking for the key development priorities. You should ensure that the change in behaviour you are looking for will extend and challenge you but is also achievable (stretch but not twang).

It is also important to be as specific as you can in describing what you are looking for (something you will do – or not do – and/or something you will say – or not say).

This process puts a lot of emphasis on reflection and active listening to see if participants are taking on board their feedback and acting accordingly. 


8. Checking-out Feedback

The checking-out process can occur with each of the typical four categories:

  • line manager
  • peers
  • direct reports
  • others (key stakeholders both internally and externally).

The purpose of the checking out sessions is to deepen your understanding to build a more robust personal development plan (PDP). We encourage users to quite literally check out any areas of ambiguity/conflict. 

Checking-out is really about gaining further depth and clarity via verbal feedback from a representative proportion of the rater network – the people who contributed anonymously. This is also an opportunity to check out any items that don’t make sense (are unclear or confusing) and any areas of conflict (where different raters appear to think the opposite of each other). 

While this step may appear daunting to some participants, evidence shows that - together with the awareness briefing above (Step 4) - checking out is the single biggest contributor to improved internal relationships.


9. Coaching Session #2

The ultimate outcome of the 360 review process is to deliver an action plan - to improve behaviour and develop the capability of leaders and managers. 

During the second coaching session, users will be helped to build the action plan using SMART principles. This action plan includes elements like dependencies, people and resources that can help, potential obstacles and how to overcome them, and - most importantly - time frames.  Each action needs to be a goal with a deadline!


10. Revisiting The 360 Process

Given that people need time to make changes following a 360 feedback process, it is extremely important to continue to revisit personal development plans and measure ongoing behaviour. 

Our experience has found that carrying out the 360 review process at twelve to eighteen-month intervals is most beneficial. However, some organisations choose to conduct surveys shortly before and then some time after a leadership, management or team development programme.

Check out our upcoming blogs that cover these steps in isolation, giving you more detail, examples and takeaways.

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