360 degree feedback

360 Degree Feedback

360-degree feedback is a feedback process where not just the line manager but also a sample of peers and direct reports, and sometimes even customers, evaluate a person’s performance. Often a self-review takes place too, to enable a compare and contrast of the self-report against others’ reports in order to highlight blind-spot areas.



If done well and sensitively 360-degree feedback can:

  • Reinforce the many good things that people are doing at work which their colleagues appreciate
  • Help the individual better understand how he or she is perceived by others and so open up opportunities for the individual to:
    • make adjustments to their behaviour
    • with their manager, consider areas for personal development
  • Give colleagues an opportunity to say what’s on their mind, especially if there are issues
  • Help bring about skills development that might not otherwise have happened
  • Bring about improvements in behaviours at work
  • Reinforce the link between the skills and behaviours required in the organisation, and the
    individual’s performance
  • Performance is considered in a more balanced fashion

360-degree feedback works best as a development tool rather than as a rating tool.


Possible Disadvantage  Mitigating Action
People might not provide frank and honest views,might be overly glowing or overly critical,or might be unfair (personal bias) Moderator (usually someone who is not involved in the line management relationship, for example
someone in HR) manages assembling of feedback
and makes reasonable adjustments if required.Aim should be to ‘do no harm’Feedback provided anonymously
Feedback is not accepted by the individual Line manager discusses feedback with individual

Individual has some say in who provides the feedback

Individual is crushed by the feedback received.
(Even very good performers might overly focus on one or two critical comments)
 Moderator manages assembling of feedback and makes reasonable adjustments if required

Coach or line manager puts any negative feedback into context, depending on how robust and self-confident the individual is

Consider giving negative feedback as themes rather than provide the detailed comments

Line manager or organisation uses the feedback
as a back-door tool to bring about disciplinary
action, or unfairly homes in on specifics
Moderator needs to ensure the process is fair
Time consuming for people to complete the
feedback and for the moderator to assemble it
Keep the process and questionnaire as simple
and non-bureaucratic as possible. Avoid too
many people reporting in
Lack of action following the feedback Ensure the feedback report is considered
between the manager and individual at the
appraisal meeting or sooner
If doing a very rigorous and formal 360, it takes
time to determine the competencies that the
organisation is seeking to feedback against
Keep the questionnaire simple and don’t
directly link to competencies. Instead aim for
something simple like: Start/ Stop/ Keep Doing
If a scoring system is used, people feeding in can
struggle to use it consistently across the
organisation. For example, ‘I never give a top
rating, no one is perfect’
Avoid scoring systems unless sufficient training
can be given
People feeding in feel pressured or bullied
because of the feedback they have given
Keep the responses anonymous

360-degree feedback requires senior management support and a strong culture of communication and


All Staff Managers at all Levels Senior Managers and Executive
Very time consuming, can
absorb huge amounts of
Time consuming, will absorb
large amounts of time
Restricted group so less
time consuming
May not get sufficient value
for the time spent (80:20
Has merit given the
importance of the line
manager to employee
Has merit given the
importance of the senior
manager team as role



Very Formal  Formal Informal
Internally or externally hosted


Typically 10 reports: 5 peers (including manager) and 5 direct reports feed in

IT-based reporting

Ratings scales and open questions

Wide ranging questions on relevant values, competences and skills (A 360 questionnaire will include questions on areas which are important to the company, for example core values, management, leadership, customer service)

Reporting managed by HR/centrally

Internally hosted


5 to 10 reports in total including line manager

IT or manual reporting

Ratings scales and open questions

Small number of questions, not explicitly linked to values, competences and skills

Reporting managed by HR/centrally

Arranged by line manager

No self-report

Fewer reports, say 5 or less in total including line manager

Manual reporting

No ratings scales, small number of open questions such as:

  • Stop doing
  • Start doing
  • Continue doing

Reporting managed by line manager

Along with the considerations above, the questionnaire design is a key part of the process:
Ensure all areas important to the company are included, for example ‘innovation and change’ if
the company has an ambitious strategic plan to achieve, ‘quality and risk’ if there are high
product reject rates
Think about the format of the reports and how easily they will be understood
Aim to have fewer than 50 questions
Consider including text areas in each section, and an open text area at the end, for any
comments by the completer
Consider which Likert scale to use, for example:
6 – Strongly Agree
5 – Agree
4 – Somewhat Agree
3 – Somewhat disagree
2 – Disagree
1 – Strongly Disagree

Follow Up
If you are interested in carrying out 360-Feedback in your organisation, then contact Lesley Wilson at
Pearl Onion Training for a confidential discussion: lesley@pearlonion.co.uk, t: 01467 681404.