How-to 360 Degree Feedback Survey Set-up Best Practices & Tips

360 degree feedback systems are an ideal way of collecting valuable data for any type of organization. Small companies with 5 employees can start with this process right up to enterprise level deployment in many countries, languages and fully centralized or decentralized and with today’s technologies all simultaneously.

How to best implement a 360 degree feedback software system?

As many companies have enjoyed the benefits of 360 degree feedback there are also those that have gone on too expeditiously in implementing these tools without the required thought and planning. This guide hopes to help those by contributing to the successful implementation of any 360 degree feedback system deployment and ensuring continuity so that companies can follow through on actionable results.

Background:

Companies using 360 degree feedback provide employees with a more accurate sense of their personal strengths and weaknesses. 360 degree solutions should therefore primarily focus on the behavioral ‘soft-criteria’ traits of performance on how an employee conducts his or her job. With the advent of 360 degree survey feedback systems, employees enjoy an increased sense of control as they not only get reviewed, but have the ability to review themselves and at times their 360-degree-feedbackmanager and peers. Traditionally, the downward (manager-to-employee) assessments lagged the sincerity aspect of the assessment rendering it as a ‘judgment’ call. 360 degree feedback methods offer a more balanced perspective as more input is received from different feedback providers. This reduces a certain degree of tension. For instance, if an employee is grid-locked with his/her manager (creating a bias) the end results averaged and weighted by feedback from others will offset or diminish potential personal misjudgments.

360 Degree Feedback Review & Planning

The following will provide you with some guidelines of how best to plan, implement and evaluate your 360 degree feedback software system.

Plan Well Beforehand:

360 degree feedback systems are employee intensive ventures. When deciding whether a 360 degree survey approach is appropriate for your company be sure to plan well ahead. Answering the following questions will improve the end result.

Does the 360 degree feedback share sr. management support?

Senior management must believe in the process and better yet communicate this throughout the company so that employees gain trust and are able to perceive their efforts as constructive to the overall process.

Does the 360 Degree Feedback system enjoy credibility among employees?

Communication is often an important first step before deploying any feedback management system. Communicating the development, self-help factor and the pursuit of further personal and career development is both the interest of the employee and the company.

Conduct 360 Degree Feedback for the right reasons:

Avoid setting up feedback metrics programs to address bonus pay structures or employee dismissal strategies. The purpose of a 360 degree feedback system is to stimulate employee development, productivity and performance. Conducting a 360 degree survey for the wrong reasons will result in employees becoming disenchanted with the entire process and ultimately become weary of opening up to the organization.

Build Trust:

Allowing a third party provider to administer the system helps increase the trust level among employees. Outsourced vendors provide an unbiased perspective. For employees to fully embrace the process they must be able to confide in best practices, expertise and support from the vendor.

360 Degree Feedback Survey Software and Questionnaire Implementation

Describe one behavior in a question:

Avoid addressing three or even two behaviors in one question as it is entirely conceivable that the employee can score high in one behavior whilst scoring low in another.

Maintain Consistency:

Approaches vary on how to layout a survey. Will the survey form be related to the respective job,  group, department or company-wide or a combination? All have their advantages and disadvantages. The more specific you get the more difficult it will be to compile data across different levels, risking employees feeling disavowed with the process due to differentiating criteria. In our opinion, as we are observing ‘people traits’, a company-wide approach is often the recommended option.

If perhaps one survey form on a company-wide level is too broad, not taking issue with the specific competencies on different employee and management levels, in some cases it can be useful to make a distinction between management related roles compared to reporting roles. We often advise companies to conduct one or two forms and keeping them general enough to address common behavioral traits shared across your company culture, vision, mission and work expectations. Especially larger companies should consider retaining certain oversight with structured consistency.

Benchmark:

When considering any 360 degree feedback software system, consider benchmarking functionality. Any one survey taken in one moment’s time will provide you with a snapshot view while conducting them annually, results will provide you with comparative analysis of progress or issues not faced. In the long run this approach will provide much more tangible benefit.

Positive Question Formulation:

Formulate your question in a positive manner avoiding negative constructs. As administrator of the metrics program you are setting the tone. It is never productive to start negative from the outset. Having faith and trust in your company will render significant participatory results as opposed to starting off with a low morale tone survey.

Avoid Survey Overkill:

Keep you 360 degree review forms simple and short. Especially with 360 degree feedback systems which are quite labor intensive, you will want to keep employees engaged and not give reason to lose interest by the use of overloading surveys with too many questions. Always ask yourself ‘Is this question relevant to our company vision, mission, work ethic or work expectation, to what extent can I impact the behaviorial metric and what means are available to me to deliver the required impact?”

360 Degree Feedback Survey Evaluation & Continuation

Provide Follow-up:

Data collection is one thing, however if you don’t do anything with it employees will not reap the full-potential. 360 degree feedback reviews will provide you with a structured basis to illustrate and show employee performance challenges and performance strengths. Although a self-reflective report may, to a large extent, be self-helping as employees will want to correct certain deficiencies themselves, it is up to your development goal strategy to follow through on the continued success and talent development. It is important to consider vendors that show the top high scoring and top low scoring competencies per feedback group as these will provide each employee with the most urgent areas of focus to be addressed and the best areas to further excel in.

Use Common Sense:

The best gauge we always go by is using common sense and give yourself the time to think through what you want to accomplish. The answers will hopefully in most cases present themselves. If not it is advisable to engage your third party provider or consultant on how best to go about your deployment strategy. Make sure you find a good person within your team or on the board of directors to exchange ideas with and how you believe to impact your bottom line performance indicators through these tools.

Other Factors to Consider

When deciding on a survey feedback system, depending on your budget and company size and growth rate, consider a system that allows multiple surveys and survey types running at the same time so that you centralize your data collection instead of having multiple vendors your employees are required to get familiar with. Last but not least, use simple non-learning curve systems. At a minimum, see that process at work through screenshot demos.