Unlike traditional employee performance reviews which just share manager feedback, 360-degree reviews incorporate feedback from an individual’s team members, direct reports, cross-functional peers, and/or senior leaders. This review method aims to provide a more comprehensive assessment of employee job performance, and can be used to identify and direct employees’ personal and professional development.
But, in order to give efficient and helpful 360-degree feedback — and gain actionable information for your employee and valuable insights for your company — you must begin by asking the right questions.
Here’s a detailed look at what makes a good question for a 360-degree feedback survey and how to write your own survey questions — plus examples of the top questions you should be asking on your questionnaire.
There are a few ways to approach 360-degree review questions, but most companies opt for using a mix of both open and closed-ended questions, in order to provide both qualitative data and quantitative insights into an employee’s performance.
“We typically use a mix of hard-skill-related questions that are rated on a scale for quantitative feedback, and then some open-ended questions to capture qualitative feedback around soft skills,” said Megan Leasher, PhD, Chief Solutions Officer at Talent Plus, Inc., a human capital and talent management consulting firm.
Like Talent Plus, Inc., many businesses use a rating scale to measure employee performance. A popular method to use for 360-degree reviews is the Likert Scale, which has respondents indicate their level of agreement on a given statement by selecting a response from a list of answers ranging from “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree.” This can help quantify employee performance and improvement over time.
Regardless of what form your questions take, they should all be intentional and aim to solicit constructive feedback and actionable insights from raters. Remember, overly general or all-positive feedback won't do much good for employees; you want them to hear detailed reviews from their colleagues on how they can improve their performance.
“A good 360-degree review question helps the person receiving feedback know what action to take,” reminded Leasher. "For example, each question's answer should specify whether the respondent wants the [employee being reviewed] to stop, start, maintain, or replace a behavior. This feedback is critical to providing prescriptive guidance so the [employee being reviewed] knows exactly how to take action."
When you’re writing your 360-degree feedback questions, you need to keep your goal in mind. If you’re using a 360-degree review to evaluate employee performance, you’ll want to opt for a universal set of questions that apply to every employee at a specific job level or managerial role, so you can accurately rate employees, establish a performance benchmark, and compare competencies and skills.
On the other hand, if you’re using 360-degree feedback purely for employee development, you have the freedom to cater questions to each individual. For example, you might include questions on leadership, communication, and strategy for employees in leadership roles, while you might focus more on time management, collaboration, and technical skills for an individual contributor, since they aren’t responsible for leading a team. You can also tailor questions toward a specific employee's well-known strengths and weaknesses, but try to include other questions so both you and your employee can gain a comprehensive view of all aspects of their performance. This way you can both identify new growth opportunities of which you might not have previously been aware.
Still, every question should be specific, clear, and intentional. Your open-ended questions should not just lend themselves to “yes” or “no” replies. You need to ask raters to explain how or why they feel a certain way to collect more effective employee feedback.
Lastly, remember to keep your questionnaires long enough to collect actionable, helpful feedback, but short enough that your raters don't abandon the survey before completion. According to media buying agency Good Apple Digital's Chief Happiness Officer Elise Cangemi, SHRM-CP, “Managers should ask reviewers to complete between seven and 10 questions per review. Any fewer and you won't get enough feedback on the employee, and any more you start to see the quality of responses slip.”
Need help writing your own 360-degree review questionnaire? Check out our 360 Performance Review Template for questions you can use for peer, direct report, and manager reviews, as well as self-assessments. Additionally, we’ve compiled some key sample questions to get you started.
It helps to have a balance of quantifiable data for performance insight, and qualitative responses for additional context. For gathering quantifiable data, closed-ended questions work best. Using the following options — “strongly disagree,” “disagree,” “neutral,” “agree,” and “strongly agree” — have your respondents indicate their level agreement or disagreement with any of the following statements:
In order to elicit the qualitative information you’ll want to gather, it's important to include a number of questions that touch on an employee's strengths, as well as their areas for improvement. This can help managers ensure that each 360-degree review shares a balance of both positive and constructive feedback. It can also help your employees be more receptive to the results.
Here are a few open-ended 360-degree review questions you can use for your feedback questionnaire:
One of the biggest benefits of 360-degree reviews is that they enable managers and Human Resources teams to share more balanced, comprehensive, and constructive feedback with their employees. These reviews, when used in addition to traditional annual reviews, provide a more holistic picture of performance and can help your business identify and develop your organization’s future leaders.
Start taking a more holistic approach to employee performance and give individuals a better understanding of how their work is valued by your entire company. By incorporating the questions provided here into your 360-degree review process, you will be set up to conduct an efficient and successful review that is sure to deliver valuable information and insights for employees, managers, and your organization as a whole.