Employee Feedback

What Is 360-Degree Feedback?

June 1, 2023
September 7, 2023
  —  
By 
Lyssa Test
Lattice Team

While it may feel like your human resources team is the driving force behind most performance and development processes within your organization, this responsibility should be spread across the entire organization. When you build a culture of continuous feedback, every individual within your business plays a crucial role in employee performance and growth. 

This is particularly apparent with 360-degree feedback. Managers, teammates, colleagues, and clients can share ongoing feedback that helps employees understand their strengths and identify areas in need of improvement. In this post, we share what 360-degree feedback is, how it can benefit your organization, its pros and cons, and tips for introducing this employee feedback system within your business. 

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What Is 360-Degree Feedback?

Traditionally, an employee’s manager is their source of feedback. Unfortunately, relying on a single individual to evaluate an employee’s performance and shape growth opportunities can leave the process susceptible to bias

To mitigate these effects, 360-degree reviews collect feedback from multiple different perspectives, typically an individual's teammates, colleagues, and even clients in addition to their manager. This process can be a part of your formal performance review cycle or your company’s approach to ongoing feedback. However you choose to incorporate it into your workplace, a 360-degree feedback system can supply employees with more fair, tactical, and well-rounded feedback they can use to improve communication, collaboration, and workplace interactions with other colleagues. 

Compared to the traditional feedback system, 360-degree feedback has more far-reaching benefits and can have a favorable impact on many parties, including the following:

  • The employee: Through self-evaluation, the reviewee stands to benefit from learning their strengths and identifying areas they can act on to improve immediately. This can help boost employee engagement and motivation by giving the individual a clear understanding of what they need to do to reach their short- and long-term career goals
  • Their peers: Colleagues benefit when the individual takes their feedback to heart, grows their skills, and becomes a better teammate. 
  • Their manager: 360-degree feedback can help managers develop a deeper understanding of their direct reports’ overall performance, current competencies, and key growth areas. This information can then be used to create a holistic employee development plan for the individual being reviewed.
  • The clients: By participating in this feedback exchange, customers can give the employee a better idea of what they’re doing well and the areas in which they can improve, which can lead to a better experience for the client and their business.

Who Is Involved in 360-Degree Feedback? 

360-degree feedback can be employed in your company’s formal performance review process or its approach to ongoing feedback. However you choose to leverage it for your business, the basics remain the same. You’ll have three (sometimes four) main sources of feedback: employees, managers, peers, and clients. Here’s a more detailed look at the role each of these stakeholders plays in this unique feedback system. 

Employees

There are two ways employees can be involved in the 360-degree feedback process: through their self-evaluation and by sharing upward feedback with a manager. Self-evaluations are usually the first step in the 360-degree feedback model and have employees reflect on their performance, strengths, and areas of opportunity. This promotes self-awareness by encouraging the employee to think critically about their past performance and future development. It also can aid managers who can use the employee’s self-assessment to see where their own report aligns or deviates from the employee’s.

Of course, good feedback goes both ways. Employees are often a key source of feedback during upward reviews like manager or skip-level evaluations, as well. By sharing their unique points of view, employees can help their managers become better people leaders and coaches. 

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Managers

While managers are key participants in traditional feedback models, they also play a large role in 360-degree feedback. Following an employee's self-assessment, managers fill out their own feedback form covering many of the same areas: employee strengths, key wins, areas for improvement, and the degree to which they accomplished their goals. 

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Peers

Peer feedback is an essential element of 360-degree feedback. While managers typically have a general understanding of an employee’s overall performance, teammates and cross-functional colleagues that work directly with the individual can often share more actionable feedback with the reviewee. When the employee listens to and implements this feedback, they can help boost workplace communication, improve collaboration and teamwork, and build stronger work relationships

Hospitality technology company Olo experienced the benefits of peer feedback first-hand using Lattice. “While adding peer feedback to our reviews gave our employees a new muscle to learn and exercise, it allowed our managers to ultimately get more holistic feedback about their individual team members, and therefore, better inform their review for each employee,” said the company’s director of learning and development, Kyle Teague.

Another benefit of peer feedback is that it introduces more diverse perspectives to the performance review process, which helps ensure each individual is evaluated fairly and without bias. Check out our peer performance review template for a better understanding of how you can help employees offer praise and constructive criticism to their peers.

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External Partners

While rare, sometimes businesses choose to collect feedback from external partners like customers or vendors. This is typically reserved for employees whose work revolves around these external stakeholders, like a customer success manager or implementation specialist. Since the employees work with these parties closely, it can be helpful for them to learn what’s working and what can be improved to strengthen their partnership and continue providing exceptional service to their clients. 

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While we’ve only included open-ended questions in this section, feel free to include questions that use a rating scale like the Likert scale, which asks respondents to indicate the degree to which they agree with a given statement. Plus, check out Lattice’s 360 performance review template for even more sample questions you can use to start collecting more effective feedback. 

Pros and Cons of 360-Degree Feedback

360-degree feedback might serve some organizations better than others. Here’s a closer look at the benefits and shortcomings of 360-degree feedback. Once you weigh the pros and cons, you can more easily determine whether this feedback program works for your business. 

The Pros of Using 360-Degree Feedback

  • 360-degree feedback can improve working relationships. Because peer and external partner feedback can be so granular, getting constructive criticism from those parties can help employees become better teammates and cross-functional colleagues. The employee can hear first-hand what their colleagues think is working and what’s not so they can make immediate changes that will be felt by those with whom they work most closely.
  • 360-degree feedback helps identify professional development needs. Multi-rater feedback helps create visibility around common themes that can help an employee identify areas of focus for their growth and development. Using this information, the employee and their manager can create a personal development plan to help the individual start working toward their short-term and larger career goals. 
  • 360-degree feedback makes employee development a year-round priority. Some companies solely use 360-degree feedback during annual reviews, but it can and should be used year-round to promote employee growth. Leveraging this feedback mechanism throughout the year allows your employees to collect opinions of their work as it happens so they can make real-time adjustments. A continuous feedback cycle can give your employees and your business a serious competitive edge. 
  • 360-degree feedback improves employee motivation. Most employees want to know how they can improve, grow their careers, and become better colleagues. Continuous 360-degree feedback gives them the criticism and praise they crave and the guidance to turn these insights into action.

The Cons of Collecting 360-Degree Feedback

  • Overly negative feedback can upset employees. While not unique to 360-degree feedback, employees who receive too much negative feedback can become disheartened, especially when they know it's coming from those they work with every day. 
  • Collecting 360-degree feedback can be time-consuming. One downside of collecting 360-degree feedback is that it can be a lengthy process when done formally. Employees need to select the peers they want to hear from, request their feedback, and then create an action plan based on their insights.

    Even with the longer timeline, 360-degree feedback has many benefits that make it worth the wait. Luckily, a tool like Lattice Feedback can help streamline this process and make it easy to give and receive feedback to teammates, peers, and even managers all through the platform. No pen and paper or rogue Google Docs needed. 
  • Raters might not feel comfortable sharing their honest feedback. Many peers and external stakeholders might be reluctant to share their true feelings and thoughts about the reviewee as they don’t want to jeopardize their relationship with that individual. For this reason, the feedback might skew more complimentary than constructive. To mitigate this occurrence, your business should train all employees on how to give constructive feedback before beginning this initiative. Your organization should also strive to build a culture of feedback where employees embrace advice from their peers and view feedback as a development tool to help them grow personally and professionally. 

Tips for Implementing 360-Degree Feedback

Before you introduce 360-degree feedback at your company, there are a few best practices you might benefit from knowing. Here are four tips that can help your company build a culture of feedback that inspires lasting behavioral change and makes employee growth a top priority: 

1. Make it easy.

As mentioned earlier, collecting 360-degree feedback can be a time-consuming task. Luckily, technology can help expedite this process and make it easy for all participants to share their perspectives and submit their thoughts. A 360-degree feedback tool like Lattice Performance can streamline things by allowing your business to integrate 360-degree feedback directly into employees’ daily workflows via communication tools you already use (like Slack). Employees don’t even have to wait for a formal review cycle to share feedback with their colleagues; Lattice allows them to share or request feedback any day of the year, allowing for continuous growth and self-reflection outside of formal conversations. 

2. Train employees on how to give effective feedback. 

Feedback is most valuable when it’s constructive. Be sure to train your employees on how to give and receive feedback, including choosing the right scenario in which to share it and ensuring advice is detailed and actionable. Vague, poorly timed, and non-constructive feedback can often do more harm than good by creating confusion around priorities or failing to share clear next steps. Encourage employees to be specific and constructive in their feedback. This means focusing on behaviors and actions, rather than personal characteristics. It also means being specific about what the employee can do to improve.

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In the above example, the first statement is vague and provides no future-focused behaviors Tiffany can implement to improve her performance. By contrast, the second statement highlights one of Tiffany’s strengths while clearly providing a detailed action plan Tiffany can follow to become a better teammate. This type of feedback inspires lasting behavioral change and helps employees grow into better teammates. 

3. Make feedback a regular part of team meetings or one-on-ones. 

In order to build a culture of feedback, your business needs to carve out ongoing, dedicated time to giving and receiving feedback. Bringing up feedback once a year during performance conversations just isn’t enough. In fact, Gallup research found that employees whose managers provide daily feedback are 3.6 times more likely to strongly agree that they are motivated to do outstanding work than employees who receive annual feedback.

To help, encourage your manager to create team rituals and habits for feedback sharing, whether that's in weekly one-on-ones or a part of team meetings. Feedback doesn’t have to be given every week, but creating space for it and getting in the habit of asking for it can keep growth top of mind and build a culture where employees are constantly sharing advice with colleagues and working to improve their own performance. 

Feedback shouldn’t be shared once and never touched again. You’ll also want to encourage your managers to follow up on past feedback and ask how employees are incorporating this advice into their day-to-day work. Even better, have your employees create individual development plans following your performance reviews so they have a clear vision and understanding of how they can improve their work today to achieve their larger career goals tomorrow. 

4. Tie feedback to your company values. 

Using Lattice Feedback and Lattice Praise, companies can ask employees to connect their feedback to a company value. This not only aids employee development but also helps to underscore the importance of your company values and motivate employees to embody them every day. Mental health and wellness company Twill saw the impact this can have on the prevalence of employee values immediately after launching the feature in Lattice. “When we use Lattice for praise or for feedback, we make sure that that’s tied to our values,” said Pam Farago Morris, Twill’s former director of talent development. “So the values don’t just live in a silo. They really do come out, and they showcase who we are as a company and who we want to be.”

Giving and receiving feedback takes skill. Employees need to know how and when to deliver feedback to ensure it lands correctly with their intended audience and has their desired effect, as well as how to request and respond to advice from colleagues. With proper training, your business can create a culture that embraces continuous feedback and promotes growth year-round.

Wondering how your team can become feedback champions? Check out our workbook How to Request, Give, and Receive Feedback to access tools that can help you ensure your workforce can give and receive impactful, effective feedback. 

Key Takeaways

  • 360-degree feedback may include perspectives from employees, managers, peers, direct reports, or even customers.
  • Relying on a single individual to evaluate an performance can leave the process susceptible to bias.
  • "Feedback cultures" carve out ongoing, dedicated time for exchanging feedback.

Sample Self-Evaluation Questions:

  • What 2-3 strengths did you exhibit in the performance period that most helped you be successful? Give examples of how these strengths had a positive impact on the team.
  • What challenges, if any, did you encounter during this performance period? How did they impact your performance?

360-Degree Feedback Questions to Ask Managers:

  • What are 2-3 things this person can start or stop doing in order to be more effective or successful?
  • What are 1-3 things this person should continue doing?

Peer Feedback Example Questions:

  • What do you think is the most valuable contribution this person has made to the company in the performance period?
  • What are 2-3 things this person could have done differently in the performance period to be more effective?

Example 360-Degree Feedback Questions for Partners:

  • What are three or four words you would use to describe this individual?
  • What’s an area you’d like to see this person improve?

Example of ineffective feedback:

Tiffany talks in meetings too much.

Example of effective feedback:

Tiffany has great things to say in team meetings and never shies away from sharing what’s on her mind. That said, in the last few weeks, she has often spoken over her colleagues in meetings. She should make an effort to listen to her colleagues more and ensure everyone on the team has the opportunity to share their point of view in meetings.