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Best practices for 360 degree feedback

Posted by Chad O'Connor  July 10, 2013 11:00 AM

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Retaining talent is a critical factor for many organizations in today’s competitive market. Employee engagement requires investment in your people and their development. One common tool used in employee development plans is a 360-degree feedback process, in which employees receive confidential, anonymous and structured feedback from manager(s), peers, direct reports, internal and external clients as well as other appropriate stakeholders.

Purpose and Overview:

  • Gain different perspectives regarding behaviors, performance, strengths and areas for enhancement
  • Variety of formats including multi-rater surveys, questionnaires, one-on-one interviews and/or a mix of these options
  • Must align with an organization’s culture and supported by senior leadership
  • Link to clear objectives for achieving business goals, departmental goals and individual goals
  • The individual must have ownership of the process rather than imposed upon them
  • Should always be associated with development and/or as a supplement to performance management
  • Collaborative partnership between the individual and their manager as well as other individuals who may be involved such as Human Resources and/or an Executive Coach
  • Outcome should include an action plan that the individual has initiated and a development plan for which they are committed to achieving

Manager’s Role – Tips for Success:

  • Complete training in order to fully understand 360-degree feedback process and your role as manager/leader
  • Be clear about purpose and objectives with a focus on development
  • Keep it aligned with organizational culture and functional goals as well as individual’s goals
  • Work with Human Resources to select tools, resources and formats that are well matched with objectives and will assess required competencies as appropriate
  • Create an atmosphere of trust, respecting confidentiality required to maintain integrity
  • Allow individuals to try new approaches and behaviors to leverage strengths and enhance areas of development
  • Establish a safe environment of learning for growth and development

Individual’s Role – Tips for Success:

  • Be open to receiving feedback, increasing self awareness and truly engaging in the feedback process; understand objectives to be achieved and ask questions if unclear
  • Select participants who will provide honest, valuable and constructive insights from a variety of perspectives
  • Get comfortable being uncomfortable, receiving feedback can be difficult at times so allow yourself to grow and learn
  • Leverage your strengths to enhance areas needing growth and development
  • Embrace feedback as the reality of perceptions
  • Create and commit to a development/action plan with ‘SMART’ goals (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely)
  • View this as an on-going process rather than an event
  • Thank everyone who participated
  • Keep an open dialogue regarding your growth and on-going learning and development

A 360-degree feedback process is an investment by the organization in our growth and on-going development. According to the Center for Creative Leadership some of the outcomes one can expect may be:

  • Increased awareness of managers performance/work-related behaviors

  • Increased awareness of co-workers expectations of managers

  • A greater alignment of performance expectations between managers and others

  • Improved informal communication and feedback

  • Improved performance
  • All of these are compelling reasons for organizations, managers, leaders, and individuals to be open to the 360-degree feedback process and embrace it as an effective career development tool. Even if you don’t have a formal process in place, take the time to ask for feedback, be open to receiving it and be generous offering it to others with whom you work. In the end, it can yield better results and improved performance and growth by all.

    Ask Rita…
    Question: As part of my development plan, my manager has suggested I participate in a 360-Degree Feedback process. I am a little reluctant to do so and am concerned about the intent and outcome since I have never participated in one before. Is this something that could hurt my career?

    Answer: On the contrary, the fact that your manager is invested in your development will benefit your career. Believe it or not, participating in a 360-degree feedback process is quite empowering. Give it some thought and select the right mix of individuals who will give you honest and valuable feedback. Their insights will help you highlight your strengths to be leveraged and identify areas to be further enhanced for growth. It will be an enlightening experience. Be prepared for a good deal of personal reflection and constructive input that will allow you create a plan for advancement. Although it may seem a little frightening, challenge yourself to embrace the process as a key learning tool for your personal and professional development. Enjoy the journey!

    If you have a question for Rita to answer in this column, please email

    Rita Balian Allen is the President of Rita B. Allen Associates a provider of career management/talent management consulting and executive coaching services with specialty areas in leadership development, management training and career development. She is also a Lecturer and adjunct faculty member at Northeastern University and Bentley University.

    This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
    The author is solely responsible for the content.

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