What exactly is 360 degree feedback?

What exactly is 360 degree feedback?

The world of management is increasingly becoming aware of the fact  that seeking and giving employee feedback on a regular basis is very important to increase employee engagement. Studies have shown that organisations who adopted continuous feedback have a higher rate of employee engagement & goal attainment as compared to those who practiced annual feedback.

In addition to the continuous feedback, majority of the large companies including Microsoft, Accenture, Adobe are replacing ‘manager to team member review’ by 360 degree feedback. The work environment has undergone a radical transformation. Continuous & 360 feedback are getting rid of the limitations that annual & manager only reviews offer.


But what exactly is 360 degree feedback that has benefited so many big companies?


360 degree employee feedback is a process that helps you companies collect key performance data points from an employee’s teammates, reporting managers, coworkers, and customers. It is so named because it solicits feedback from everyone who is connected directly (internally or externally) with the individual.

Typically, these individuals fill out an online feedback form (10-15 questions, sometimes anonymous) that are mostly close-ended questions with a 2 or 3 open ended ones.

Result of this exercise is – insights from all important perspectives, negating psychological biases that tend to make the process error prone.As a result, managers & employees themselves are able to get a comprehensive overview of their strengths and weaknesses. It helps them understand what areas they or their direct reports need to develop to increase productivity.

Benefits of 360 degree feedback

Provides larger scope for personal development:

Feedback received from the perspective of managers is quite different from that of a team member or even a customer. The employee gets a different perspective from all 3 (peers, manager, customers) against his own assessment and thus gets a much better idea of the areas he needs to improve upon.

Increases accountability:

Receiving feedback from so many sources should be seen as a blessing in disguise. When you know that there are multiple reviewers who will be giving you regular feedback, you automatically become accountable for your actions. No one wants a bad review.

An increase in employee accountability has proven to increase their desire to take initiative and come up with creative solutions to improve their performance.

Team development:

A team is only as strong as its weakest link. If the weak link i.e. the poor performer is identified and provided support to develop and increase his performance, not only will he benefit from it but so will his team.

If for some reason, the individual who is performing poorly is not willing to seek help, his performance will continue to slip. This in turn affects his team’s ability to reach their goals. In this case, if the manager is not able to identify the slacker, any member of the team can give feedback about him. The manager or the team leader can take the initiative and set the poor performers on the right path with a little assistance.

Anonymous feedback:

Employees are able to comfortably give anonymous feedback about their teammates. No one would outright say, “The lack of efforts by Employee A has been the reason for the team’s failure to deliver.”

Going anonymous helps them to share information they would have otherwise held back without being afraid of negative consequences. Managers too find this helpful as they are made aware of the situation and accordingly they can take measures to address the situation.

Understanding customer expectations:

Customers always seek value for money. When you seek feedback from your customers, you are providing them with an opportunity to express whether they are satisfied with your service or not. Customers share information about whether or not their expectations have been met. If yes, it’s a point in the employee’s favour, and if not then he can take efforts to understand how he can best satisfy the customer.

Some of the problems associated with 360 degree feedback are:

Irrelevant stakeholders:

In an attempt to seek feedback from everyone, even those are solicited who are not in direct contact with the employee. An individual from the same team could be working on another aspect of the project and hence would not have information about every other team mate. At times like these, it is incorrect to seek his feedback.

Time consuming:

Although 360 degree feedback provides a thorough feedback, it is quite time consuming. The cost of employee’s and manager’s time to respond to the results is often overlooked. This in itself can lead to decrease in their productivity. While giving feedback can be made mandatory in the organisation, the customer may not always have the time to do so.

However, if we go by the statistics, nearly all Fortune 1000 companies are already implementing 360 degree feedback while some are in the process of shifting shortly.

PepsiCo is one of the biggest companies that has adopted the practice of 360 degree feedback since the 1980s in their culture. This case study highlights the business impacts it has seen:

  • Increased participation and ease-of-use with integrated system
  • Leaders find it personally a valuable process for their development.
  • The group is embedding a consistent set of leadership behaviours across all markets.

When 360 degree feedback is implemented efficiently, it provides an honest and reliable feedback with complete confidentiality that is necessary to spur employee development.

What are your thoughts on the increasing adoption of 360 degree feedback across organisations?