Gathering employee feedback regarding performance and areas of improvement is vital for employee evaluation and the learning and development cycle. It helps the managerial team and employees understand areas of weakness and strengths and chart career growth.
One popular approach organizations use to gather this information is 360-degree feedback. With this method, a broader and balanced viewpoint emerges on what it is like to work with the employee being evaluated.
360-degree feedback or 360-degree evaluation is a method or process through which organizations gather feedback for employee evaluation. Here, the employees of an organization anonymously receive feedback from the people they closely work with, typically managers, colleagues, subordinates, and sometimes even customers. Typically, the 360-degree feedback process consists of a questionnaire that every rater, including the employee being evaluated, has to rate on a scale and add remarks and comments to support the rating.
The purpose of the 360-degree feedback method is to offer a holistic employee perspective. Every competency required for the role under consideration is tied to one or more statements in the survey. Thus, 360 feedback helps measure an employee’s readiness level on all the competencies required to succeed in that particular role. Also, it helps gauge the apparent strengths and weaknesses and the employees’ hidden ones. More importantly, anonymous feedback enables employees to get broader input without getting stuck in the intricacies of what and how each rater has rated them.
The 360-degree feedback process is important because it creates a bridge between individual developmental goals and the organization’s growth and vision. The purpose of the 360-degree feedback method is to enable every employee to gauge themselves from others’ perspectives, uncovering strengths and weaknesses that can help them succeed in the organizational context. Furthermore, 360 feedback evaluates employees beyond their performance and focuses on their behavioral competencies and aptitude, augmenting the mechanism’s importance.
The 360-degree feedback method is an excellent developmental tool as it helps identify training needs and improvement areas. It gives employees insights into how developing specific competencies and skills can help them excel at their jobs.
The feedback collated from the manager, co-workers and others, with a comprehensive competency-based questionnaire, carefully presents the strengths as well as the gaps in an employee’s abilities. Moreover, the 360-degree review process can motivate employees to develop and achieve their training goals continually.
360-degree feedback assessment also helps determine team or group development needs, which can alleviate an organization’s collective performance. It is an effective way to gauge training needs and encourage employees to work on them with individual development plans.
Identifying an organization’s most valuable employees is often a challenge. The 360-degree feedback process, owing to its full view of an employee from multiple hierarchies and vantage points- supervisor, subordinates, peers, and customers- can help organizations find their high-potential employees. The evaluation aids in identifying the obvious competencies required to succeed in an advanced role, such as effective decision-making, strategic problem-solving, risk-taking appetite, result orientation, propensity to lead, adaptability, agility, etc.
360-degree feedback method is also used as a performance appraisal tool. It captures feedback from various perspectives and lends enhanced objectivity to the appraisal process because a single point of feedback may lead to subjectivity and bias.
Active involvement of the employee is another notable upside of using 360-degree feedback for performance appraisals. Every rater in the process shares an equal weightage rather than the manager’s feedback and ratings, getting more importance, making the process fair and equitable.
The 360-degree feedback process is carried out in three core steps:
The first step involves deciding who will participate in the survey. All those directly impacted by or related to the employee’s work should be involved in the 360-degree feedback process. Usually, the employee, i.e., the feedback seeker, along with the HR or their manager, chooses a balanced panel of raters.
Often, the following people or a subset of them are involved in the process:
Once the raters are agreed upon, survey designing starts. While organizations can create custom survey questions depending on their needs, it is advised that they use a web-based application, such as Mercer | Mettl’s 360-degree feedback tool. The tool simplifies the process as companies can choose from a library of pre-built 360 feedback templates developed by experts. Further, Mercer | Mettl allows organizations to create fully customized feedback templates aligned with organizational requirements, with questions designed to assess targeted groups and focused competencies.
The next step is to roll out the survey. This involves asking the selected panel of raters to answer the questionnaire. However, a low completion rate is a critical challenge that organizations face when administering this step manually.
Companies can overcome this challenge by employing Mercer | Mettl’s 360-degree feedback tool. With its easy-to-use interface and features, the tool is designed to enhance the survey completion rate. Mercer | Mettl’s 360View allows organizations to quickly add all the participants – employees and raters – in bulk.
The tool also allows personalized and automated emails to be sent to different stakeholders, with scheduled reminders and follow-ups to increase participation and streamline the process. Furthermore, the single dashboard allows for tracking the status of all respondents, adding more participants, sending ad-hoc reminders, downloading reports, and much more.
The final step of 360-degree feedback is collecting and analyzing all the results at individual, role, and department levels to create actionable developmental plans. As this is the most critical part of the 360-feedback process, organizations must have a team or reach out to well-qualified psychometricians to create reports with actionable insights.
A good 360-degree feedback report should have a detailed competency summary, open-ended feedback, a personal development plan, and offer powerful customizations.
With Mercer | Mettl’s 360View, organizations can automate this step and get auto graded and customizable reports, significantly increasing the efficiency of the process and making it more objective and seamless. Further, the tool has an additional feature known as ‘group analytics,’ through which organizations can gauge the relationship shared among various people from different departments, geographical locations, experience levels, etc.
A well-rounded and accurate employee evaluation method is critical for organizational and employee growth. The 360-degree feedback method provides a fuller picture, helping organizations and managers understand their employees’ strengths and weaknesses and create a development plan aligned with the organizational goals.
Originally published December 24 2018, Updated January 2 2024
Vaishali has been working as a content creator at Mercer | Mettl since 2022. Her deep understanding and hands-on experience in curating content for education and B2B companies help her find innovative solutions for key business content requirements. She uses her expertise, creative writing style, and industry knowledge to improve brand communications.
360 degree feedback is a method of collecting anonymous feedback about an employee from multiple sources - manager, peers, subordinates - for appraisals and organizational planning. 360 degree feedback empowers organizations to make better people decisions.