Best Practices for Your 360 Feedback Program

HR Leaders know that they need to help build better bosses. And most understand that in order to develop more effective leadership, those bosses need to hear and incorporate feedback on their performance from the people they lead, their peers, and their up-line managers. But all too often we see these feedback efforts fail due to a failure to plan and design an effective program. 

The most successful organizations use the following practices when creating their 360 feedback programs:

Connect to What Matters

Ensure the questions you ask are rooted in what matters most for your leaders. Too often, organizations ask 90+ competency-based questions on any topic they can think of, and that data becomes meaningless if your leader must be excellent at everything. The results also become less helpful when your competency or value is broken down into 7 different questions. 

If you have a leadership model, make sure these questions will help your managers develop the skills you need in your organization. However, keep the 360 feedback questionnaire simple and to the point. The right questions are the foundation to collecting 360 feedback the right way.

Include All Leaders

Traditionally, we reserve 360 feedback for our most senior leaders. But all employees - both leaders and individual contributors - need holistic feedback. By not limiting the participants, you will take a step towards building a culture of feedback.

Strive for Attributed Feedback

Anonymous feedback may feel "safer" at times, but a true culture of feedback is one where the feedback leads to honest and open discussion. Anonymous feedback is difficult to follow-up on due to lack of context and inability for the receiver to ask more questions of the provider. Without a clear understanding of the feedback being given, the receiver may not feel accountable to act on it or may not know how to.

By incorporating simple, attributed feedback cadences throughout the year, more constructive feedback can be discussed between the feedback giver and receiver.

Train on How to Give and Receive Feedback

Giving and receiving feedback in a professional capacity is not easy for most people, but with guidance and practice, it can become much easier and more natural. Support both your employees and managers with tips and best practices. Trainings or workshops can be extremely effective in setting expectations, developing a common vocabulary, and helping to build feedback skills.

Communicate the Program in Advance

Prepare your organization for your 360 feedback program by proactively communicating with key stakeholders. All employees should know the purpose, timing, and expectations that accompany a 360.  Remind employees you value their input and will use it to develop strong leaders in your organization.

State the Expectations

When you are implementing your 360 feedback program, you must ensure that the feedback is used for growth and development, not performance management. The easiest way to decouple the feedback from performance management is to collect 360 feedback at a different time of the year than performance evaluations and salary reviews. When you state the expectation that the feedback is for developing your managers, your employees are less likely to overinflate feedback to justify a rating.

Hold People Leaders Accountable to Follow-Up

Once expectations are set, it's critical to hold your people leaders accountable for their development. If you are going to take the time to collect the feedback, your people leaders must follow-up. 

Here are 3 simple ways in which your leaders can use the 360 feedback for development:

  • Schedule a 1-on-1 with their manager to discuss the feedback and look for areas of strength and opportunity.
  • Create a personal development goal based on the feedback that can be achieved in the next 90 days.
  • Encourage leaders to share high-level feedback with their team and thank them for sharing.

Giving and receiving feedback can be powerful for your managers and for improvement across the board in your organization. Set your program up for success by following these tips, and you'll be able to tap into a rich resource that's already available to you - the ideas, suggestions, and support of the people inside your organization!