How to Use 360-Degree Feedback Surveys to Drive Productivity, Growth and Accountability
When higher-ups say "360-degree feedback surveys," some employees hear "fake anonymous trap," "time for layoffs and promotion," "snitch on co-workers," and the list goes on.
But, you'll notice employees don't hate feedback surveys themselves, but how organizations deliver and use or not use this feedback.
If done well, employees regard it as "the best feedback they've ever gotten."
Why is that? Because 360 feedback can be instrumental for career development.
So what are companies doing wrong?
Keep reading to learn how to conduct effective 360 feedback surveys for the company and employee development.
🔄 What is a 360-degree feedback survey?
360-degree feedback survey (multi-source assessment) is a surveying technique that solicits feedback on employees' (or leaders') performance from several sources: managers, peers, reports, and themselves.
These sources are called participants or reviewers.
In cases where the employee interacts with the public, you could also send a survey to clients, suppliers, contractors, or vendors.
The 360-degree feedback survey includes the questions you ask these participants and the mode of sending these questions to them, which could include:
- using PDFs,
- pen and paper form,
- a feedback software tool.
You can trace multi-source assessment surveys back to WWII when the German Military used them to assess their solider's performance. They considered the opinions of their supervisors, peers, and promotions.
Esso Research and Engineering Group (Exxon Mobil) was the first to use multi-source surveys to evaluate workers. After Esso saw increased productivity and employee growth, other companies began to embrace 360 surveys.
Today, more than 85% of Fortune 500 companies use multi-source assessments for their leadership development process.
🏆 What are the benefits of a 360-degree feedback survey?
Gives a complete overview
Traditionally employees only got feedback from supervisors or managers. But that doesn't give a complete picture of their performance and behavior because their supervisor isn't the only person they interact with. Neglecting the feedback from others like co-workers and customers, employees and their managers get an incomplete view of their work and behavior.
360-degree feedback surveys give employees and leaders complete information about their performance.
According to Gallup, 26% of employees strongly agree that feedback helps them perform better. They also perform 4.6x better when their voice is heard.
Honest and specific feedback gives employees an idea of how their peers perceive them, recognizes their overlooked strengths, and exposes blind spots.
Plus, when employees get constructive feedback from key participants, it helps them understand what they are doing wrong and what needs to change for their career growth.
Developmental 360 feedback reviews can also lead to employees creating new growth plans to improve themselves and their skills.
Enables more accountability
Companies can use 360-degree feedback to rate how well employees meet goals and job demands.
Knowing they're being rated would make employees more accountable for their performance and goal-meeting.
For example, companies like Facebook and Netflix use 360 reviews to ensure that people meet high-performance standards and that only the best people stick around.
🎥 Would you like to discover the ins and outs of Netflix's high-performance culture? You'll also find a step-by-step guide on running employee performance reviews like Netflix.
💬 Are you still conflicted over including ratings in your 360 feedback cycles? Then, check out why Facebook is not giving up on performance ratings just yet and how they calibrate their reviews.
Builds a healthy work culture
Communication is the bedrock of healthy relationships. It's the same with workplace culture.
According to Salesforce, employees who feel their voices matter are 4.6% likely to perform better in the workplace.
During the "Great Resignation," 57% of workers said feeling disrespected at work is among the top reasons for quitting their jobs.
Using feedback surveys to collect employees' voices and concerns would help you understand how your company's culture needs to improve and what you should keep doing.
🙅♂️ What shouldn't a 360-degree feedback survey be used for?
Although 360-degree feedback has its benefits, there are some things you should avoid:
- Don't use feedback surveys as a metric for layoffs and promotion. Use it as a development and learning tool.
- Avoid using only 360-degree feedback surveys as your only feedback method. Use pulse surveys, 1:1s, and other feedback methods based on company culture.
- Avoid using spreadsheets. Invest in a 360 feedback software tool to collect qualitative insights with ease.
- Avoid using feedback for only employees. Leaders, managers, and executives should receive feedback as well.
💡Check out our tips and examples to give executives constructive feedback.
⚒️ How to create a 360-degree feedback survey in 6 steps
Step 1: Set clear goals
Before conducting your survey, set specific goals. The goals should connect to the core values of your company. Goals could be:
- Improving work culture
- Better employee-customer relationships
- Reducing late delivery etc.
If your goal is to improve work culture, you ask questions about your company's culture.
Step 2: Select the reviewees and raters
Reviewee or focus is the employee or leader under review.
Raters or reviewers are employees, superiors, peers, and managers in the organization who give feedback.
Tip #1: Select raters who work directly with the focus: the manager, a peer, customers, clients, etc.
Tip #2: For best results, raters' identities should be anonymous.
Step 3: Prepare the participants
Preparation aims to communicate the process's importance to both the focus and raters.
Tip #3: Explain to the raters the purpose of 360 feedback.
Tip #4: Encourage all participants to give honest, empathic, and work-specific feedback.
Tip #5: Give raters an idea of the time commitment (typically 30-60 minutes).
Tip #6: Communicate to the reviewee that the reviewer is not an enemy and that they should pay attention to weaknesses and improve on them.
Step 4: Choose the questions
After choosing participants, select your questions. Depending on the people you're sending the survey to — peers, managers, customers, etc. — your questions can be open or close-ended (more on this later).
Surveys can involve several questions, including evaluating communication, interpersonal, problem-solving, or motivation skills.
Tip #7: Keep your questions short and straightforward, and keep close-ended questions to a minimum.
💡 Check out 44 sample 360 questions for leadership to evaluate your managers and discover emerging leaders.
Step 5: Create the survey
Sending spreadsheets back and forth to people, managers, and peers is a laborious, time-consuming, and ineffective process of gathering feedback.
So, technology is needed to keep the feedback system simple and efficient.
Tip #8: With technology like Zavvy, you can automate the process and save time.
Zavvy is a fully customizable feedback system that allows you to set up a company-wide feedback system for upward, downward, peers, or self.
Step 6: Create a post-review action plan
Before using a feedback system, establishing a plan for how you'll use the feedback for the goals you set in step 1 is important.
Tip #9: These action plans can be anything from training workshops to online skill courses and leadership programs.
For example, if your goal is to improve culture and you've asked questions on what employees like and do not like about certain work cultures, take the feedback and use it.
On the other hand, if your goal is to improve workforce performance, ask questions about the employee's work ethic, weaknesses, and strengths. Then use the data to enhance their development plan.
Tip #10: Teach employees how to answer and fill out surveys empathetically while remaining truthful.
"No harsh words, be kind, and put yourself in the shoes of the rater should be top of mind when filling out surveys."
Tip #11: Proper training will ensure a positive and productive feedback culture.
❓19 Questions to include in your 360-Degree Feedback Survey
Survey questions can be divided into two: open-ended and closed-ended questions.
1. Open-ended questions
Open-ended questions allow reviewers to reveal their thought processes and provide more detailed information about certain behavior or performance of the focus.
- How could the reviewee best improve their communication skills? Do you have any concrete recommendations?
- What's the one thing, if done correctly, that will strengthen your trust in the team member's ability to perform their job?
- How well does this employee collaborate with others within your team?
- Do you feel the employee understands how their actions impact colleagues? If so, how?
Tip #1: Be strategic with what open-ended questions you include, as it takes more time to answer them.
2. Close-ended questions
Close-ended questions are typical yes/no questions or a score as part of a rating system.
They're more structured and provide less room for interpretation.
This style is also better for quickly gathering large amounts of data for analysis.
If there's a need for yes/no questions in your employee feedback survey, try adding a section that allows reviewers to explain the reason for each choice.
- Do you feel the reviewee has a positive impact on your team?
- Have they ever led any critical projects in your team?
- Are you likely to recommend them to make crucial decisions for your team?
- Have they been instrumental to your personal growth?
- What would be the score if you were to score their leadership skills?
Tip #2: Ask more rating closed-ended questions than yes/no because yes/no questions give a myopic view of the topic you're focusing on.
There are tons of questions to include in your 360-degree feedback.
We rounded up five focus themes.
Company culture and organizational alignment
- Does this employee treat you (and other team members) with respect?
- Does the employee live the company values daily?
- Does the employee appear to be motivated by their job?
- Is the employee motivated to share their work with others independently?
- Does the employee create a sense of partnership when working with others?
- In your opinion, does the employee respect the opinion of other team members?
- Does the employee create opportunities for discussion and dialogue?
- Does this employee listen well to others' suggestions?
- How often does the employee meet project deadlines?
- Does the employee exceed expectations with their work?
💡 For self-evaluation-focused questions, check out this collection of 75 self-review questions.
📝 Simple, ready-to-use 360 feedback survey templates
To make things easier, we have created not one but two ready-to-use and completely customizable templates.
The first is a Google form, which you can make a copy of and customize immediately.
The second one you can use directly on Zavvy. (You can play with it as part of our 14-day free trial).
This template is a fully configured 360-degree feedback cycle. You only need to choose participants (i.e., reviewees), and you're good to go.
Check out a preview of our 360 feedback cycle template.
You can use both templates for:
- ⬆️ Upward feedback: From direct reports to their managers.
- ⬇️ Downward feedback: From managers to their direct reports.
- 👥 Peer feedback: From one colleague to another.
- ↩️ Self-feedback: Reflecting on oneself.
📊 How to use the 360-degree survey results?
You can use 360 feedback surveys for both developmental and evaluation purposes.
You must consider your people's performance and developmental plans to use surveys successfully.
1. Make sure your people consider each feedback as a step towards development.
Sometimes it isn't easy to accept feedback, especially in areas we consider ourselves competent.
Tip: Ensure that your workforce embraces a growth mindset and is open to putting in the work to develop their competencies.
2. Encourage employees to examine their performance independently or with a peer and reflect on their strengths and weaknesses.
Each employee should ask themselves these questions:
- Which strengths are most important for success in my company?
- Do people have a different perspective on what my strengths and weaknesses are?
- Which weaknesses are stunting my growth?
- Which competencies are important for continued success in my company?
- What do I consider strengths, weaknesses, and mid-range skills,
3. You can also analyze survey results as part of development conversations.
Tip #1: Work with your employees to relate the insights from the feedback survey to their development plans.
Tip #2: Set 2 - 3 development goals.
You can encourage employees:
- Adopt strategies to work around their weaknesses.
- Help them identify a strength to capitalize on and become better at.
- Choose a mid-range strength to improve on etc.
Tip #3: Consider having a trained coach walk your leaders through the results to see how they can improve their leadership skills.
Tip #4: You can also share what you've learned from your 360 surveys and what you plan to do based on their feedback.
Tip #5: You can also encourage employees to pick an accountability partner(s) to keep them grounded in their development journey.
🧰 Tools to make your 360 feedback process easier
Google forms is a 100% free product for anyone with a Google account. You can use it to build as many surveys as you need, ask as many questions as you want, and collect responses from as many raters—all without paying a dime.
However, it doesn't give much wiggle room in terms of customization and design, especially brand-specific.
The best 360 feedback survey tool is tailored to your organization's needs, as there is no one-size-fits-all model.
Anything contrary to that, and you'll end up with bottlenecks.
Zavvy offers an intuitive, easy-to-use, and highly customizable 360-feedback tool.
Our tool empowers you to nurture a feedback culture that enhances performance and growth.
You can use the insights collected by your feedback surveys to inform training and development strategies.
➡️ Use Zavvy for better feedback cycles
Sending PDFs, survey forms, and spreadsheets back and forth takes time and gets messy.
It's also difficult to track the history of your feedback surveys to see the ROI using these methods.
But how can you reduce the time spent creating feedback and improve the historical tracking of your surveys? Zavvy.
Zavvy is an Employee Enablement platform. We have a feedback tool that automates, sends, and tracks feedback surveys.
You can also integrate the feedback tool with a development framework to use feedback for employee development and growth.
And that's the best way to get the most out of your 360 feedback surveys.
Sign up for a free 30 minutes demo to learn how to drive a culture of high performance in your organization.