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About 360 Degree Feedback

You have heard the term '360 degree feedback' but what is it all about?  Find the answers to all the questions you had on 360 degree feedback here.


What is 360 degree feedback?

Put simply, 360 feedback is the process of obtaining feedback on your performance from a variety of sources, at various levels, in your organisation. Feedback is generally requested from subordinates, peers and managers or superiors and combined with a self-assessment to give a rounded and comprehensive review of performance. It is sometimes called multi-rater feedback.


Traditional feedback is from a manager to their direct report. A manager may obtain the views of other staff members, generally more senior staff, but it is received via the manager. Upward feedback is the process of getting feedback from your subordinates and this does add another dimension to traditional feedback, but it still follows the vertical lines in the organisational hierarchy.


360 degree feedback adds another dimension to traditional feedback, adding the views of people's peer group and other colleagues who they come into contact with, but who are not closely connected in the organisational structure. 360 degree feedback can also encompass feedback from outside the organisation, from clients or customers, suppliers or other stakeholders.


A 360 feedback questionnaire asks each respondent the same set of questions about the person's performance. Many 360 feedback questionnaires are based around a set of competencies or behaviours and the questions are structured around how well the person demonstrates these. Questionnaires generally include questions where the person is rated on a scale, and free text answers where the respondent can leave comments. Most 360 degree feedback is anonymous, so responses are collated into a single report to be fed back to the pers

How is 360 degree feedback used?

There are two main uses for 360 feedback, which can be used separately or together.


Firstly it is used as part of staff appraisals, to gain feedback on where a staff member has performed well or could improve their performance. 360 degree feedback is particularly useful for staff appraisal in complex organisations with a matrix like structure, where reporting lines are not always clear or where a manager does not have a lot of direct contact with the staff member. It gives a much more rounded view of the person's performance than would be gained from manger assessment alone.


Often staff appraisals are used to determine bonus awards or promotion prospects and therefore a more comprehensive view leads to a fairer and unbiased allocation of bonus awards. A 360 view of performance may highlight qualities in a person that are not immediately apparent to their manager.


As a performance appraisal tool, a 360 generally assesses people against a list of competencies or behaviours and therefore does not include an assessment of a person's performance against their personal objectives. This should be done separately, and although feedback can be used to assess an individual's attitude to meeting some of their goals, it is subjective – based on the opinions of the raters – so objective goals, such as meeting sales targets, completing projects by given deadlines or cost control, should also be reviewed.


The second use is as part of a learning and development programme, where the candidate's performance is assessed at the start of the programme to see where they can make improvements. Performance is often assessed again at the end of a development programme to show improvements made and highlight further areas for development.


An example of this is a leadership training programme where a manager undergoes a programme of several months, to learn leadership skills, understand the concept of 'leadership' (compared to 'management'), and develop their leadership style. Or a sales training programme where candidates improve their sales skills, first assessing where there is room for improvement, e.g. presentation skills, or closing the deal, and then undergoing tailored training to address those development needs.


Getting feedback from a variety of different sources is extremely important for learning and development, as people very rarely have a completely accurate view of the way they come across to different groups. Regular feedback allows for, and supports, continuous improvement

Why use 360?

So why should you use 360 degree feedback, instead of traditional manager to direct report feedback? Getting feedback from a number of different people at different levels around the organisation has many advantages:

  • It gives a comprehensive review of performance from all angles leaving participants with a better, more rounded idea of their strengths and weaknesses.
  • The feedback cannot be coloured or skewed by any one individual, for example if an employee does not see eye to eye with their manager, the manager may treat them more harshly, or feedback may be coloured by personal disagreements.
  • Traditional feedback is top down, whereas 360 feedback gives junior members of staff the ability to add their comments.
  • Most 360 feedback is anonymous, so reviewers can give feedback without fearing any backlash for negative comments provided.
  • 360 degree feedback incorporates the views of peers, who may be closer to the individual than a line manger, and therefore able to provide valuable insight into their attitudes to work.
  • It can incorporate the views of people in the organisation who are not closely connected in the organisational structure, e.g. a finance person can receive feedback from an engineer as they work together on some projects but are in completely different areas of the business.
  • Where the manager does not have a great deal of direct contact with their direct report, 360 degree feedback can obtain feedback from the people who are closest to the employee being assessed.
  • Customer feedback and the views of other stakeholders, such as non-executive directors, external consultants or suppliers, can also be incorporated.


If you have any questions regarding 360 degree feedback, or to set up your own 360 degree feedback programme, please contact us on This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .