How to Achieve the Results You Expect from a 360- Degree Feedback Instrument


How to Achieve the Results You Expect from a 360- Degree Feedback Instrument
Have you ever had the experience of receiving feedback from a 360-degree feedback assessment instrument?  What was your first response – Shock, Fear, Apprehension?

For most participants, this feedback can be quite unsettling because someone else’s perception may be totally different from how they see themselves. The first response is typically to find fault with the data. Next, denial sets in. If the feedback is a part of a performance management process, a realization might eventually occur that change is necessary to move forward within an organization. In most cases, however, a poorly handled 360 degree feedback process can lead to morale and performance issues.

Given the fact that an individual passes through many stages of acceptance of feedback, how a 360 degree feedback is implemented is critical to its success within an organization. Managers must handle a 360 degree feedback with great care and sensitivity to get the best results.

Why use a 360- degree feedback instrument? 

Feedback is very important for on-going development and improvement.  Successful companies ask for feedback continuously from the customer consistently to identify their expectations and perceptions of the products and services provided.  This feedback is then is tied to performance goals and objectives.

Individuals also need continuous feedback to determine how they can be more effective at achieving business results. The areas identified that need improving become the basis for future individual development and training.

When should you use a 360- degree feedback instrument? 

A 360 degree feedback can be used for performance improvement, career development, personal development, team development, training needs assessment, implementing change, and organizational development.

In all these instances, balanced and biased feedback with performance data from multiple points of reference gives clear evidence to the individual about what areas to improve and why.  The feedback also provides deeper insight into the gaps that exist between personal and other viewpoints.  Such feedback is powerful, reliable, accurate, and usually makes the biggest impact.

How to effectively introduce the 360- degree feedback instrument


  • Define the purpose and outcome of the 360 degree feedback.  How will the results benefit the individual and the business concerns, what are the goals of the project, and how the information will be communicated.  Make sure the shareholders and stakeholders are involved in the planning and implementation.
  • Tie the feedback to a specific business problem or goal.  Have a sound grasp of the business issue, and relate how the feedback will address the issue.
  • Ensure the criteria selected to be evaluated relates to business goals, performance goals, and critical competencies needed.
  • Define the appropriate use of the 360 degree feedbackEnsure managers don’t use it as a substitute for performance improvement tool.
  • Carefully review and select the criteria to be evaluated.  Construct questions or criteria related to your business issues. Eliminate non-related question items that might cause negative reactions.
  • Carefully define the rating criteria.  Ensure answers provide constructive feedback, not opportunities to send warnings, punish, or pay back the person being evaluated.
  • To maintain confidentiality and to ensure validity, an outside consultant is useful in tabulating and reporting the feedback rating and responses.
  • Conduct a pilot test to evaluate its effectiveness on the business unit and validity to the person being evaluated.
  • Communicate the process up front, invite participants to a meeting to explain the purpose of the feedback instrument and what will happen after the instrument is returned to the individual.  Explain the confidentiality to help people feel safe in providing anonymous feedback, and in receiving the feedback report.
  • Tie the feedback report to a debriefing session. Review the results in a private meeting with the individual.  Explain the findings and answer any questions before moving to the next step Give them time to debrief the results with you.
  • Provide a feedback report and developmental guide to the person being evaluated with guidelines for the next step.   Ensure the individual leaves feeling comfortable and secure.  Ask the individual to meet with his or her manager to discuss the next steps.

Some don’ts:

·         Don’t force a 360 assessment on people.

·         Don’t implement improperly to meet a goal or timeline.

·         Don’t discuss results with individual’s manager prior to reviewing results with the individual.

·         Don’t review feedback in a team session, prior to reviewing results with the individual.

·         Don’t use the process just once and then drop it.

·         Don’t plan on putting the report in the individual’s personnel file.

By introducing a 360- degree feedback instrument in a systematic manner, managers can achieve better results within the organization, have people have more faith in the system, and open up more. Also by tying its usage to business results, the 360- degree feedback becomes less personal and more geared towards improving productivity.

Assessing an Effective 360 ° Feedback Instrument

Evaluation CriteriaWeight
1.    What is the total cost for this instrument?
Instrument cost per person
Consulting Fees
Design Fees
Software Fees
Licensing Fees
2.    Is it automated? – Yes    or   No
3.    Does the purpose meet your requirements?
4.    Does it reach your intended audience?
5.    Is the instrument thoroughly tested for reliability and consistency?
Can measure performance criteria and provide a reliable answer?
6.  Is the instrument easy to use, straight forward and simple?  Is it practice to use?
7.  Is the instrument clearly focused on a particularly set of skills, competencies, or behaviors.How close will it meet the organization’s objectives?
8.    Does the instrument generate clear, detailed, and personalized feedback for the user?
Evaluation CriteriaWeight
9.    Can the instrument be used more than once per person?Does this reduce the cost per use?
10. How effectively does the instrument guarantee confidentiality?
11. Overall, how effectively will the results of the instrument meet your objectives?
12.  Can the vendor custom design the instrument?
13.  Can the vendor train you and your staff to plan, implement and debrief the instrument?
14.  Will the vendor provide on-site support during the pilot?
15. Other:
Total Overall Score

Author: Nancy Rehbine Zentis, PhD., CEO and Founder, Institute of Organization Development and can be reached at

Additional information: You can learn more about assessment instruments in our Organization Developmnent Certification Program (ODCP). To learn more or register for this Program, please click on the links below.



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