How to win at 360 degree feedback

It's no secret that 360 degree feedback is a powerful tool that can drastically improve your employees' performance. In fact, some analysts estimate that up to 90 percent of Fortune 1000 companies use 360 degree feedback programs to create better employees and maximize returns.

But like with anything else, there is a wrong way to conduct a 360 degree feedback review. Eric Jackson of catalogs these pitfalls well in an article published last fall:

"When it’s done well, 360 programs allow all your team members to improve in key areas that might be limiting their upward career path or actually causing major conflict within a team. When it’s done poorly, 360 programs create mistrust, anger, conflict and can leave a team with lower morale than when you started the exercise."

As a 15 year veteran provider of 360 degree feedback services, CompleteSurvey understands these pitfalls and has unfortunately seen them happen to users who don't take appropriate steps when creating their multi-source assessment. In order to help survey developers avoid these mistake, we offer the following tips intended to ensure your 360 degree feedback program reaches its fullest potential as a means to enhance your workforce and create powerfully-productive employees.

1. Be specific.

All too often, 360 degree feedback administrators settle for vague, ambiguous survey questions that don't get to the heart of what is holding their employees back. Questions like "Is John a good communicator?" and "Does Sue follow through with her assignments?" may come standard on most surveys, but that doesn't mean they are helpful. Instead, utilize custom instrument builders (like the ones that come with CompleteSurvey’s Dynamic360) to create questions that hone in on what is important to your specific industry and organization. This will make your survey results all the more powerful and give your employees a clearer picture of where they fall short, what they do well, and how to maximize their productivity.

2. Assure confidentiality.

People are a company's biggest asset. In order to retain good people and maintain good relationships, trust and confidentiality must be assured--especially when it comes to 360 degree feedback results. So ensure your employees know for certain that their answers are anonymous, and that they will not be held responsible for any answers they give. Ideally, 360 degree data will be stored offsite to guarantee that your raters'  information and corresponding actionable reports are hidden from prying eyes.

3. Focus on strengths...not just weaknesses.

As helpful as it may be, even constructive criticism is never fun. 360 degree feedback surveys, though entirely anonymous, can be a morale-killer if not done right. So make sure you focus on both weaknesses and strengths when you create questions, assign raters, and review results. Of course, the goal is to help your employees pinpoint areas for improvement. But by showing them how they succeed and where their strengths lie, you empower them to build upon improvements they have already made and encourage them to be better at what they do best.

4. Follow-up!

It sounds obvious, but be sure to follow up your 360 degree feedback program with a practical plan of how to successfully move forward. Often times, companies will simply send survey results to their employees and expect that they have the tools and knowledge necessary to implement the proper changes. But years of experience creating, customizing, and administering 360 degree feedback surveys has shown us that organizations who follow-up their surveys with a specific plan consistently see better results than those that don't. Be proactive about working with your employees to show them how they can be more productive and increase their (and your) earning potential.