How to develop 360-degree feedback from slow seller to successful model

360-degree feedback is an excellent tool for personnel and organizational development. However, my experience from working with a provider of 360-degree feedback, for example, is that hardly anyone does it voluntarily. In this article, I will discuss why this is the case, whether 360-degree feedback should be made mandatory and how 360-degree feedback can be established on a broad basis in the company.

The benefits of 360-degree feedback

A 360-degree feedback accepted in the organization has many positive effects for the company:

  • It promotes a constructive and appreciative feedback culture and is therefore a central component in the organizational and cultural development of a company.
  • It supports the personal and professional development of the feedback recipients and the praise in the feedback motivates.
  • It contributes to the achievement of the company’s goals and strategies by motivating employees to increase their performance, exploit their potential, and adapt to change.
  • It strengthens communication, collaboration and understanding between the feedback givers and the feedback recipients through the all-encompassing 360-degree perspective.
  • It improves the quality and effectiveness of teamwork by clarifying and making transparent roles, expectations, and performance standards.
  • In addition, it is often possible to uncover and improve weaknesses in processes in follow-up workshops.
  • It increases customer satisfaction and retention just by incorporating the customer’s perspective. In addition, the feedback is a basis for optimising customer orientation, service and internal collaboration.

Why 360-degree feedback is a slow seller

The benefits for companies and employees are impressive. Anyone who engages in 360-degree feedback faces personal feedback on their own customer orientation, teamwork, or leadership. Criticism of one’s own behavior is particularly feared. From a neuroscientific point of view, feedback touches on basic human needs and therefore triggers reservations or fears.

If, for example, one argues with David Rock’s SCARF model[1], all essential basic human needs can be negatively affected by feedback – endangering one’s own status, additional uncertainty about the future, restriction of co-creation, endangering the bond in the team and fear of unfair treatment. The 360-degree feedback has a particular potential for fear here, as the „concentrated“ feedback comes from several perspectives and depending on the rules of the game in the company, the results do not remain private, but in some cases even flow into the results of performance management. Many companies therefore take the path of offering 360-degree feedback completely voluntarily only for personal reflection and development. However, experience shows that this is little used.

In view of the low voluntary use, I can well understand the voices that make 360-degree feedback mandatory in the company, e.g. for managers. However, an obligation on sensitive topics is always critical for me. That’s why I rely on voluntarism out of conviction, motivating framework conditions and leadership by example.

Success factors for introducing 360-degree feedback

My recommendations for the rollout and regulatory process address the above concerns: 

  • Board of Directors/Management first
    Top management has a special role model function here. Walk the talk. And if, for example, the board of directors as a team is the first to participate and report on their experiences, this has a positive impact on the organization.

  • Role clarification: HR in the lead
    HR is the process owner for the introduction of 360-degree feedback. This is where the know-how for personnel, organizational and cultural development lies.

  • Introduce it as an organizational development tool
    Introduce 360-degree feedback as a building block for the further development of customer centricity, improvement of collaboration and as a strategy for lifelong learning in the company. As a result, the 360-degree feedback is conveyed with a higher sense of purpose and the personal willingness to accept feedback is increased.
  • Involve
    Involve managers and employees in the strategy development for 360-degree feedback, creation of the questionnaires, and the roll-out project.
  • Communicate intensively – it´s a change project
    The introduction of 360-degree feedback has many elements of a change project. Align your communication accordingly. For example, explain in advance exactly why you are introducing 360-degree feedback and what the framework conditions are. Embrace storytelling by sharing your experiences with 360-degree feedback, starting with the board. In doing so, also address fears and explain the chosen implementation design.
  • Results remain private
    If the results remain in the sovereignty of the feedback recipients, the highest fear hurdles are removed, because the control over the results and how to deal with them remain the responsibility of the feedback recipients. This also means that the feedback recipients select and invite their feedback providers. Who gave feedback and how also remains anonymous.
  • No impact on performance management results
    If the results remain private, this also precludes them from being considered in performance management. In addition, you prevent deals from being made between the participants – e.g. we judge each other well (everything has already been experienced).
  • Follow-up measures for personal development
    An important point is the offer to process the results. Especially for negative feedback, which often comes as a surprise and must be processed first. Companies that support their executives, for example, have a significantly higher acceptance of the model. In addition, there is a need for a „catalogue“ of suitable training courses so that personnel development measures can be implemented quickly. It is also helpful if a company offers mentoring and coaching, as many improvement measures are on a personal level, which can be developed especially through mentoring and coaching. This also includes workshops in which the results are discussed in the team and improvement measures are agreed upon, which are carried out by HR or purchased.
  • Not a flash in the pan
    Make it clear from the outset that 360-degree feedback will become a permanent building block of your organizational development.
  • Get started and learn quickly
    360-degree feedback is a development tool. After a good preparation, start quickly and introduce feedback loops that will help you improve the process to 360-degree feedback.
  • Process support
    Actually, a low-brainer: 360-degree feedback needs software support. Outsourcing the entire process to an external service provider also increases the participants‘ confidence that the anonymity of their own results is guaranteed.

Introduced in this way, the 360-degree feedback can also become the engine of your organizational development on a voluntary basis. What do you think of these recommendations?

[1] [1] Here, for example, well explained

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