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Use a 360-degree feedback questionnaire to help develop your team

A 360° feedback tool involves gathering anonymous feedback about an employee from the people that work closely with them. This includes direct reports (in the case of managers), peers and line managers, or maybe even clients. While traditional performance reviews involve discussing what the employee has achieved, 360° feedback questions will help you understand how they go about their work, how they behave in the office, and how they work with others.

Brits tend to find it difficult to blow their own trumpets. In fact, almost 1 in 5 London-based professionals feel awkward, shy, or scared of promoting their work achievements and career, meaning performance reviews can be challenging. By using a 360-degree feedback tool, you’ll rely less on your employees self-reporting on their areas of strength and weakness and on your line managers reporting what they remember or know of their employees’ performance—meaning your findings should be more accurate.

What’s more, both you and your employee are likely to learn a thing or two about how their colleagues perceive them. And since the questionnaires are completed anonymously, it will feel less awkward to provide feedback about colleagues.

Provided it’s approached constructively, this exercise can really help the person being reviewed improve the way they interact with others, their communication and ultimately, how well they perform their job.

Many of us in the UK have been raised to believe that talking yourself up is boasting and should be avoided. This can make the annual performance review an incredibly cringe-worthy experience. But incorporating a 360-degree feedback questionnaire into the review process can help sidestep some of these challenges by asking colleagues to sing your employees’ praises.

As it happens, colleagues are often more clued up on their strengths and weaknesses than the person themselves, meaning it can be quite revelatory. In fact, after Tesco implemented 360° reviews, they noted that participants “found it particularly insightful to see their strengths, development areas and perception gaps in one place”.

And because the 360-degree feedback tool looks at different aspects of how employees work and interact with others, it provides a more well-rounded view of them as an employee and team member, going beyond just what their line manager sees.

As humans, we’re programmed to care what others think of us. This means that this unfiltered feedback, providing insight on how others see a person’s attitudes and behaviour, is likely to motivate them to take action to enhance their strengths and work on areas of weakness.

The 360° feedback tool can also be used for managers. Traditionally, it’s uncommon to ask direct reports for feedback on their managers, which is surprising given how important it can be. After all, DDI research found that 57 percent of employees have left a job because of their manager.

One challenge is that employees can be worried about raising issues or providing honest feedback for fear of confrontation or an awkward working relationship. But because the feedback is anonymous, you can put their minds at ease.

360° feedback not only provides a more holistic view of how managers are perceived by the team they lead and how effectively they manage, but it could also help improve staff retention.

It’s important that 360° feedback surveys are seen as a development tool. This starts with those designing them, but also applies to those completing them and those receiving the feedback.

Those managing the review process need to understand it’s a basis for career development. 360-degree reviews should never be used on their own for deciding on promotions or raises. However, they work well used alongside other types of performance rating instruments to give a holistic view of the person being reviewed.

Those completing the survey need to understand that the goal is to discover strengths as well as weaknesses. While a 360-degree evaluation needs to be anonymous, setting clear expectations can help ensure it’s not used as an opportunity for nitpicking or unfair criticism of colleagues.

And finally, the person being reviewed needs to believe in the process. They need to be committed to seeing the results in a constructive manner and using the process as an opportunity to develop as a professional, and as a person. After all, it’s not every day that everyone’s attention is focused on them and their participation in the team. While many may squirm at the thought, our experience, and that of our customers, shows it can be a very valuable learning experience.

Since 360° reviews focus on behaviours, they can be especially helpful with creating the type of culture your organisation wants to have.

In their book The Art and Science of 360 Degree Feedback, Richard Lepsinger and Anntoinette D. Lucia recommend using them when a company wants to:

  • Promote culture change
  • Achieve a particular business strategy
  • Enhance individual and team effectiveness
  • Improve human resource management systems

360° reviews used to be a complex and expensive process, often involving external consultants and plenty of company time.

But technology and online surveys have made it easy to apply this effective tool to more members of your team. (These days, even a robot can get a performance review!)

As a result, this highly effective tool can be used more often and by more people to increase cooperation and collaboration in your team.

But they do require a certain amount of thought. For instance, if you want to create a 360° questionnaire to assess your company culture, you first need to identify the behaviours you want to encourage. You also need to set clear expectations among your team about the goal of the exercise.When it comes to putting your survey together, SurveyMonkey’s expert-certified 360-degree employee evaluation survey template provides sample evaluations for line managers, colleagues, and direct reports. You can tailor it for each employee you want to review and edit it to focus on your company’s wider goals and culture. Then send the survey via email invitation and analyse the results—all within SurveyMonkey.

Here are some top tips to take into account when creating your survey:

  • Keep it confidential so people feel free to tell the truth
  • Make sure managers are involved and committed to acting on the results
  • Give clear instructions that comments need to stay constructive
  • Have a plan for follow-up after the results are in
  • Have a plan for checking back on the follow-up to prevent this from becoming a one-off exercise

Have you thought about what questions you want to ask? Do you know how to write good survey questions to get the data you’re after?

Don’t worry, we have a few tips and sample questions to get you started:

  1. Keep your questions simple and specific
  2. Use clear and understandable language
  3. Make the survey short and sweet to avoid survey fatigue

The SurveyMonkey Question Bank has hundreds of great questions to use when  reviewing your employees’ performance, so it’s a great place to start. Just click on the Human Resources category to find them. Then customise your chosen questions to the specific needs of your team—including inserting the person’s name instead of “your coworker”.

When the next performance review season comes around, why not consider incorporating 360-degree feedback questionnaires into the process? Done well, they’re a great way of creating a positive working environment, fostering a company culture you’re proud of and helping your team develop and grow.

Want more tips for making a perfect survey every time? Download our free eGuide on writing surveys for real people rather than robots. Get the guide.

Human Resources Leader

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