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Planning for a Successful 360 Feedback Program

Before you launch your 360 assessment program, there are some important steps you can take that will help your initiative succeed. Remember that the prospect of giving and getting feedback can be very threatening to some people. You should be mindful of this fact every step of the way and look for ways to help people feel comfortable with both giving and receiving feedback.

Communicate to the people who are receiving feedback:

It is essential that you educate the people being rated as to why they are being rated. If they are wary and do not trust your intentions, they can sabotage your initiative through their resistance to participate. If the 360 feedback program is developmental, tell them so. Let people know that they are not going to be fired, demoted, or penalized based on the results. The more information you can provide up-front, the more willing they will be to participate. Some important pieces of information to address include:

  • Why are you doing this?
  • Who will see the results? Will their boss see the results? Will HR?
  • How and when will the results be delivered?
  • Is participation mandatory?
  • How will respondents be chosen? Is the participant choosing them or is HR managing this?

Communicate to the people who are giving feedback:

Respondents are being asked to take time out of their busy days to fill out the survey. Some respondents will likely be asked to provide feedback on several of their coworkers. Let the respondents know how their answers will be used, who will see them, and why they are being asked to give feedback. Keep in mind that giving feedback can be threatening to respondents. Be sure to emphasize that all feedback they provide will be anonymous and confidential.

Solicit Senior Level Support:

Your initiative will be more successful if you have the vocal support of the leaders of your organization. Have them help you kick off your feedback program and make sure they communicate to all employees that this is something they consider important. An email message or announcement from the CEO or Business Unit leader is a good way to let employees know that your 360 feedback program has support at the highest levels.

Anonymity and Confidentiality

If people do not feel comfortable giving feedback, they may not be as candid or forthright in the feedback they give - or they may simply not participate. If people do not feel comfortable getting feedback, they may resist participating or be less open to the feedback they receive.

In order to get candid feedback and make sure people are comfortable receiving feedback, it is important that you convey to both participants and respondents that the 360 assessment is anonymous and confidential. This is often most effectively accomplished if a neutral third party conducts the surveys. Respondents will feel more comfortable giving honest feedback to a third party, and participants will feel more comfortable getting feedback from an outside source.

Planning and Logistical Considerations
Avoid Gridlock!

Keep in mind that for every person receiving feedback, several more people will be providing feedback. If a large number of people will be receiving 360 feedback, potential respondents can get quickly overwhelmed with requests to provide feedback. Consider the following suggestions to avoid this situation:

  • If you are conducting company-wide 360 feedback or feedback on a large number of employees in a particular part of your organization all at the same time, keep track of how many rating requests each person has received. A handful of people who are at natural inflection points in the organization will likely be asked to provide feedback to a large number of colleagues. Help these people manage the workload - e.g. tell them to focus on completing the most immediate or important feedback requests, and let them know that it is fine (even expected) to skip some of the other feedback requests.
  • Alternatively, roll out your program in phases horizontally across your organization. If possible, have only a small number of people in any particular workgroup or business unit go through the program at the same time. Most feedback requests will be sent to people in the same workgroup, so if a large number of people in the workgroup are asking for feedback at the same time, key people in that workgroup will likely be inundated with requests for feedback. As an added bonus, if you conduct feedback horizontally, starting at the top, those who are further down will be more familiar and comfortable with the process when it is their turn.

Timelines: Every request for feedback will include a date by which respondents need to reply. The ideal amount of time is anywhere from 10 to 14 days. If the time is shorter, people might not get to it before the deadline. If the time is longer, they will likely forget about it. Plan to send reminders a few days before the feedback deadline. If possible, you should also allow for a few extra days at the end for stragglers.

Response Modes: You should encourage respondents to provide feedback via the internet. This will save you the trouble of collecting and tabulating data yourself. But you can also offer respondents the option to fill out a paper version if they prefer. Some respondents may not have access to the internet or may find time to provide feedback when they are not in front of a computer (e.g. while traveling).

Thank Respondents: Once you are done collecting data, be sure to send a thank you message to respondents. Remind them of how their feedback will be used.