The Power of Feedback: Pros and Cons of 360 Feedback

15 November 2022 | 5 Minute
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The Power of Feedback: Pros and Cons of 360 Feedback

There's no such thing as perfection, especially when creating and practising employee feedback reviews. Although reviews are an essential part of your performance management strategy,  like many parts of the workplace, there are pros and cons to different types of reviews. But the old days of annual appraisals without feedback or review for the rest of the year are diminishing, and 360-degree feedback may be viewed as an essential component of performance management.

Here we'll discuss what's so good about 360-degree performance reviews and areas where they may not be so effective.

 What is 360-Degree Feedback?

These reviews collect feedback from a variety of individuals in the workplace about an individual. Instead of a performance review simply being led by manager feedback about the person in a 360-degree review performance review, feedback is gathered from others across the business. Such individuals who provide feedback may be the individual’s peers or a team member. Or they may be someone who's been involved in a project with the person or a stakeholder at the senior management level.

By selecting who will give feedback on an employee, you will be able to see a rounded picture of the individual, and it's a way of gathering feedback from people who may have different input or perspectives than the individual’s manager.

The Advantages of 360-Degree Feedback

Increased scope - one of the key advantages of 360-degree feedback reviews is the scope of feedback they provide. They allow you to gain feedback from upwards or downwards and also across locations or different teams.

Personal development - by gaining a more comprehensive overview, you can work with the individual on professional or personal development needs. 360-degree feedback can help to identify areas for development so that individuals are clear about specific areas where they need to improve or enhance their skills. For example, if the feedback comes from several sources that the individual is lacking in presentation skills, then this would be a clear area for training or development.

You and the individual can create performance goals and timeframes for the development areas. This is really useful because an individual may be defensive about weak areas of their performance. However, by them gaining the same or similar feedback from various others, it will clarify that it's not just you saying the need for improvement or development.

Another factor comes into play here: it may be clear that an employee performs or behave differently with different individuals. So, for example, if a senior manager provides feedback that the employee is missing deadlines or not communicating effectively, but their direct reports think this is an area they are strong in, it may be that the individual is finding it difficult to step up to working with senior managers or they need some support in liaising with senior management or meeting their demands.

Performance confirmation - if you have any concerns about an individual or are unsure about their performance by gaining feedback from a variety of others, you will get either confirmation or different views.

Increased openness - giving feedback face-to-face can be tough. However, giving it in a 360-degree feedback survey may be less so. Therefore, individuals may feel more comfortable being honest and open with their feedback if it’s via a survey. An employee survey gives the individual time to consider what feedback they will give and allows them to write it down, so they’re happy with it. Face-to-face feedback can be influenced by nerves and lead to the wrong words or clumsy delivery, which may make for negative feedback.

Ability to revisit feedback - when someone receives face-to-face feedback from a manager or individual, it can be a lot to take in. Whether it’s positive feedback or focuses on areas for development, in the moment, it’s easy to forget what was said or only focus on the not-so-positive areas. However, 360-degree feedback can be taken away and reviewed later if required.

Reduced bias - there’s also less opportunity for manager bias if the feedback comes from many different individuals. For example, if an individual doesn’t have a great relationship with their manager, they may expect negative feedback. Or they may not believe the feedback because they may think it’s down to their relationship and not reflective of their actual behaviour or performance.

However, feedback from others will give a rounded review of the employee, and if they also pick out the issue/s the manager is concerned about, it shows that the issue exists and it’s not down to manager bias or anything personal.

Trust in feedback - feedback shouldn’t be something that employees fear, but often that’s precisely the case. So, to create a feedback culture where giving and receiving feedback is the norm, you need to ensure that feedback is taking place regularly. Feedback does not need to be negative. It can be incredibly valuable, and the more you give and receive it, the more normal and helpful it should become.

For example, at Netflix, they practice a continuous 360-degree employee feedback approach where feedback occurs on an ongoing basis. They don’t practice an annual feedback or appraisal review, but informal and continual, which becomes part of company culture.

Stronger managers - in theory, effective 360-degree employee feedback should not just benefit the employee but also be really helpful for managers. 

When employees provide feedback about their managers, they are giving insights that managers may not only need but may also not be aware of. Such upwards feedback is incredibly valuable and eye-opening and allows managers to identify weaknesses (and strengths) and improve development areas. It can also help them make better decisions and lead their teams more efficiently.

The Disadvantages of 360-Degree Feedback

Select the right people - if you want to gather effective feedback about someone, you need to ensure that you’re selecting the right people. For instance, if you ask someone who has barely worked with the employee for feedback, they may either not give enough or have to make it up! That’s just not authentic or helpful.

You also need to pick people the employee works with in various areas. So, don’t just pick team members or people on the same project, be diverse and select a mix of individuals across the business and at different levels in the organisation.

Completion can be time-consuming - long and repetitive feedback processes can put people off! Especially if someone receives many of them, they may decide they can’t be bothered to complete them or may put them off. So the feedback requirements need to be carefully planned, and the right questions and the number of questions selected to ensure that the competition rate is high and they don’t become viewed as annoying extra admin.

Collection can be time-consuming - it’s not just the completion time that can take time; it can also require a lot of time and effort to collect feedback from various individuals and collate it into input for one person. If it’s not done properly and the feedback doesn’t get back to the individual, it will be frustrating for those who completed it and for the person receiving it. 

This is why it’s beneficial to partner with a company that uses software to create the questions, sends them out and collates the responses to take the time and frustrations away from your organisation.

It's too extreme - feedback needs to be balanced, and question selection is vital. 360-degree feedback should not just focus on weaknesses but be a balance off positive and developmental areas.

It may not encourage trust - until individuals understand the positives of 360-degree feedback, they may see it as a way for individuals to criticise them or worry that others may be overly negative. In order to create a culture of trust, such feedback must be balanced, and organisations must show they are actually feeding back the feedback and not sitting on it.

Anonymous feedback may not be useful - if you choose to collect anonymous feedback from others, it may be a great way to highlight positives or areas of development. However, if you don’t know who said what, it may not help individuals to pinpoint what the feedback means. For example, if some of the feedback caused concerns, you couldn’t follow up if you don’t know who said it.

Like any internal organisational process, there are pros and cons to administering 360-degree feedback reviews. However, if they are planned and carried out correctly, the advantages may outweigh the disadvantages and provide rounded and helpful feedback for an individual and their manager.

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