7 Conditions to Ensure 360-Degree Feedback Success

September 21, 2015 by Sandra Mashihi

“If you can’t be a good example, then you’ll just have to serve as a horrible warning.”

-Catherine Aird

Generally, 360-degree feedback processes, in order to be effective, depend on the participant, the coach, and organizational factors to support the receptivity, acceptance, and leveraging of feedback for enhanced insight and behavior change.  When the organizational culture is conducive to giving and receiving feedback and not under some major change effort, the implementation of a 360-degree feedback intervention is most likely to be met with success that is consistent with its goals (Nowack, 2005; 2009).

The following are the necessary conditions that organizations, coaches, and users of the 360 should consider before utilizing the tool:

  1. Define and communicate purpose of the 360-degree feedback. It is imperative that 360 participants, raters, and those involved have a clear understanding about the purpose, process, and the limits of confidentiality and anonymity.
  2. Provide individual coaching to assist in interpreting and using the 360-degree feedback results. Coaching the participants through interpreting the feedback results can provide clarity, minimize assumptions, minimize defensiveness, and increase motivation to move forward with a development process. In one of the few empirical studies recently conducted on the impact of executive coaching, Smither, London, Flautt, Vargas, and Kucine (2003) reported that, after receiving 360-degree feedback, individuals who worked with a coach were significantly more likely to set measurable and specific goals and solicit ideas for improvement, and subsequently they received improved performance ratings.In addition, Olivero, Bane, and Kopelman (1997) found that feedback and coaching for two months increased productivity over the effects of a managerial training program (80.0% vs. 22.4%) for 31 participants.
  3. Hold the participant and manager accountable to create and implement a professional development plan. All too often, participants receive their feedback and managers feel that they have completed their duty in investing in their employee’s development. However, receiving feedback and reviewing a 360-degree feedback report is just the first step. It takes both the participant and his or her manager to collaborate and agree upon a development plan. If they don’t, misunderstanding will arise, the participant will be less likely to be held accountable for development, and the manager will assume no responsibility for his or her employee’s progress.
  4. Track and monitor progress on the completion of the development plan. In order to a participant to actually commit to deliberate practice that enable behavioral change, he or she would need to be held accountable and tracked on their progress.
  5. Link the 360-degree feedback intervention to a human resources performance management process. A 360-degree feedback can be a great compliment to a performance management process. While the 360 is not a replacement for assessing performance, it can provide managers and participants with insights about their strengths and development areas in order to assist in performance management practices and increase motivation to commit to a development plan.
  6. Use 360-degree feedback assessments with sound psychometric properties. It is important to utilize a tool that has reliable psychometrics to ensure accuracy of results. For instance a psychometrically sound tool generally has a sufficient number of question with minimal rater fatigue effects, response labels that minimizes leniency effects (negative skewness, low variability), number of response categories with reliability (e.g. 4-7 point scales have the optimum internal consistency reliability (Lozano et. al, 2008), and appropriate rating scales.
  7. Target competencies for 360-degree feedback interventions that are related to strategic business needs. When you ensure that target competencies for 360-degree feedback are related to the business needs you are creating a unified developmental process. For example, managers may need to enhance the critical competencies for competitive performance, based on feedback from multiple internal and external stakeholders. Or, the organizational hierarchy may have become rigid and 360-degree feedback is a way to develop a different culture that emphasizes continuous feedback and improvement.

Coach’s Critique:

A great debate that comes up in practice has to do with whether or not 360-degree feedback systems work. While there are mixed reviews supporting and negating 360-degree feedback systems, consultants, coaches and users of the system are challenged whether to utilize the system, and/or how to utilize to achieve maximum results. In order for 360-degree feedback to be effective, it is dependent on various conditions (reviewed above). These conditions address many of the problematic issues users of 360s have had. In my personal experience as an Executive Coach, I have seen significant differences in the effectiveness of the tool when I incorporated ALL of the strategies mentioned above.

For instance, it is very common for organizations to utilize a 360-degree feedback system, and NEVER follow a development plan and course of action. This “diagnose and adios” approach does not serve the purpose of developing employees. Furthermore, I have seen many instances of participant’s managers not being enrolled in the development process, and neglecting to hold him or her accountable, which inevitably does not result in their behavioral change. As another example, many organizations purchase 360s for their employees without providing clarity about the purpose, process, and confidentiality limitations. The lack of clear communication about the tool can lead to diminished trust, inaccuracy in feedback results, and diminished motivation for development.

Therefore, in order to achieve a successful 360-degree process, it is ESSENTIAL to consider and ensure the 7 conditions are in place when utilizing the system.


What do you believe are the necessary conditions for 360-degree feedback success? What has been your experience with the success or failure of these conditions?

Dr. Sandra Mashihi is a senior consultant with Envisia Learning, Inc. She has extensive experience in sales training, behavioral assessments and executive coaching. Prior to working at Envisia Learning, Inc., She was an internal Organizational Development Consultant at Marcus & Millichap where she was responsible for initiatives within training & development and recruiting.. Sandra received her Bachelor’s of Science in Psychology from University of California, Los Angeles and received her Master of Science and Doctorate in Organizational Psychology from the California School of Professional Psychology.

Posted in 360 Degree Feedback

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  • Great Insight on a Executive Management initiative for getting the best return on luck on 360 degrees of feedback. thanks

  • Gerald Hannah, Ph.D

    Excellent guiding principles for using 360 assessments. In the first phase of coaching, I use pre-post 360 data with other data as part of the process for creating a development plan and measuring the coachee’s behavioral results within the 12-15th month of the development process.

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