Feedback Process by 360 - Are you Prepared?

Feedback Process

A 360 profile is a multi-rater profile which includes anonymous feedback from a person’s manager, peers and direct reports if they have them.

Such mediums are an essential aid to growth and development. They enable participants to see themselves as others see them, reflect on that information and identify areas (strengths and/or improvement opportunities) to focus upon.

Having facilitated thousands of these, I am convinced that the surrounding “process” is arguably more important than the profile itself, hence the development of this article.

Most HR professionals have their favourite profile to use, so regardless of your own preferences, I will share some essentials on the process that I use to ensure the most successful outcome. So you can see this as a sort of ‘how to’ manual, regardless of which kind of profile you end up using. It covers the practical elements that need to be considered during the 360 profile preparation, facilitation, feedback, and implementation activities - you may also consider this useful information as a participant to the 360 process.

The Pre Feedback Session

Pre feedback preparation is a key component to achieve a successful outcome.

This can be in the form of a workshop or coaching one on one. The idea is to induct people into the process, ensuring that there will be no surprises later on.

The first step is to agree on who will see the results. Will the profile be for the subject’s eyes only? Can their manager receive a copy? What about HR? Agree upon who will have the final say regarding the selection of raters also. I prefer that the choice of raters is largely left at the discretion of the subject (perhaps with a quality check by their manager). The only exception to this is that the subject’s direct supervisor should always be included (as it is essential to know what our “boss” thinks).

The second task is to consider the value of the assessment from the subject’s point of view. Being the subject of 360 degree feedback can be an uncomfortable experience so we have a better chance of gaining buy in from the subject if we prepare them properly for the process. One needs to address the following:

- What will the assessment be used for? It helps to emphasise that the process is about personal development, not performance management.

- Which profile is most appropriate? Different rating mediums are available so talk through the options with the subject to ensure that they understand the differences.

- Overview the actual workshop or coaching process.

- Talk through the end goals. What can the subject expect to get out of it? What might an action plan look like at the end of it all?

Thirdly we must assemble the raters. Ask the subject to nominate the raters that they wish to be involved. Explain to them that all respondents will remain anonymous except for their supervisor. The subject should choose work based raters, whose opinion they respect and who know them well enough to provide suitable feedback, i.e., they work closely with or observe the subject regularly. Favour the selection of the maximum number of raters in order to secure a wide range of feedback. The object of this process is to secure a “collective” viewpoint and when the feedback is only populated by a very small number of contributors it can make it difficult for the subject to identify common themes.

The subject will need to notify each of the individuals that they choose to involve in this process prior to their participation. Specifically ask them to advise each of the raters that they will be asked to complete a questionnaire by a third party and advise them of who and how that will occur. They must also communicate clearly to each of the raters an absolute indemnity from any form of “post feedback prosecution” in order to encourage their most open and honest feedback. Explaining one’s genuine desire to use the 360 as a process for Personal Development is generally sufficient to secure a suitable commitment from the wider group of raters to do that.

Next the facilitator will need to send out the requests for each of the raters to complete the profile (ideally this is done using an automated web based process). Allow raters at least one week to respond and a further week for yourself to chase up any stragglers.

Monitor the completed questionnaires throughout. Checking completion is significantly easier if the evaluation is a web based application.

Finally, familiarise yourself completely with the profile’s results. Be aware if the subject has not scored particularly well and anticipate potential questions. Fully use the experience and expertise of the profile providers during this phase of the process if required.

Feeding back the 360 Profile

Once the profile has been produced, it is worth giving the subject an opportunity to read the profile in their own time before the feedback session. This allows participants to manage the emotions associated with receiving critical feedback. Monitor this phase carefully, as it is inappropriate to have subjects engage with their raters while their emotions are running high.

One way to facilitate this is to give the subject their profile the evening before the feedback session and ask them to read it once, let the feedback wash over them and then put it aside. Full analysis can then occur in a more objective fashion during the scheduled session the following day. It is important to reinforce that this is not the time to engage with raters – the prior reading time is for the subject’s consideration only.

The Debriefing Session

This is the most important part of the process, as it’s where the results will be discussed with the participant and put to use. Some suggested considerations to elaborate upon are as follows:

- If you use a Profile that is complex in its design and or concepts then invest some time in explaining those aspects. Ideally choose profiles that have good face validity as the facilitation can then focus on the results and not the medium. Make sure to collect and read as many resources as you think will be necessary to manage this process or draw upon the resources and support services of the profile provider to secure these prior to the session.

- In most cases the profiles will have outliers (people with abnormal or extreme points of view). The purpose of the 360 process is to gain the collective view, to seek and find themes, whether good or bad. Encourage the subject to focus on the collective view to reduce the chances of them taking any criticism personally and responding accordingly.

- Every profile puts its subject under the spotlight. This can be an uncomfortable place to be and it’s important to reiterate during the feedback session that the purpose of the 360 process is to take the participant on a journey to provide them with a way of understanding their personal strengths and identify areas for development that exist for them going forward.

- Advise the subject that there can sometimes be feedback that is surprising or even hard to take.

- When there is feedback that indicates high rating across all factors ask the subject to look for opportunities to raise the bar higher. There is always room for improvement and opportunities to further enhance their strengths.

- Reiterate that the profile is the personal property of the participant. The best approach is to encourage a ‘show and tell’ process where individuals are encouraged to share their learnings and intentions with others rather than show the profile results verbatim.

The final output of a session should be for participants to identify what their top 5 development actions are and how they plan to address these. Ideally areas of strength should also be included, as it is just as valid for participants to include actions to leverage their strengths in any development action plan. It is especially important to allow enough time within the process for participants to get to this point. When participants have clarity of what they need to do, that is a very empowering place to be. Only then will the subject be able to make a shift from the emotions of critical feedback to implementing their development actions.

Post Feedback Session

Building upon this, I always suggest that the subject thank their colleagues for the feedback and make an acknowledgement to their team or raters in the following fashion:

“Thank you for your feedback – it has been extremely helpful. As a result of this process here are some actions that I plan to initiate (then explain Action plan in detail).”

Within two weeks after the feedback session take the time to ensure that the action plans have been shared, refined and/or signed off by the participant’s manager. In many cases the action plans can then become part of an organisation’s “in-house” personal development process.

Three months later, consider prompting a team or individual review to check progress against these individual goals. Renew intent, refine actions and encourage further reviews of the action plan with their manager at the time of their next scheduled performance appraisal.

As indicated previously, based on the experiences that I have had related to me by those who have found the 360 feedback process to be stressful, negative or disempowering, I am convinced that the “process” is more important than the profile that is implemented. And I am equally confident that if the suggested steps above are followed carefully there is a much higher chance of a very successful 360 Profile outcome.


The benefits that can be derived from undertaking a 360 appraisal process are best summed up by a participant:

“I first underwent a 360 profile in the early stages of my Sales and General Management career. I continue to utilise what I learnt, in managing high performing teams to this day.

The 360 profile assists individuals to better understand themselves and how to best leverage that knowledge. We have all faced our own personal challenges or come across challenging individuals internally and externally. Here is a tool to help you better understand and deal with these challenging times.

360 profiles are great development tools and the facilitation process and onging support makes the experience personal and long term. This provided a foundation for my career.” Bruce Howe - General Manager, Nokia East Africa

Author: Peter Robinson - Senior Consultant Leadership Programmes, Team Leadership Services