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360-Degree Feedback Academic Overview

360 degree feedback

What is 360-degree feedback?

Companies using 360 degree feedback provide employees with a more accurate sense of their personal strengths and weaknesses. 360 degree feedback is a system that collects data on an employee to provide a comprehensive snapshot of their role within an organization; specifically data regarding an individual’s performance strengths and challenges. 360 degree solutions should therefore primarily focus on the behavioral ‘soft-criteria’ traits of performance on how an employee conducts his or her job.


With the advent of 360 degree survey feedback systems, employees enjoy an increased sense of control as they not only get reviewed, but have the ability to review themselves and at times their manager and peers. Traditionally, the downward (manager-to-employee) assessments lagged the sincerity aspect of the assessment rendering it as a ‘judgment’ call. 360 degree feedback methods offer a more balanced perspective as more input is received from different feedback providers. This reduces a certain degree of tension. For instance, if an employee is grid-locked with his/her manager (creating a bias) the end results averaged and weighted by feedback from others will offset or diminish potential personal misjudgments.

Ultimately the 360 degree feedback process is designed to increase productivity, understanding, and effectiveness in an organization. The goal is to increase self-awareness, as it is the “cornerstone to personal and professional development,” (Schipper, Hoffman, and Rotondo, 2007).

How it is done:

In 360-degree feedback, stakeholders evaluate an employee’s day-to-day activities through an anonymous survey as they are the ones most aware of their daily contribution. This feedback process is usually executed through a software application or online service that emails a personal login and a unique link to provide feedback.

360-degree feedback is also particularly advantageous because employees rate themselves on the same survey. The different peer ratings are then reflected against the subject’s self-evaluation which provides differential gap analysis. The gap analysis depicts strengths and weaknesses of the subject’s performance relative to how they are seen in the eyes of their peers, therefore helping to reveal the discrepancies between the employees’ understanding of performance and an organizational goal (Hattie and Timperley, 2007).

360-degree feedback gives an organization the ability to invest in the effectiveness of their employees and a realistic view of their skills measured against their self-perceptions (Fleenor et al., 2008). In many instances, even when an employee is aware of his or her own strengths and weaknesses, they might be oblivious as to how these actions affect their coworkers and the organization as a whole (McCauley et al., 1998). Coworkers care about providing honesty for performance issues because when a peer fails to execute their job well, others could likely face repercussions (Fleenor et al. 2008).

This full-circle perspective differs from most other feedback systems since it is not created from a single source and draws attention to which behaviours should be documented, strengthened, and modified. Once these discrepancies are revealed, they can be discussed and ideally improved to align more effectively with the company’s objectives. Regardless of one’s hierarchy in an organization, they have the potential to benefit from receiving 360-degree feedback. This gives management a chance to have their leadership evaluated in a representative manner and employees a performance evaluation they can perceive as accurate.


Generally speaking, a 360 feedback analysis is most effective with several intervals over a period of time since it supports progress. Once the data is collected, there are various ways to act upon the results. For each customer, the follow-up is different and varies in scope.

Some companies decide to use the tool as a self-reflection tool just for their employees to review. Others use the reports as conversational points for personal talks with HR. Some clients will even hire a specialized HR consultancy firm to set-out further guidelines to substantiate a personal development plan. The feedback platform can be used for a variety of purposes in both administrative and developmental realms, though research has shown it is most effective when its initial focus is centred on developmental purposes (Brett and Atwater, 2001).

The output of the collected data can be presented in various formats. At Vision Metrics, the standard reports generally consist of a PDF with bar graphs, star diagrams, and gauges.

A Generally Favorable Performance Review Strategy:

The mitigated bias through the anonymous nature and comprehensive view has led to favorability of 360-degree feedback systems and taken preference and credibility amongst most employees. There is a myriad of research studies that unequivocally prove that 360-degree feedback positively benefits organizations when used correctly. However, since this feedback system is still relatively new, there is still a lag in field research ensuring it is truly the most accurate approach to employee development. [Click here for more postings about how to best understand 360-degree feedback and execute implementation strategies]




Brett, J., & Atwater, L. (2001). 360-degree feedback: Accuracy, reactions and perceptions of usefulness. Journal of Applied Psychology, 86, 930-942.

Fleenor, J., Taylor, S., Chappelow, C. (2008). Leveraging the impact of 360-degree feedback. Center for Creative Leadership.

McCauley, C. D., Moxley, R. S., Van Velsor, E., (1998). The Handbook for Leadership Development, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. 439.

Shipper, F., Hoffman, R. C., Rotondo, D. M. (2007). Does the 360 Feedback Process Create Actionable Knowledge Equally Across Cultures? Academy of Management Learning & Education, 6(1), 33-50.


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