The most effective 360 Degree feedback questions
What is 360 degree feedback?
For those unfamiliar with the term ‘360 degree feedback‘, it is the process in which individual employees receive confidential, anonymised feedback from those who work around them. This typically includes peers, managers and direct reports. 360 programmes are typically run through software solutions that make it simple to create and distribute assessments on both small and large scales throughout a company.
360 degree feedback assessments can be incredibly powerful, creating motivation and commitment for individuals to achieve behavioural transformation. Particularly useful across management levels, its flexibility as a development solution enables organisations to use it many ways to gather feedback on a myriad of subjects to help drive transformation in the business.
What is the purpose of a 360 assessment?
When aligned with your organisation’s developmental objectives, 360 feedback is an integral part of talent development, succession planning, leadership development and performance management. They offer a ‘holistic staff experience’  through enabling staff to evaluate not only their peers, but also their professional superiors. Through this, the business gains an insight into the individuals’ working style and how they fit into the team – and the long-term development goals of the business.
360 feedback provides organisations with valuable insight of their key performing employees and increases the self-awareness to build emotional intelligence in the individuals being assessed . With a greater self-awareness, employees can understand their strengths and weaknesses – and how to find opportunities to build on these. In doing so, the individual can understand how their emotions can impact others, and what they can do to control negative behaviours in order to aid their team’s success. It works similarly to performance reviews, but allows more junior staff to have their say, giving an understanding into the individual’s management style.
How can I achieve what I am looking for with 360 feedback questions?
To make the most of your 360 assessment, it is crucial to consider its purpose – why are you carrying out the assessment, and what are you looking to achieve?
The feedback questions you ask will be very different if you are informally considering development planning, compared to those that will need to be asked if the assessment is part of the selection for promotion . Similarly, 360 feedback questions can be used to gain feedback on company culture, or employee alignment to organisational values. In doing so, higher management can gain insight into the working processes within the company – and where, and how, they need to change.
For the most effective assessment, the competencies that form the basis of the 360 feedback questions should be quickly and easily configured to reflect your organisation’s requirements.
What type of questions should I use in my assessment?
The most effective assessments use open-ended questions as this encourages respondents to answer candidly with evidence. If you are using rank-based questions, it is worth having your scale as an even number – this prevents respondents answering ambivalently, as they are forced to provide an opinion with ‘Slightly agree’ or ‘Slightly disagree’ rather than ‘Not sure’.
Successful feedback questions will address inconsistencies in people management capabilities, and encourage the individual to change their negative behaviours and enhance their strengths. By involving stakeholders in the process, you provide employees with the ability to evaluate the impact.
Feedback question topics may include:
- Time management
- Relationship management
- Conflict management
- Personal efficiency
- Learning and development management
However, these are entirely dependent on the purpose of your assessment. CIPD recommends that questions are ‘short, clear and relevant to the person’s job’ 
For 360 degree software to be most successful, it should be possible to build unlimited tailored questionnaires, collecting both quantitative and qualitative anonymous responses. As such, you can tailor behaviour statements to your own organisational needs.
Based on the Johari’s Window model of feedback and insight, building your own scalar rating range will provide more potential for meaningful feedback. A successful assessment software will have an in-built reporting tool to generate insights into hidden strengths and blind spots of the individual. This will provide the individual with goals to work towards.
How will my feedback questions help me in the long term?
360 feedback questions can add a huge amount of value to any organisation’s diagnostic process for learning and development needs, enabling benchmarking and developmental calibration.
It can also be used as a ‘one-off’ intervention, particularly if a team undergoes restructure – in doing so, it can provide clear coaching and development goals to be agreed and tracked. It can also be used as an integrated solution within an overall leadership framework or performance management cycle.
Where is the proof that 360 feedback will make my organisation more successful?
Studies have shown that 52% of achieving organisations use skill diagnostic tools compared to only 26% of non-achievers  when making use of learning technologies. In doing so, they can develop an understanding of issues that their employees face, and where – or who – these issues stem from. It has long been said that people leave managers, not companies, and 360 assessments can ensure that your organisation is working with the best of leadership talent.
Company successes can prove the usefulness of 360 degree assessments. Following an implementation of a new 360 degree feedback software tool, for the first time in Eurostar’s history, 100% of senior managers completed their 360 reviews, reflecting a strong buy-in for the process. Eurostar was then able to examine key trends and use the insight gained to support learning need analysis and enhance professional development.
The Organisational Development Manager of Eurostar stated that implementing a 360 assessment has:
“enabled senior managers to overcome time constraints and complete the review process quickly and effectively... It is really easy to compare feedback for each individual and we are now able to provide very detailed and targeted feedback aligned with core competencies”
In implanting a slick 360 assessment online tool, organisations can reduce time spent on processes, with employees and managers overcoming this to complete the review process efficiently and subsequently begin to implement behavioural changes.
I want to gain a 360 insight into my organisation.
An effective assessment, combined with well thought out 360 feedback questions, can ensure the success of a stronger management team and therefore the success of an organisation’s achievements.
The real strength of an assessment lies in the power of anonymity. By asking peers to confidentially evaluate an individual, barriers are broken down in the collection of feedback to provide reliable and candid insight that would otherwise be hidden. This feedback can then be used to make smarter decisions in order to drive better outcomes for the business at greater speed.
By gaining insight from all angles, responsibility is placed on employees, empowering them to make a difference.
Want to know more about how 360 feedback can transform your organisation?
 Towards Maturity 2016-17 Learning Benchmark Report
 CIPD 360 degree feedback, 27 July 2017