What is 360-Degree Feedback?

360-degree feedback: a holistic approach to employee development

Articles » What is 360-Degree Feedback?

360-degree feedback reviews provide employees with professional, anonymous feedback from the people that work closely with them. Whereas traditional performance reviews typically only include feedback from managers, 360-degree feedback provides a more well-rounded view of employee behaviors by soliciting the ratings and comments of additional sources. Usually, this includes an employee's manager, peers, direct reports. However, increasingly, vendors, clients and other business partners are asked to provide feedback. Today, no professional development program is considered complete without a 360-degree feedback review.

The Structure of a 360-Degree Review

The first step in conducting a 360-degree feedback review is the definition of the competencies and questions that will be used to evaluate employee behaviors. With the EchoSpan tool, project administrators can leverage the built-in competency library to construct reviews quickly and easily. Or, for customers that already have defined their own competency models, our tool allows quick import and editing capability for any outside review content.

Typically, the feedback review consists of 40-60 rated items broken into 5-10 competency areas and is completed by around a dozen coworkers. Though some questions may be directed at certain respondents groups exclusively (i.e. managers), most of the time all respondents answer the same set of questions. Respondents are also encouraged to provide written, qualitative feedback along with their ratings. Their responses are kept anonymous and usually are only shared with the person receiving the feedback. Anonymity is usually not extended to the managerial rater since it is considered his or her job to provide an employee feedback, and, there usually only one of them for each feedback recipient. A self-evaluation is also commonly included in the feedback process with the self-evaluator answering the same questions about his or her performance as the other raters do.

Selection of Raters

Once review content has been defined, the next step in the process is to identify the Raters that will be providing feedback to reviewees. Usually, reviewees (or Targets) select their own Raters. With EchoSpan, Targets can select their own Raters via an online portal. Those Raters can then be automatically approved for feedback, or, depending on the administrator's preference, can require Raters be reviewed and approved by a supervisor prior to feedback.

If the Rater lists for Targets is already known, or self-selection of Raters by Targets is not desired, Raters can be added to the tool by the administrator, either using a bulk-upload from Excel, entered one at a time, or directly inserted via a HRIS connection.

After Rater lists have been defined for each feedback recipient, the process of providing ratings and commentary begins.


Once respondents have completed their ratings and written feedback, the EchoSpan feedback system automatically generates a full-color, PDF report containing aggregated results. Special features in the reports can prevent a single respondent's ratings from being exposed, thereby protecting anonymity of raters.

Reports are then usually delivered to Targets as part of a developmental or debriefing conversation.

The feedback received through this process helps managers and employees better understand areas of strength and weakness. Though traditionally used as a professional development tool, 360-degree feedback reviews are increasingly being used to augment or replace the traditional performance appraisal process. However, careful steps should be taken when using a 360-degree review in place of a performance appraisal to ensure that ratings remain fair, are not inflated and that employees trust the system to retain their anonymity.

With the EchoSpan tool, the entire 360-degree feedback process is conducted online using a secure and simple Web application. Review projects can be created, deployed and reports generated with a few clicks. To learn more about the specific features of the EchoSpan system, please click here.

Last updated: Friday, January 29, 2016
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