TestGorilla LogoTestGorilla Logo

An HR professional’s guide to 360 degree feedback


Whether you’re an employee, a manager, or an HR professional, development is everything.

For staff, professional development helps to enhance skill sets and company closeness.

For HR managers, staff development programs boost employee retention and help you move talent cross-company when needed.

But what if your employees aren’t building on the skills you hired them for? Do they understand instructions, or do they need constant supervision?

Failure to develop staff properly leaves you with a revolving door of turnover and a dependency on hiring to fill your talent gaps.

If this sounds all too familiar, consider a 360 degree feedback system.

Using 360 feedback provides staff with unbiased, constructive criticism from multiple sources. Used effectively, it:

  • Helps build team cohesion

  • Addresses and improves power skills

  • Retains talent with genuine potential

  • Improves training efficiency and standards

Let’s look at how this system works in practice and where to start.

What is 360 degree feedback?

360 degree feedback is a tool that helps employees understand how others perceive their skills and abilities. A typical 360 degree performance review shows staff their strengths and weaknesses in the eyes of colleagues, managers, and sometimes customers.

It’s not a performance review. It’s a way for managers to assess how employees learn and fit within an organization’s internal mobility scheme. 

This feedback helps staff better realize their personal development goals, too.

Delivered anonymously, 360 review questions give users constructive insight into areas where they excel and where they need improvement. It’s typically a small part of a broader 360 assessment.

360 degree feedback vs. performance reviews

While 360 degree and performance review models appear similar, there are a few key distinctions:

360 degree feedback

Performance reviews

No fixed goals

Specific targets and checkpoints

Purely developmental

Occasionally competitive

Focus on power skills

Focus on technical skills

Completely anonymous

Direct and face-to-face

graphic showing lists of 360 degree feedback vs. performance reviews

Let’s expand on them.

Unlike performance reviews, a 360 assessment has no set goals. The idea behind the 360 feedback process is people always continue developing. However, many often refer to the model as a “360 performance review.”

Companies often make performance appraisals competitive, but 360 feedback is different because it is purely about helping employees upskill and develop.

The 360 degree feedback system doesn’t typically focus on technical skills. Instead, it revolves around power skills. These are highly desirable traits that are, at their core, “human.”

The 360 model is anonymous, leading to broader, more constructive, and more honest feedback. Employees are absent for feedback in the 360 review process, whereas performance appraisals occur face-to-face.

Performance feedback tools and 360 work well together since they cater to different purposes. However, the anonymous model should only ever be a development tool because there’s a risk of creating a culture of competition.

Who relies on 360 degree feedback?

Large companies with multiple opportunities for career development benefit from 360 feedback because they help to boost staff’s individual skill sets and the company’s internal mobility.

Most HR departments benefit from 360 review templates; they help new hires adapt to a new company’s culture, making them more likely to stay with the organization.

Additionally, 360 feedback inspires people to “be their best” and works well in an environment focused on being tenacious and disruptive within their industries.

Statistics show around 23% of employees want more feedback at work. The 360 model satisfies this by providing more insight than expected from a one-on-one.

HR professionals surveyed broadly agree that feedback tools positively impact employee motivation. It’s worth assessing if a 360 setup is the right fit for you.

An example of a 360 assessment

Typically, you might follow a short, four-step process to set up 360 feedback:

  1. Design a questionnaire

  2. Find and invite raters and recipients

  3. Collect feedback

  4. Deliver to recipients

However, here’s a more detailed 360 performance review template:

360 degree feedback process outline graphic

Now, let’s consider some questions you’ll find in 360 performance review examples.

A feedback survey may ask open-ended questions about a manager’s leadership skills:

  • “What support does X offer the team to help meet deadlines?” 

  • “Give an example of when X helped you go above and beyond to reach your goals.”

A questionnaire might measure feedback with closed-ended questions or multiple-choice answers. For example, raters grade statements on how effectively a recipient resolves conflict.

Here’s how it looks, with 360-degree review questions using an answer scale of one to five (one being “strongly disagree” and five being “strongly agree”):

  1. “X resolves conflicts quickly and with confidence” 

  2. “I feel at ease when X is managing conflict in the workplace” 

  3. “I rely on X to handle complex problems in a calm, critical way”

However, 360 degree feedback isn’t finite and has different forms in different firms. 

Let’s use Netflix as a case study. 

CEO and cofounder Reed Hastings initially opted to use written 360 reviews once a year in light of performance evaluations missing insights from team members.

Netflix’s model was to ask raters to describe what recipients need to stop, keep, and start doing – a three-category approach. HR used this system to measure responses fairly.

Over the years, Netflix has refined its approach into a verbal feedback system because this has proved more effective for the company. However, it initially found written 360 performance review questions to offer conclusive, thorough feedback for developmental purposes.

Why does 360 degree feedback work?

The primary thinking behind 360 degree feedback is it offers a balanced overview of employee strengths and weaknesses. 

The anonymity enables staff to benefit from unfiltered praise and criticism without bias.

Employees receive feedback from multiple viewpoints at different company levels. This concept helps to balance out an “average” snapshot of how they perform, helping them understand where they need to improve and where their strengths are most useful.

Also, 360 feedback helps staff shift their focus toward knowledge and skill gaps. For HR, the benefit is well-rounded employees – and in many cases, reliable leadership candidates.

The advantages of 360 degree feedback

Now that you have an overview of why 360 degree feedback works in principle, let’s look at how it works so well in practice.

It’s great for feedback variety

Feedback diversity provides insight from more than just one source. The more people and different perspectives involved in feedback, the more accurate average responses become.

Feedback variety reveals how people perform in different contexts, too. For example, how a manager perceives direct reports differs from how their peers perceive them. The same applies to HR, which sees employees from a top-down perspective.

Feedback variety guarantees insight quality. For example, if one supervisor gives little insight, other raters pick up the slack.

It’s ideal for developing leaders

As an HR professional, you must ensure your prospective leaders are well-respected and self-aware. 360 feedback models help build emotional intelligence and enhance self-awareness of strengths and weaknesses without bias.

Self-awareness helps leaders create positive working cultures, enabling them to think critically and remove themselves emotionally from situations.

Additionally, 360 systems help evaluate power skills (such as communication, empathy, and problem-solving) that are otherwise difficult to account for.

These are critical traits for effective leadership development. Insight from multiple sources at all levels of the organization, without bias, builds a bigger idea of what a potential leader is like to work with (and for).

It brings a team together

360 degree sessions help to build a continuous improvement culture, boosting peer support and team camaraderie.

Staff are always clear on how others perceive them. Accountability increases, encouraging colleagues to accommodate each other.

360 feedback further helps to create equal footing for employees. Everyone knows they have equal say and sway since feedback is anonymous and never measured.

As such, raters think carefully about the impact of their words, building toward a culture of mutual respect.

It reduces the risk of bias and discrimination

Anonymity allows raters to say what they feel without fear of reprimand. Up to 74% of employees feel more inclined to give feedback if they have this protection.

Although there is a risk of subjectivity without a filter, a multi-rater feedback setup ensures feedback “averages out,” ideally isolating (and rejecting) biased or intentionally disruptive opinions.

The more raters there are feeding back, the more accurate and less biased the average feedback is.

It’s easier for you to assess training needs

The multiple viewpoints gained through 360 degree feedback help HR understand how an individual appears to several levels of the same company.

Instead of relying on one manager’s opinions about training needs, HR gets a balanced view across multiple levels and departments. 

There’s potential for detailed insight from specific people, meaning training packages and action plans become more precise and effective.

It’s a great opportunity to weed out toxic practices

The anonymity of 360 feedback allows employees to be candid about their managers and supervisors. 

If staff are afraid to whistleblow on workplace toxicity, it’s easy for HR to get a balanced view of where problems may be building up.

HR professionals need to act on unethical behavior at the source. Toxic cultures, left unchecked, lead to:

  1. Low employee morale

  2. Decreased productivity

  3. Increased turnover

360 degree feedback flags disrespectful attitudes, poor project management, and inappropriate interactions. On the back of such feedback are opportunities for recipients to improve or for HR to take immediate action.

It’s a great tool for finding areas where processes may unintentionally support toxicity. For example, are loopholes being exploited, or are specific employees going unchecked because of poor management?

The disadvantages of 360 degree feedback

Although 360 feedback models improve employee development standards in many workplaces, some drawbacks arise if managed poorly. Here’s what to look out for.

It’s not always easy to design and implement

To ensure the same parameters measure everyone, you must design and implement a 360 assessment carefully and gradually.

For example, you need to account for potentially time-consuming tasks. Getting feedback from multiple people might take weeks to process. In addition, you need to design a development plan, conduct meetings, and collate data from the employee feedback you receive. 

For some businesses, the time spent designing and setting up 360 degree feedback is often better reserved for other developmental activities.

A successful 360 degree feedback system is one where people are keen to participate. You might need to incentivize it or at least take time to “overfill” your rater quota to ensure you get a reasonable amount of feedback.

It’s not linked to your company’s vision

Given the individual focus of 360 degree feedback, you’re focusing more on supporting employees’ attributes rather than dedicating time to training them within the scope of your company’s strategy.

For example, you could develop your staff to become better employees, but there’s no guarantee they won’t use the skills they learn to get a job elsewhere.

There’s a risk you’re giving them the tools to explore options beyond your firm when you naturally want to retain their talent.

It’s why some businesses prefer to follow continuous feedback models on a 1:1 coaching basis, meaning they tie development into the company’s goals. It’s possible to tie these values into 360 feedback without much effort.

Feedback isn’t always reliable

360 degree feedback anonymity comes with the risk of potentially unhelpful, prejudiced, or even detrimental opinions. There’s a risk of dishonesty, too, because there’s zero accountability.

From HR’s perspective, it means removing entire sets of feedback if they’re subjective, dishonest, or even harmful to the process.

Feedback further skews to the overly negative or positive depending on the working relationships already standing between the rater and the recipient. 

Although the sheer number of raters available raises average feedback and helps to prevent unhelpful comments from getting through, zero objectivity sometimes results in more bureaucracy and smaller responder pools.

There’s a further risk that those giving feedback simply don’t have much experience or feel uncomfortable. 

It focuses on weaknesses

Critics of 360 degree feedback argue there’s too much focus on negativity and weaknesses. A 360 setup revolves around the principle that people always have room for development (it’s a continuous process). Given the anonymity of this model, however, there are negative and potentially harmful repercussions for certain staff. 

For example, those who struggle with self-esteem and impostor syndrome could focus on weakness feedback over strengths.

Focusing on negative feedback might encourage employees to doubt the veracity or authority of the people providing it. Studies show that in many cases, people quickly doubt the rater if feedback skews too negatively.

To protect against this, HR professionals suggest further support opportunities (such as through professional development plans) or to seek coaching outside of the company.

Focusing too much on weakness leads to decreased morale, higher turnover, and resentful company culture.

It might raise tensions

Despite anonymity, many people could still feel uncomfortable sharing peer feedback. Critics of the 360 degree model sometimes claim the system “pits” colleagues against each other.[1]

For example, some raters could use the system as an excuse to deliver deliberately hurtful comments simply because they can get away with it.[2]

Staff who receive unhelpful or hurtful feedback cannot respond professionally to such comments. This develops tensions within a department (particularly because no one knows where feedback comes from) and sometimes convinces people to avoid taking part in the future.

Moreover, some anonymous feedback might be political or highly personal, therefore providing a platform for deliberately obstructive rhetoric in the workplace.

8 best practices for gathering 360 degree feedback in your organization

Avoiding these drawbacks takes time, effort, and a certain degree of bureaucracy. 

However, by following the following tips, it’ll become easier to make feedback sessions positive and valuable for all involved.



Make it a once-yearly event and be consistent

Give employees time to adapt to feedback and your team space to plan a talent map

Review separately from performance reviews (and make that clear)

Both types of review serve different purposes; it’s worth running parallel

Focus on relevant power skills

Develop skills that take time to master without any “end goal”

Blend feedback and professional development plans

Bring together multiple sources of feedback for a complete 360 degree employee profile

Make training and upskilling your focus (and give feedback 1:1)

Show employees how to develop and train within your company based on feedback received

Use skill testing to track progress and development

Tangibly track how employees are performing in complex areas post-feedback

Get client and stakeholder feedback

Gain insight on employees from sources inside and outside the company

Train raters to be honest and constructive

Avoid inconsistent, inappropriate, and/or unhelpful feedback

1. Make it a once-yearly event and be consistent

A full 360 feedback session takes time and effort on everyone’s part, and there’s little point in holding one more than once a year.

An annual 360 feedback event provides a measurable metric for managers and HR to track progress over time easily.

Restricting sessions to once a year gives staff time to focus on areas where they need improvement. For example, employees and managers notice clear, positive differences within eight months of soft skills training.[3] 

As a result, HR benefits from more time to develop talent maps, enabling them to seek opportunities to upskill and move personnel to beneficial areas.

However, consistency is vital. Always measure feedback with the same questions and standards to avoid overwhelming recipients and to make sure they have opportunities to develop.

Always ensure raters have the same frameworks to work from, and be highly specific to guarantee feedback is relevant.

2. Review separately from performance reviews (and make that clear)

A 360 model is about personal development, not giving prizes for a well-done job. There’s a time and a place for employee performance reviews, so run them alongside a 360 system to cover hard and soft skills.

Ensure everyone involved knows the difference between traditional and 360 degree performance reviews. Both help keep staff focused and working to their full potential; however, they serve different purposes (as explored above).

Performance reviews benefit from being more frequent with specific targets and KPIs, while, as mentioned above, a 360 review process should be a yearly check-in that focuses on employee development.

3. Focus on relevant power skills

You can’t always grade employees sufficiently on traits such as integrity and cognitive reasoning in performance reviews. Instead, focus 360 questionnaires on human skills that are difficult to measure but highly valuable to your organization.

Build questionnaires around core competencies of the role and the attributes desired of experts working in particular departments. 

For example, ask raters to provide feedback on recipients’ approachability, how they perform in group tasks, and their ability to delegate and solve problems.

Power skills are highly desirable but are typically difficult to develop. Yearly 360 degree sessions give employees time to explore these skills and opportunities and put them into practice. 

You can’t always gauge power skills unless you use pre-employment tests. Adopting a system where you develop these skills and test for them at the hiring stage increases your chances of finding the perfect candidates.

4. Blend feedback and professional development plans

Professional development plans (PDPs) help keep an individual’s career goals in focus.

Feedback from 360 sessions helps everyone find new areas of weakness to develop and areas of strength to build upon within PDPs. Blending feedback from 360 degree plans into PDPs ensures there are various assessments to work from, too.

Gathering 360 feedback works well alongside 1:1 and self-assessments to build a complete picture of where an employee is now and where they could head in the future.

Through this model, HR provides staff with ample tools and direction to find career opportunities within the company, thus increasing their team value and effectively retaining their talent. 

The effect is you might hire new talent who find such a setup desirable and want to work with you long-term.

5. Make training and upskilling your focus (and give feedback 1:1)

Never design a 360 degree questionnaire purely to give feedback without direction. You don’t have to coddle your staff but give them clear directions on how and where to improve based on feedback received.

Provide opportunities for training, tied in with a culture for learning and development. Allow staff to discuss progress, concerns, and opportunities during 1:1 coaching sessions with managers.

For example, are there in-house opportunities where employees might practice time management skills before handling projects of their own?

Setting up a strong training and upskilling culture retains talent and boosts your reputation in the eyes of high-value hires.

Up to 49% of employees feel career pathing within their organization isn’t clear enough. Tailoring available opportunities through 360 feedback helps appeal to this dissatisfied half.

Moreover, staff receiving negative feedback likely want to know how to improve. Now’s your chance to show them.

6. Use skill testing to track progress and development

Skill tests help you track highly specific areas of staff development that are otherwise difficult to measure through standard metrics.

For example, skill tests such as Culture Add measure how well an employee works within your specific culture. Test annually post-360 feedback and check for areas in need of improvement.

Test on the back of 360 assessments to give legitimacy to feedback received. Consider delivering skill results alongside questionnaire feedback to provide extra clarity.

Test results give recipients cause to look into ways to improve, encouraging them to seek opportunities related to their core strengths.

7. Get client and stakeholder feedback

The more raters onboard a 360 feedback program, the more accurate the average results become. However, it’s just as important to go beyond the confines of the immediate team, which might carry bias and narrow perceptions.

Clients outside of the firm who interact with your staff have experience with how they deliver service and products. Encouraging their support adds more experience and perspective to the 360 degree view of the feedback recipient.

This unique insight is valuable in finding training opportunities that aren’t purely focused within the company.

8. Train raters to be honest and constructive

The anonymity in 360 systems enables people to be honest, but raters should offer constructive feedback. This means refraining from personal attacks, bias or prejudice, or any feedback irrelevant to the cause.

Design questionnaires with queries that demand highly specific answers. Consider a multiple-choice form, for example, where raters don’t have the freedom to deviate from set patterns.

Encourage raters to ground their feedback in specific behavioral elements a recipient can change.

Additionally, encourage absolute honesty with the reassurance that the feedback recorded won’t be traceable. However, supervisory personnel should still review the data (and know who delivered which comments). 

This system encourages greater accountability, reducing the risk of raters abusing the system.

Will 360 degree feedback help your team develop from all angles?

360 degree feedback helps people learn more about themselves from various sources.

However, this type of system is only effective when it offers fair, anonymous, and constructive feedback. 

When implemented properly, a 360 degree system:

  • Provides recipients with clear insight into their strengths and weaknesses

  • Offers opportunities for them to develop in-house

  • Helps build a culture of mutual respect and support

  • Develops and retains self-motivated, satisfied employees who strive to do their best

Remember, 360 feedback doesn’t always work for everyone. Take a good look at your current feedback system, consider the points we raised above, and make your own decision.

Ready to get started? Your first step in building a 360 feedback questionnaire is to head to our test library and find skill assessments to measure your staff post-survey.

Be sure to read our guide on workplace communication, too, if you’re implementing 360 degree feedback to boost team cohesion.


  1. Jackson, Eric. (August 17, 2012). “​​The 7 Reasons Why 360 Degree Feedback Programs Fail”.

    Forbes. Retrieved June 21, 2023. https://www.forbes.com/sites/ericjackson/2012/08/17/the-7-reasons-why-360-degree-feedback-programs-fail/

  2. Halverson, Meg. (February 26, 2016). “360 Reviews Often Lead to Cruel, Not Constructive, Criticism”. The New York Times. Retrieved June 21, 2023. https://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/28/jobs/360-reviews-often-lead-to-cruel-not-constructive-criticism.html

  3. Walsh, Dylan. (December 11, 2017). “Soft skills training brings substantial returns on investment”. MIT Management Sloan School. Retrieved June 21, 2023. https://mitsloan.mit.edu/ideas-made-to-matter/soft-skills-training-brings-substantial-returns-investment


Hire the best candidates with TestGorilla

Create pre-employment assessments in minutes to screen candidates, save time, and hire the best talent.

The best advice in pre-employment testing, in your inbox.

No spam. Unsubscribe at any time.

TestGorilla Logo

Hire the best. No bias. No stress.

Our screening tests identify the best candidates and make your hiring decisions faster, easier, and bias-free.

Free resources

Anti-cheating checklist

This checklist covers key features you should look for when choosing a skills testing platform

Onboarding checklist

This resource will help you develop an onboarding checklist for new hires.

How to find candidates with strong attention to detail

How to assess your candidates' attention to detail.

How to get HR certified

Learn how to get human resources certified through HRCI or SHRM.

Improve quality of hire

Learn how you can improve the level of talent at your company.

Case study
Case study: How CapitalT reduces hiring bias

Learn how CapitalT reduced hiring bias with online skills assessments.

Resume screening guide

Learn how to make the resume process more efficient and more effective.

Recruiting metrics
Important recruitment metrics

Improve your hiring strategy with these 7 critical recruitment metrics.

Case study
Case study: How Sukhi reduces shortlisting time

Learn how Sukhi decreased time spent reviewing resumes by 83%!

12 pre-employment testing hacks

Hire more efficiently with these hacks that 99% of recruiters aren't using.

The benefits of diversity

Make a business case for diversity and inclusion initiatives with this data.