360-degree feedback

In human resources, 360-degree feedback, also known as 'multi-rater feedback', 'multisource feedback', or 'multisource assessment', is employee development feedback that comes from all around the employee. "360" refers to the 360 degrees in a circle. The feedback would come from subordinates, peers, and managers in the organizational hierarchy, as well as self-assessment, and in some cases external sources such as customers and suppliers or other interested stakeholders. It may be contrasted with upward feedback, where managers are given feedback by their direct reports, or a traditional performance appraisal, where the employees are most often reviewed only by their manager.

The results from 360-degree feedback are often used by the person receiving the feedback to plan their training and development. The results are also used by some organizations for making promotional or pay decisions, which is sometimes called "360-degree review."

Rater accuracy

A study on the patterns of rater accuracy shows that how long the rater has known the person has the most effect on the accuracy of a 360-degree review. The study shows that subjects in the group “known for one to three years” are the most accurate, followed by “known for less than one year,” followed by “known for three to five years” and the least accurate being “known for more than five years.” The study concludes that the most accurate ratings come from knowing the person long enough to get past first impressions, but not so long as to begin to generalize favorably (Eichinger 24).

Effects of 360-degree feedback

A study on 360-degree feedback to leaders conducted by Arizona State University has supported the hypothesis that improvement in a leader’s consideration and employee development behaviors will lead to positive changes in employees' job satisfaction and engagement, and reduce their intent to leave.(Brett 582-583)

Strategic Data

While the value of 360-degree feedback is often seen in terms of individual development, aggregate reporting of all recipients' results can provide valuable data for the organization as a whole. It enables leaders to

  • Take advantage of under-utilized personnel strengths to increase productivity
  • Avoid the trap of counting on skills that may be weak in the organization
  • Apply human assets data to the valuation of the organization
  • Make succession planning more accurate
  • Design more efficient coaching and training initiatives
  • Support the organization in marketing the skills of its members


The US armed forces first used 360-degree feedback to support development of staff in the 1940s. The system gained momentum slowly, but by the 1990s most HR and OD professionals understood the concept. The problem was that collecting and collating the feedback demanded a paper-based effort including either complex manual calculations or lengthy delays while a commercial provider assembled reports. The first led to despair on the part of practitioners; the second to a gradual erosion of commitment by recipients.

When the first online 360 degree feedback tools appeared in 1998, it became possible to request feedback from raters anywhere in the world by email, to customize automated systems, and to generate reports for recipients in minutes. In recent years, Internet-based services have become the norm, with a growing menu of useful features: e.g. multi languages, comparative reporting, and aggregate reporting.


  • Individuals get a broader perspective of how they are perceived by others than previously possible.
  • Increased awareness of and relevance of competencies.
  • Increased awareness by senior management that they too have development needs.
  • More reliable feedback to senior managers about their performance.
  • Gaining acceptance of the principle of multiple stakeholders as a measure of performance.
  • Encouraging more open feedback — new insights.
  • Reinforcing the desired competencies of the business.
  • Provided a clearer picture to senior management of individual’s real worth (although there tended to be some ‘halo’ effect syndromes).
  • Clarified to employees critical performance aspects.
  • Opens up feedback and gives people a more rounded view of performance than they had previously.
  • Identifying key development areas for the individual, a department and the organization as a whole.
  • Identifying strengths that can be used to the best advantage of the business.
  • A rounded view of the individual’s/ team’s/ organization’s performance and what the strengths and weaknesses are.
  • Raised the self-awareness of people managers of how they personally impact upon others — positively and negatively.
  • Supporting a climate of continuous improvement.
  • Starting to improve the climate/ morale, as measured through the survey.
  • Focused agenda for development. Forced line managers to discuss development issues.
  • Perception of feedback as more valid and objective, leading to acceptance of results and actions required.
  • Gaps are identified in one's self-perception versus the perception of the manager, peer or direct reports.
  • Customizing the questions to one's organizational competencies.

Introducing 360 feedback in an organization

Before introducing 360 feedback in an organization the planning process must include the step addressing the benefits and perceived risks of all participants. Recipients of feedback and reviewers may have concerns about issues like confidentiality of reviews, how the completed reviews will be used in the organization and what sort of follow up they can expect. Communication and support provided throughout the project must take this into account if the programme is to provide maximum value for the individuals and the organization using 360 feedback.

Why organizations may not adopt the 360 degree approach

  1. Return on investment, for the time and energy required, is perceived to be minimal.
  2. Transparent feedback can be adversely affected by emotions and ongoing peer conflicts.
  3. Appraisees are not ready for honest and open feedback.
  4. Some cultures rigidly avoid passing negative feedback, or information, to superiors or elders.


A Watson Wyatt's Human Capital Index (HCI) study found that 360-degree feedback programs were associated with a 10.6 percent decrease in shareholder value.



  • Adley, Thomas, Guide to 360 Degree Feedback Deployment Objective Guide to best practices.
  • Armstrong, Michael, Handbook of Human Resource Management Practice (10th Edition)
  • Bentley, Timothy. Cumulative 360 Data Guides Strategic Planning
  • Bentley, Timothy, and Kohn-Bentley, Esther. Understanding 360-Degree Feedback
  • Bracken, David W., Timmreck, Carol W., and Church, Allan H. (Eds). "The Handbook of Multisource Feedback." San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2001.
  • Bracken, D.W., Timmreck, C.W., Fleenor, J.W., and Summers, L. "360 Feedback from Another Angle." Human Resource Management, 2001.
  • Brett, Joan. "360 Degree Feedback to Leaders." Group and Organization Management 31(2006): 578-600.
  • Cannon, Mark and Robert Witherspoon. "Actionable feedback: Unlocking the power of learning and performance improvement." Academy of Management Executive 1905 (2005): 120-134.
  • Eichinger, Robert. "Patterns of Rater Accuracy in 360-degree Feedback." Perspectives 27(2004): 23-25.
  • Furnham, Adrian. "Congruence in job-performance ratings: A study of 360 degree feedback examining self, manager, peers, and consultant ratings." Human Relations 51(1998): 517-530.
  • Peacock, Tony. "360 Degree Feedback Pocketbook." Alresford, England: Management Pocketbooks Ltd (2007):ISBN 978903776797
  • Marcie Levine "360° ASSESSMENTS - WHERE DO I START? Seven Tips to Help You Create and Administer Successful 360° Feedback Surveys". Retrieved on 2007-02-05..
  • Massey, Vandy "Maximising the Value of a 360 Feedback Programme". Retrieved on 2007-10-27..

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