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5 things to look for in an employee 360° feedback tool
Lexi Croswell, author

Lexi Croswell

Writer, Culture Amp

360° feedback tools can enable honest and actionable feedback to be shared between coworkers. This feedback can also inform learning and development initiatives. Feedback given on a day-to-day basis is essential and valuable, but a more structured approach is required to nurture development over time.

Typically during a 360° process, an individual's strengths and areas for improvement are evaluated. Usually, this feedback is then reviewed by people in HR, a manager, or a coach. In some situations, 360° feedback is leveraged as part of performance measurement, but it is becoming more common to use 360's as a development-oriented tool.

To find an effective employee 360 feedback tool, look for these five qualities:

1. Centered around the employee

People are taking more ownership of their careers and development. Employees should be able to ask for feedback when they’re ready and select who will review them. An employee-centric feedback tool allows the individual to take the same survey as their reviewers. This way, they can compare their self-assessment with the feedback given by their peers.

2. Short survey and concise questions

Effective feedback at its most basic level can fall into two categories: reinforcing or redirecting. In other words, reinforcing feedback refers to what someone is doing well; redirecting feedback refers to what someone could do better.

A survey with concise questions helps to replicate an actual conversation between two people. When looking for an employee 360 feedback tool, find one that begins with open-ended questions that help ensure that feedback is more honest, relevant, and provides context, rather than one that primes the person providing feedback with a list. Plus, a shorter survey provides people with a manageable amount of feedback, rather than overwhelming them.

3. Focuses on strengths, but doesn't ignore opportunities

We’re predisposed to focus on and fixate on negative comments. Focusing on strengths sets up a process that is weighted towards reinforcing productive behavior.

However, there needs to be a balance between reinforcing and redirecting feedback. If a tool is solely focused on strengths, people may miss opportunities for learning. If it's purely evaluative or critical, people may feel overwhelmed or upset. A feedback tool that strategically incorporates both strengths and opportunities allows people to respond most effectively to feedback and be motivated to act.

4. Moves beyond numbers

Comparative scores and ratings can become an unnecessary focus during the process of learning through feedback. Numbers don't motivate people to change their behaviors or develop. Ratings also don’t provide specific examples – telling someone they’re a "3 out of 5 on approachability" doesn’t give them anything specific to change or reinforce. Effective employee feedback tools are focused on individual microdata rather than organization-wide macro data. Given this tiny sample size (i.e., the individual), many of the best feedback tools focus more on qualitative data.

5. The intention is development, not evaluation

When choosing a tool, it's important to understand what you're using it for. 360 feedback tools are not the same as performance management tools, though they can be a part of the performance process. Feedback tools are different from traditional performance reviews in that they are employee-centric and move beyond numbers.

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