10 factors that make 360 degree feedback surveys fail and how to avoid them


If you are investing time and energy in implementing a 360 degree feedback survey you need to make sure you’re avoiding the pitfalls. The occasional corner-cutting may save you time, but it will also lead to a lacklustre 360 feedback tool with no actionable data.

Of course, 360 degree feedback processes don’t just fail because something went wrong in the planning stages; you can also negatively influence a top quality tool through poor delivery of feedback and follow-up.

To help you avoid these issues, we’ve outlined the top ten risk factors for 360 degree feedback and how to make sure they don’t affect you:


  1. Those in positions of seniority don’t get involved

Managers and those is positions of leadership must throw their weight behind your 360 degree feedback aims and objectives. If they don’t show their support and the process is led purely by HR, it is unlikely that those you’re directly trying to benefit will be willing to invest their time and confidence in the process.


  1. The 360 degree survey tool is too vague

Questions are just questions and data is just data unless you can turn them into actionable results. Avoid turning your 360 degree feedback survey into a personality quiz – this isn’t about finding someone’s likes and dislikes, but discovering the inter-personal relationships that define your business.


Read more: How to spot a good and bad 360 degree feedback survey


  1. The tool shows a lack of alignment with your company’s vision and strategy

Standardized, off-the-peg 360 degree feedback surveys may appear to have the solution, but a lack of alignment with your company’s vision, mission and strategy can mean the data you’re collecting is irrelevant. The data you collect, and the feedback you supply, needs to develop competencies aligned with the direction of your organization. Otherwise, what’s the point?


  1. The process is poorly organised

When will I receive my self-review survey? How many people will be rating me? When do I need to hand in reviews of others? When will my feedback session take place? If you lack organization and can’t answer these questions reviewers and recipients may lose confidence.


  1. There’s a lack of confidentiality and an atmosphere of distrust

Similar to a lack of organization, the easiest way to lose the trust and focus of 360 degree feedback reviewers and recipients is to make them question the confidentiality of their comments. Reassure everyone involved at every opportunity that his or her privacy is respected.


  1. Respondents offer personal criticism rather than constructive feedback

When explaining the purpose of 360 feedback to your organization, reiterate that it is not the platform to air petty grievances or workplace gripes. Instead its purpose is to find actionable developmental targets for everyone involved. A simple ‘don’t write anything you wouldn’t want to read in return’ could help to weed out nasty or negative comments.


Read more: Early warning signs to look out for in 360 degree feedback


  1. There’s a lack of communication

Organisation, confidentiality and communication are the cornerstones of good 360 degree feedback processes. Decide who is responsible for communicating key updates in your team, or set up a dedicated email address for queries and feedback.


  1. No plan is in place following the sharing of feedback

You’ve presented feedback…but now what? Don’t let that valuable feedback get shoved on a shelf never to be looked at again. Organise follow up meetings, coaching sessions or training sessions to ensure feedback is acted upon and taken seriously.


  1. There’s an overwhelming focus on weaknesses and not strengths

Individuals should obviously take account of their weaknesses and take strides to improve, but what about those all-important strengths? Feedback shouldn’t feel like a miserable exercise highlighting only the negative! Balance with positive strengths and attributes, especially those that can be pushed to even greater heights.


  1. There’s no accountability or motivation to develop

A feedback session has revealed clear areas of development and the individual is in complete agreement, but who is responsible for auctioning this? Who is holding recipients accountable for their personal development? Arrange this with management before the 360 degree process starts so everyone is prepared to follow through and not just let feedback fizzle out.

One thought on “10 factors that make 360 degree feedback surveys fail and how to avoid them

  1. This is a really great list! I would propose that somewhere in here there could be some direct or indirect reference to the value of rater training. Organizations that are serious about creating reliable data that increases the likelihood of acceptance by not only ratees but by other possible users of the data (manager, HR, succession planning) as well.

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