360 feedback problems and how to solve them

What are some of the problems encountered with 360 feedback? And how do you solve them?

We have looked at the benefits of 360 and how to do a 360 feedback exercise well, maximising the benefit to both the participant and the organisation.  This article looks at what can go wrong during a 360 exercise and how to put these issues right. In over 20 years of providing 360 feedback, here are the top 360 problems we see and our tips on how to solve them.

Problem and solution

1) Low response rate

This includes both participants failing to nominate their colleagues to provide feedback, and those colleagues not filling in the feedback questionnaire.  This can result from a lack of buy in to the overall process or from 360 just not being a priority. 

The solution to this problem is to make it as easy as possible for people to participate.  Set the tone from the top by making it clear that participation is expected. Over time this can be built into the company culture.  Think in advance about the timing of the 360 feedback so it doesn’t coincide with a busy period or important deadline.   

We set reminders to encourage participation from both participants and colleagues.  These are scheduled to give people a nudge without being annoying.  We will also provide updates, showing current participation rates so that companies can send internal reminders to the 360 feedback group.  Additional reminders can be scheduled if necessary. Timings can be flexible; if some participants need a little more time, that can be accommodated and deadlines extended.  We are happy to work with you to support your participants through the 360 process.

2) E-mails going into junk / spam or bouncing back

We had one instance where the initial e-mails inviting participants to set up their 360 feedback failed to get through.  They were stopped by the company’s IT system. If we are sending out a big group of 360 feedback invitations all at once, an organisation’s spam filter may mistake this for an attach and block the e-mails.  To avoid this, we ask all new customers to get their IT department to whitelist our e-mail address admin@i-comment360.com.   All the system e-mails come from this address, so once it is added to the safe senders list, the e-mails should get through without a problem.

E-mails going in to junk mail or getting lost amongst other e-mails

If our e-mail address is whitelisted, hopefully the 360 e-mails won’t end up in junk, but we always advise sending an e-mail from within the organisation letting participants know to expect the feedback set up invitation. 

When participants nominate their colleagues to provide feedback, they enter the colleagues’ names and e-mail addresses into the 360 system.  Lots of people make typos or get e-mail addresses wrong – it is so easy to do!  The good news is that we will sort this problem.  We monitor e-mail bounce backs and correct any obvious typos then resend the feedback invitation.  If there are any e-mails we can’t figure out, we will contact the participant and ask them to check. 

3) Managers have too many sets of feedback to complete

In an organisation wide or department wide 360 feedback exercise, some people are likely to be inundated with requests for feedback.  There are a few options to avoid overloading managers with feedback requests:

Overloaded manager with too many demands on her time and too much feedback to provide for others.

4) No time to fill in the questionnaire

Many people have busy work schedules and fitting in 360 feedback can be a challenge.  Some people like to take their time and not rush, carefully considering how to word their feedback.  Others may be neck deep in urgent operational issues so the 360 moves down the priority list. 

Make it clear that time should be set aside for the 360 feedback.  Clear an hour in a manager’s diary for them to focus on feedback, while remove some of the other pressures on their time. 

Leave plenty of time for the feedback, to ensure that participants and their colleagues can work around deadlines, holidays and other matters that require urgent attention.  We suggest around three weeks for a complete 360 feedback; up to one week for participants to nominate colleagues and a further two weeks for those colleagues to provide feedback.  Feedback timescales are flexible; we will work with you to fit around the unique needs of your organising. 

Make sure the feedback questionnaire is not too long and can be completed in one sitting.  If there are too many questions, people will get bored and give up part way through the questionnaire.  Our system saves progress each time “Next” is clicked to move onto a new category.  People can return to the feedback questionnaire at any time before they click “Submit” at the end.   

5) Not feeding back the feedback

Just giving the participant his or her report without a feedback session can be dangerous.  Feedback can be misinterpreted or, if there is a history, taken personally instead of constructively.  These can lead to feedback having a negative impact, rather than a positive one.

We always suggest feeding back the feedback; a coach, line manager or HR representative to go through the 360 feedback report with the participant.  Talk it through, picking out the key points to build into an action plan.  A coach or manager can guide the participant through the report, so they don’t focus on the negatives, framing any criticism as development opportunities. We can provide coaching to feedback the reports to your participants if required.

6) Lack of follow up

Once you have completed the 360 feedback, don’t leave it to gather dust.  Make sure the participant understands how to use their strengths to the best effect and actions the development points raised.  Create an action plan and review progress against that plan on a regular basis. 

After investing in 360 feedback for the organisation, maximise the return on that investment by acting on the feedback. Consider repeating the 360 feedback six or nine months down the line to help measure progress.  We can add previous scores to a repeat 360 feedback to show improvements.

Don't forget to follow up after your 360 feedback

We hope that you manage to avoid these pitfalls in your 360 feedback exercise.  If you do experience any of the issues noted above, we are here to help.  Our aim is to make the feedback process as easy as possible to navigate and of as much value as possible to everyone involved.

Top tips for individuals going through the 360 feedback process

Helpful hints for individuals to follow to get the most out of your 360 feedback exercise.

We have dealt with top tips for Employers carrying out a 360 feedback exercise, both at the planning and feedback collection stages and after the feedback.  Now we are going to look at how you, as an individual undertaking 360 feedback, can maximise the benefit of your 360.

Here are our top tips for individuals going through the 360 feedback process:

1) Believe in the process!

Approach the 360 feedback exercise with a positive attitude.  Treat it as a learning experience to help you improve and grow.  If you have taken on the 360 feedback yourself, you have made a good start and clearly want to gain something from the process.  If your employer has put you forward for this, take it as a compliment.  Your company is investing in your learning and development. 

If you don’t want to take part, you won’t put your all into it, and if you don’t believe in the process, how can you expect your colleagues to buy into it and give you good, meaningful feedback?  It might be that you are afraid of the negative feedback.  Change your mindset; its not criticism, it’s a learning opportunity. 

This is not easy to do. If your employer has followed our tips, they will have provided guidance on how to give feedback (don’t make it personal, include examples, balance positive and negative feedback, phrase feedback as suggestions for how things could be done better rather than criticism). 

It’s all about improving yourself, both for you and for the benefit of your employer.  The key is to believe that the process can help you.

Believe in the 360 feedback process

2) Consider who to ask for feedback

Select your respondents carefully; don’t just pick your friends.  Choose those you work with most and those who can give you the best feedback on your role, even if you don’t get on with them.  It takes guts to ask someone for feedback if you don’t like them, but if you work closely with them, they may raise some good points.  They are unlikely to sugar coat their opinions, and may surprise you.

Select a wide range of people from all different levels of the organisation, but make sure you have contact with them in your job role.  If you don’t have fairly regular contact with a person, there is no sense in asking them for feedback as they won’t have anything meaningful to contribute.  You are looking for real comments that can add value, not just meaningless platitudes.   

3) Make a personal request

When you enter your colleagues’ details into the 360 system, they get an e-mail asking them to provide feedback.  As well as this automated e-mail, send a personal request to your colleagues.  This could be a personal e-mail, or an in-person (or over the phone) request.  Taking the time to ask each colleague personally makes them much more likely to respond.  They know you are taking the process seriously and really do want their feedback. 

4) Complete your self-assessment

The self-assessment is an important part of the 360 feedback process. You are asking colleagues to consider your performance, so you should also consider how you have performed against the same criteria.  Only you know why you do what you do; your comments add context to the comments of your colleagues. 

The comparison of your views to those of your colleagues can be enlightening.  Your confidence will receive a boost if your colleagues thing you are doing something well, when you are not sure.  Likewise, if you think you have nothing to learn in an area, your colleagues can show that there are still improvements to be made.

5) Follow up with colleagues

Colleagues chatting - follow up with your colleagues; make a personal request for them to complete your feedback.

Your 360 set-up page allows you to check the progress of your 360 feedback, who has provided feedback and who has not.  During the feedback collection period, check which colleagues have responded to the feedback request.  Follow up with those who have not yet provided feedback.  “I’d really appreciate it if you could fill in my feedback questionnaire” takes a few seconds to say or type and might gain you some more great feedback. Your colleagues will receive automated reminders from the 360 feedback system, but the personal touch is always more effective.

6) Read the report with an open mind

When you receive your 360 feedback report, don’t rush to read it.  Make sure you have time to go through the report and that you tackle it with a positive, constructive mindset.  Take pride in every compliment and highlighted strength.  Don’t take things personally, even if your colleagues have been less than tactful wording their feedback.  See every criticism as an opportunity to improve. 

This may be easy to say but is not easy to do.  We suggest talking through your report with your line manager or a coach.  They can help you to pick out the key points, focussing on a few key elements to help you learn and grow.

7) Action

After the 360 process, you must take action.  Create a set of SMART (Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely) objectives from the main learning points identified from the feedback.  Decide what you are going to do to address them and the timescale you need to implement these improvements.  Review your progress and keep adapting your action plan to keep enhancing your performance.

Wake up, Set goals, Take action!

Follow these tips to get the most out of your 360 feedback.  Use it to help you learn and grow.  Approach it with a positive mindset and believe that the feedback, and those who have provide it, are there to help you get the best that you can be.  Reading difficult feedback can be an uncomfortable process, but you can choose to react in a positive way. Reframe any criticisms as opportunities for development. 

Good luck on your 360 feedback journey.  If you would like our help to guide you through the process, please contact us or take a look at our Business Coaching package which includes both a 360 feedback, Persona Profile and supporting coaching sessions.

How much does 360 feedback cost?

360 feedback is an extremely beneficial development tool.  But how to offer it in your organisation?  The cost can appear prohibitive for small businesses, however that doesn’t have to be the case. A little research has shown that it’s not easy to get an answer to the “how much does 360 feedback cost?” question.

Standard 360 feedback

We have created a range of six standard 360 feedback questionnaires and reports, covering six major areas where 360 feedback is often used.  These are designed to make 360 feedback accessible to both small and larger businesses, and to be as easy as possible to set up and use.  They available to purchase via our website at £42 per participant (including VAT).  The six areas are Leadership, Management, Customer Service, Sales, Emotional Intelligence and Resilience. 

The participant can nominate any number of people to provide feedback, although we suggest nominating 8-12 colleagues.  The respondents are categorised by role e.g. Line Manager, Peers, Direct Reports, Customers etc.  Depending on the type of 360 feedback you are undertaking, your role and the size of your organisation, you may have five people providing feedback, and you may have twenty-five, but the cost is the same.

The process is simple – each participant receives an e-mail link to their set up page where they nominate colleagues.  Those colleagues then receive a link to the feedback questionnaire which remains open for a period.  The participant fills in a self-assessment and once the feedback closes, a clear, easy to understand report delivers the results to the participant.  Read more about the 360 feedback process.

If you have a large number of participants to put through a 360 feedback exercise, we would be happy to offer you a volume discount.

Bespoke 360 feedback

If you are looking for a bespoke 360 feedback, with questions that are specific to your organisation, perhaps incorporating your corporate values and behaviours or to fit in with a new or existing training programme, that’s no problem at all!  We will work with you to create a questionnaire that meets your needs. 

Set up of a new questionnaire and report costs £200 (plus VAT).  This includes any number of questions; experience has shown that too many questions put people off, so keeping the number down tends to result in a better response rate.  More than 50 questions can mean the questionnaire takes too long and people often don’t reach the end.  The set-up fee includes give you access to our team’s wealth of experience designing effective questionnaires and our extensive question library.

The best 360 questionnaires contain both rating and free text questions.  The rating questions give you a measurable score and the free text questions provide information on strengths and suggestions for development to help participants get the most out of their 360.

Once your new questionnaire is set up and ready to run, the cost is £35 per participant plus VAT (£42 including VAT).

Multi-language feedback

Multi-language - Hello, Hola, Ni Hao, Bonjour

If your organisation is a multi-national with offices in several different countries with different language requirements, or if you have customers in a number of countries where English is not their first language, we can offer the option to have your questionnaire available in several languages.  Participants and their colleagues can select the language in which they would like to view the questions.  Answers to free text questions will appear as they are typed by the person providing feedback. 

If you can provide the translations, the cost per language is £200 (plus VAT).  If you need us to arrange the translations, the cost of professional translation will be added to this.  

Feeding back the feedback

Once you have your 360 report, what then?  Read and inwardly digest the contents.  Make a plan of action to play to your strengths and address any areas of development.  That might seem straightforward, but that isn’t always the case.  Having an impartial third party to review your 360 feedback with you can help you to objectively analyse the feedback and put a structured plan in place.  We offer coaching sessions to debrief the 360 feedback and help you get the most out of the process. 

Coaching sessions start from £45 per session, or combine your 360 feedback with three coaching sessions and a Persona profile in our Business Coaching package for £200. 

Re-running feedback

Many of our customers offer a 360 feedback exercise before a training programme, then rerun the 360 feedback 9-12 months later to see how the learning from the training has benefited the participant, and to highlight which area to focus on next.  The cost of re-running the 360 is the same as the initial 360, £42 per participant (discount for large numbers of participants), and we will add the previous score to the revisited 360 reports at no extra cost.

The ability to add previous scores can be useful when the feedback is being used as part of an annual (or more frequent) appraisal, comparing scores from previous appraisals. 

Question mark

Anything else?

We love to say “Yes!” to our customers.  If you want something we don’t already offer, we are happy to price a system change to enable this to be possible.

In Summary

360 feedback does not need to cost the earth!  Your 360 feedback project can start from as little as £42 for a single, standard 360.  If you have hundreds of participants to put through a multi-language, bespoke questionnaire, it will cost more. 

The advantage of using i-comment360 is our years of experience providing 360 feedback questionnaires and reports for a wide variety of organisations across the world.  We will help you to get the best out of your 360 exercise and make the process as easy as possible for you and your staff. 

Prices updated as at February 2024.