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.