Multi-language 360 feedback

Increasing participation rates using multi-language 360 feedback

After many years of administering 360 feedback, we have learned a few things.  Working with multi-national organisations, and organisations with customers in numerous countries, has shown that the best way to get feedback is to ask in their own language.  Even if your sales team or customer speak very good English, they will be much more comfortable completing a questionnaire in their native language.

One of our training customers delivers a programme of sales training to an organisation with sales teams across the world.  Their participants complete 360 feedback before the training so they, and their trainers, can identify where to focus the training.  A second 360 feedback is completed around 9 months after the training to measure improvements.   

We set up this questionnaire in five different languages; English, French, German, Korean and Brazilian Portuguese.  The participant and their colleagues have the choice of language at the start of the questionnaire, so they can view questions and provide responses in whichever language they choose.

This was a great project.  Our customer provided the translations, and we uploaded them into the system, matching them to the English questions and checking to make sure that the questionnaire reads correctly for all the different languages.  My French is quite good (I studied it at university) and I can understand a bit of German, but Korean and Brazilian Portuguese were new to me.  Google translate was very helpful!  We would always suggest that a native speaker reviews the questionnaire in their language before launching, just to make sure that the wording is appropriate. 

Allowing the participant and their colleagues to choose their language increases participation rates and provides more meaningful feedback for the participant.  Feedback is included in the report in the language in which it is given.

Another multi-national customer asked for their Sales 360 to be in nine different languages.  European languages have many similarities.  The languages which use different characters, e.g. Korean, Japanese and Thai, are more difficult and we have to place trust in the translation provided. 

It’s not just 360 feedback, we have also set up surveys in foreign languages.  A customer asked for their regularly used team survey to be translated for a German team.  Although the team spoke English, a more in depth understanding was possible in their native language.

To set up your next multi-national 360 project, give us a call.

Evolution of language

Language is a constantly evolving thing.  New words enter the English language each year and other words fall out of use.  Recent years have seen such words as furlough, lockdown and vax become much more regularly used, words like humblebrag have been added to the dictionary and words considered to be archaic, such as aerodrome, have been removed. 

Our Personality system relies on language and how it is used.  Each of the questions in the personality questionnaire asks you to rate sets of words, in the order that they apply to you.  For example, “Driving, forceful, focussed” or “Popular, trusting, animated” – which is most like you?

However, different words mean different things to different people, and the meanings of words can change over time.  The word “awful” once meant worthy of awe, but has changed to mean now terrible. A more modern example is “cloud” which, as well as referring to the fluffy white or grey things in the sky, now means parts of the internet which allow us to access information from anywhere.  

The words in our personality questionnaire are also subject to these changes in language.  We work with a charity which supplies reports to young people, some of whom have had a difficult start in life.  Our questionnaire was developed for use in a business setting and not all the words were suitable for young people with less experience of the world of work. 


Our system has an inbuilt validation system which allows us to ensure each question working, so that the participant gets an accurate report.  When adapting the original questionnaire for use by the young people, we looked at each question and the words used, made changes and then tested the questionnaire to check that the results were as accurate. 

Words like “congenial” were replaced with “friendly” and “correct” was replaced with “plays by the rules” to make the questionnaire more young person friendly.  We tested this questionnaire thoroughly, examined the validation data, and the views of the young people receiving their reports. The results speak for themselves, when one young person thought that we must have spoken to their parents to write such an accurate report! 

As language changes over time, the words in our questionnaires must be reviewed to check that they are still giving the correct results.  As words fall out of favour and attitudes change, the word “caring” in our questionnaire becomes a more attractive option for people to pick, as society places more importance on being caring than it did in the past.  By the same token, the words “challenging” and “demanding” may seem to have more negative connotations than they once did.

As language evolves, so must our questionnaire.  Our validation system gives us the tools to monitor these changes and adapt to them, so our Personality Profiles are as accurate as possible. 

The validation system will be invaluable when translating the questionnaire into other languages.  The nuances of language mean a literal translation from English to any other language would be unlikely to yield accurate results, but that is a topic for another time.  However, if you are interested in partnering with us to translate the Personality system, please get in touch!