5 Essential Steps To Turn 360 Degree Feedback Into Action

by Paddy Mann on 24th September, 2014 24th Sep, 2014
5 Essential Steps To Turn 360 Degree Feedback Into Action

When we talk to people about 360 degree feedback, we often hear that they've tried it in the past but had... mixed results.

"Well, the 360 degree feedback process always takes up time, but people often don't take action as a result of their feedback, so we don't see much benefit".

Oh dear.

For an HR or L&D manager who understands the potential of 360 degree feedback, this a frustrating problem.

Time and money is invested into helping employees with their personal development. Yet, because the employees don't take action, they don't get the expected benefit, and management start to lose faith in the whole exercise.

This is a common problem, but it is not difficult to solve.

Just follow these 5 essential steps to make sure your employees take action on their 360 degree feedback.

Step 1: Focus on 2-3 areas

First, get employees to focus on just 2 to 3 areas to improve.

It's easy for people receiving their feedback to assume they need to review it all, and to think about solutions for all of the areas that could be improved.

But this is not a good idea. If they review all of the feedback in minute detail, they will spend less time thinking about the areas that really matter.

Even worse, if they make a plan to improve every area, then they will often start with the easy tasks rather than the most important ones

So, encourage your employees to focus on the 2-3 areas that matter the most. It's then much more likely that they will see a big impact from any action they take.

Step 2: Use the 5 whys

Next, support your employees in digging deeper into what they need to improve about these 2-3 areas.

This is really important as they'll be much more likely to identify the right actions to take.

We recommend using a technique called the 5 whys, where we ask 'why' up to 5 times to help us understand a problem.

To illustrate this, let's imagine that Carol, a sales representative, has just received her feedback report. She can see that 'Communication' is the area that needs improving the most.

She could review this with her manager and simply agree that a training course in communication might help.

But, it would be better if the manager asked…

MANAGER: "Why do you think this area came out top?".
CAROL: "Well, I suppose it's really about my presentations. I sometimes rush them a bit and can forget the important bits."
MANAGER: "OK, why's that?".
CAROL: "I tend to get nervous presenting to Jenny, the sales director. And I feel I don't really have enough time to prepare."
MANAGER: "I see, and why do you feel you don't you have enough time?"

...and so on.

By asking probing questions and then listening, they end up with a clearer understanding of what really needs fixing.

Instead of a training course on communication, the solution might include:

  • a course specifically about presentation skills
  • finding more time for Carol to prepare for her sales meeting
  • and arranging for Carol to have a coffee with her sales director to help her see that Jenny as actually very supportive!

Step 3: Spend more time on the plan

The goal of the feedback review meeting is not to review the feedback.

That's right: The goal of the feedback review meeting is NOT to review the feedback!

Instead, the goal is to create a plan that will make a real difference to an employee's career.

Unfortunately, it's really common for almost all of a feedback review meeting to be spent analysing the report, and the plan becomes an afterthought.

This needs to change - your employees need to spend less time talking about the feedback, and should spend at least 30 minutes making a really great plan.

Step 4: Find more than one solution

It's all too easy to try and tackle each area for improvement with a single solution - like the suggestion that Carol should go on a generic training course on Communication.

But, by asking 'why?', we saw that a better solution could have included a more specialised training course, finding more time for Carol to prepare for her meetings, and arranging for her to have a coffee with her sales director.

You need to encourage employees to consider a range of potential solutions, and then pick the ones that are likely to make a big difference.

Step 5: Make it happen

The final step is to support them in actually making it happen.

Ideally, this responsibility sits with their manager or coach.

It's a good idea to have a catch-up meeting and review the employee's progress after a couple of months.

Even better would be for their manager to follow-up at sensible times based on the contents of the plan.

This could include sending emails to check on progress, and arranging a meeting as the employee approaches their deadlines.

If all goes well, and the employees complete the key actions that came from their feedback, then their next feedback report will show their improvement.

Key takeaways

If your employees fail to take action on their 360 degree feedback, you won't see the expected benefits and management will start to lose faith.

To avoid this, help your employees to:

  1. Focus on 2-3 areas
  2. Use the 5 whys
  3. Spend more time on the plan
  4. Find more than one solution
  5. Make it happen

This is going to be the first of a series of blogs that delve deeper into how to ensure 360 degree feedback is turned into action.

You can also find bitesize videos looking at subjects like Help Employees Focus Their Development and Using the 5 Whys on 360 Feedback in our new 360 Academy.

Paddy Mann's avatar

Author: Paddy Mann

Paddy is the co-founder and director of user experience at Spidergap (a 360 degree feedback tool with employee-friendly reports). He loves mountain biking and playing with his almost-toddling twins.

Follow @paddymann on Twitter