Practical advice for designing a 360-degree feedback process

Topic: Feedback, Change Management
Publication: Journal of Business and Psychology (MAY 2011)
Article: When does 360-degree feedback create behavior change? And how would we know it when it does?
Authors: Bracken, D. W., Rose, D. S.
Reviewed by: Alexandra Rechlin

Have you ever participated in a 360-degree feedback process that seemed pointless and didn’t appear to change anything at all? If so, you’re not alone. However, a 360-degree feedback process, when well designed, has the potential for lasting behavioral change. This article discusses critical design factors of a 360-degree feedback process used to create sustainable behavioral and organizational change. The authors also provide questions for future research and practical advice for making the process successful. Four critical design factors are discussed: relevant content, credible data, accountability, and census (organizationwide) participation.


Relevant content: The authors recommend using custom surveys rather than standardized tools, but they acknowledge that there’s quite a bit of debate about this. They argue that custom surveys can increase motivation and engagement due to their meaning and relevance.

Credible data: You need to have reliable data, but your stakeholders also need to perceive your data as being reliable.

You should use a sufficient number of raters who observe the ratee enough to be able to rate accurately, and the ratee should choose who will be doing the rating. You also need a good instrument; it should be professionally constructed with clear behavioral items, it should not be “tricky” by using randomization and reverse wording, and the rating scale should be relevant and clear. Finally, you need to train your raters.

Accountability: Accountability is how you get real behavior change to happen. One way to increase accountability is to have ratees follow up with their raters. Following up demonstrates that the feedback has value, shows commitment to change, holds raters accountable, helps in getting rater buy-in, and gives raters the opportunity to further explain their ratings. The authors also argue that the boss should be included in the feedback process.

Census (organizationwide) participation: Census participation is extremely important if your goal is system-wide behavioral change, and including all leaders/managers has numerous benefits.

Obtaining reliable and valid data is imperative if you want to detect behavioral change. Ratings may be inaccurate for a number of reasons, such as raters’ beliefs that the data may be used for promotional or termination decisions. Organizations may also push to use extremely short surveys, which are not as valid as longer ones.

Although we know quite a bit about how to conduct a 360-degree feedback process, many questions still remain. Future research should provide answers to many practical design questions that practitioners face.

Bracken, D. W., & Rose, D. S. (2011). When does 360-degree feedback create behavior change? And how would we know it when it does? Journal of Business and Psychology, 26, 183-192. doi: 10.1007/s10869-011-9218-5

human resource management,organizational industrial psychology, organizational management