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Introducing 360 Degree Feedback – Part 2 – WHO should be involved

Tips to filling the seven key roles for a successful 360 project

Article by Elva Ainsworth, world-renowned 360 degree specialist, author and consultant

You cannot deliver a 360 project alone.  There are a number of key roles you need filled for a 360 degree feedback project to work.  Let’s start with the project leader:

  1. 360 project lead

    You need someone who is ready to be accountable for the project and its success.  This is often an HR, OD or L&D professional within the business but it can be an independent consultant.  Projects tend to go most smoothly when they are led by a senior professional who has had some experience already in 360, especially when they are supported by an efficient administrator but this is not essential.  If your project leader has no experience they are advised to select a supplier to support and train them through the early stages.

  2. 360 project champion

    A senior line champion who is driving the project is essential for real impact.  You need someone, ideally your CEO, who is truly committed to encouraging development and feedback – someone who is willing to put resource and time behind the initiative as well as being willing to participate themselves.  They should be modelling how participation in this initiative should go.  They should be warmly inviting others to participate, asking people to give them feedback and then genuinely sharing their own data and insights with other people.  Changes in their behaviour should be evident and appreciated.

  3. The target group

    Next you need to identify your target audience for the first wave of your 360 project.  This is often a senior team or a particular level within the leadership group.  In order to decide on this – here are some important questions:

  • Who will gain most from this experience?
  • Who has the most appetite and hunger for feedback?
  • Which group is seen as being priority for development?
  • Which group is most ambitious?
  • Which group has supporting programmes/coaching?

You may note that the question not included in this list is: “Who needs feedback most?”.  It is a common mistake to assume you should start with those who are your real problems – those who “need” feedback most.  The risk with this is that 360 will get tarnished with a “problem” label and it is better to plan for success – these individuals are likely to be highly resistant to feedback so will be the tougher ones to work with.

It is important to identify a group of participants that is reasonably distinctive with clear boundaries.  You will also need to think about how to handle recent recruits or promotions.  360 is advised once you have been employed (or in role) for a minimum of six months.

  1. The reviewers 

Many more people are involved in completing surveys than just the participants.  Each participant will have somewhere between 8 and 18 reviewers and will include their managers, their colleagues, their direct reports and potentially internal or external stakeholders or customers – possibly also family or friends.  All of these people need to be informed of this project and need to be able to find the time to complete surveys so the timing of their involvement needs to be considered carefully and they need to have a clear communication or briefing on what is happening and what is requested of them.  It is advisable to plan a specific briefing for these groups which might include:

  • 1-hour briefing
  • Tele-webinar
  • Posters
  • Emails
  • Briefing in team meeting

The best way to involve your reviewers is for your participants to personally ask them to rate them and for all the communications to be an invitation rather than an order or instruction.  The amount and quality written by these people in open-text feedback will increase if personal invitations have been made.  Reviewers need to have the opportunity to decline the request for feedback and it is important to set a maximum number of surveys reviewers are expected to complete – to somewhere between 10 or 15 depending on the culture and expectations.  Phasing your target group can overcome some of these issues wof course.

A 360 project works better if the process is voluntary throughout.  There is no point forcing people to look at feedback as, if they are not open, they will simply resist and go into some form of denial.  There is also no point in forcing people to give feedback as they will simply give you non-answers such as all 3s or all 5s (on a 5-point rating scale) and they will likely give you very little, or rather unhelpful, open comments.  For maximum value you should focus on inspiring people to participate.

  1. 360 administrator/helpdesk/“bureau support” 

    360 projects need day-to-day management once they are kicked off.  As soon as emails go out asking people to complete surveys, questions and queries come in and issues start to emerge that need sorting.  The usual issues are often to do with confidentiality i.e. people wanting assurance that their data will not be exposed.  But another common issue is that of simple login – people forget or lose their login details or may struggle to make it work.  In addition to this there are often issues regarding the choice of reviewers which mean changes need to be made, absences need to be managed and non-completion needs to be handled.

There is usually at least a six-week window when daily management and email (plus telephone) response is advised. Once the deadline approaches, non-completion needs some attention, chasing and occasionally proactive management – especially in the case of the very senior and popular managers who may have many reviews to complete.  This takes delicate and politically sensitive handling – sometimes with the help of PAs who can schedule time in senior diaries and negotiate deadline extensions.  All of this attention is essential if you want to achieve the 75% completion rate advised.

In addition to administrative support of the processing, there is also a job to do monitoring the quality of the survey completion itself. It is useful for someone to keep an eye on the ratings and the quality and detail of the open text feedback.  At Talent Innovations, we offer an independent bureau service and monitor such matters via a mix of “red flag” words and reading of commentary.  Potentially tricky and overly-sensitive and personal commentary can then be flagged for sensitive management (at the same time as protecting the confidentiality promises).

  1. The coaches/supporters

360 data can be tricky to interpret and to process.  It is also a significant challenge to coach or facilitate.  The data may look reasonably easy and accessible but the nuances, links and consequences can be deep and profound so it is worth being prepared with a support mechanism.  You can guarantee the value of the 360 exercise will increase if you offer every participant a feedback review session with an experienced and trained coach.

But the key question is whether the support should come from within or outside the organisation.  The basic advantages and disadvantages are:



  • Less consulting spend
  • Understands political context
  • In a position to take action
  • Builds internal relations
  • Skill development opportunity


  • Time for internal team
  • Is not seen as independent, unbiased
  • Ambiguous role
  • Will struggle to bring fresh insight
  • Unable to bring external angle



  • Brings fresh perspective
  • Clearly unbiased
  • Breadth of 360 experience
  • Clearly gives responsibility to participant
  • Offers fresh coaching
  • Confident, safe sessions
  • Appreciated as a true investment


  • Cost implications
  • Needs context-filling briefing
  • May miss some political issues

In order to combat some of the disadvantages of using external consultants, it is advised that you brief them fully and agree a debriefing process so that your HR department and line managers gain maximum value from the process.

  1. Your 360 supplier 

Unless you opt for a basic free online tool or spreadsheet option, you will want to choose a supplier for your online survey.  A guide to what to ask a potential supplier can be found in the Ti Resources on the website (click here).  Some key questions to check are:

Some key questions to ask a potential supplier are:

Degree of customisation available:
Can you use the rating scale you want?  Your corporate font?  And colours?  The workflow you want?  In your language(s) throughout?

Methodology used to draft 360 questions:
What approach do they use?

Look and feel of the reports:
How do they fit your brand?

Usability of the data as it appears through the report:
What value do the visuals add?  Are the insights clear?  And guaranteed?  Are the positives emphasised?

Quality of the benchmark data:
What is the size and mix of the norm dataset?

Rigour of the off-the-shelf tool:
What is the research underpinning the tool?

Quality of customer support:
Are they responsive by phone, by email?

Expertise in project design and planning:
Are they organised?

Credibility of consultants in front of your leaders:
Do they enhance your profile?

Speed of development:
Can they deliver to your timescales?

Ease of working:
Do they have the approach to partnership you would like?

Expertise in psychometric statistics:
What statistical skill can they offer you in aggregate analysis?


In terms of who should be involved in your 360 project, the above guidance should help you get clear but the truth is that actually, everyone in your organisation is involved in a 360 project (of any reasonable scale anyhow).  It is a highly visible initiative.  It raises expectations and emotions – apprehension, worry, resistance and concern as well as excitement and relief.  It can lead to a profound impact and a transformational experience for many of your target group so that others around them truly benefit as well as the organisation as a whole.  At the same time, it can lead to painful emotions and upsets if not handled well so it is worth taking the time and trouble to get the right people involved as you will then be planning for success and be managing the risk responsibly.


© Talent Innovations
April 2018

To read the first article in this series – the “What” – click here.


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