360 Degree Feedback: Benefits & Best Practices

Jun 26, 2018 12:38:00 PM


Leadership development is one of the most important investments that organizations can make. The best companies know that attracting and retaining top talent is only half the battle. Developing leaders by preparing them for future responsibilities is the best way to insure future success. One of the most successful ways businesses can develop future leaders is through a simple, but powerful tool - 360 degree feedback.

Nearly all Fortune 500 companies use some method of 360 degree feedback for their leadership development programs. These corporations use a variety of methods are used in leadership development interventions, including executive coaching, mentoring, and multi-source feedback tools. This article will focus on 360 degree feedback as a tool for leadership development programs.

Benefits of Multi-Source and 360 Degree Feedback

Multi-source feedback refers to a method of performance review in which feedback comes from more than one individual. These assessments are instrumental to personal and professional development because they aggregate information from several important sources, including self, peers, subordinates, and supervisors. 

360 degree feedback is useful because it reveals hidden information about the perceptions of strengths and weaknesses among raters. Additionally, providing feedback from multiple sources makes negative assessments more difficult to dismiss, deny or deflect than if only a single rater provided the feedback. As a result, individuals receiving 360 degree feedback may be more motivated to adjust their behaviors that can lead to performance improvement.

360 degree feedback tools have been shown to provide information that is unavailable in traditional feedback models. In a comprehensive meta-analysis, researchers laid a scholarly foundation for 360 degree feedback in their 2001 article published in the Human Performance journal. To summarize, their work found that multi-source feedback provided "incremental validity" not found in traditional feedback sources. Furthermore, the addition of peer and subordinate ratings was shown to have a positive impact on objective business outcomes. This research overwhelmingly suggests that better and more frequent feedback leads to stronger leadership.

The Best Uses of 360 Degree Feedback For Leadership Development

Furthermore, a great deal of research has been conducted that defines the most effective means by which to use 360 degree feedback tools for personal development. A study in Personnel Psychology suggests that feedback is most likely to result in positive change when recipients have

  • a positive feedback orientation
  • change is believed to be achievable
  • subjects take actions toward specific, appropriate developmental goals.

These strategies can be implemented  by preparing participants for feedback as part of a leadership development program, managing employee perception of the process, and integrating the process into the greater organizational system of talent development.


360 degree feedback is one of the best ways to unlock hidden potential in the future leaders of your organization. If you are interested in incorporating multi-source feedback into your organization's leadership development program, we recommend either the Manager Survey for existing leaders or Emerging Leader Survey for high potential employees. Getting leaders used to regular feedback early in their career has the potential to yield large dividends for the future. Start a free trial today.

Brian Griffith

Written by Brian Griffith