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360 degree feedback tools: A comprehensive guide for HR buyers

There’s a wealth of choice when it comes to 360 degree feedback providers. That’s the good news. However, with such an abundance of different 360 degree appraisal tools and multi-rater feedback software out there, it’s really useful to have a good understanding of exactly what you need (and what you don’t).

Being better informed before speaking with 360 degree appraisal suppliers will make navigating this crowded marketplace far easier. You won’t waste time speaking with suppliers who aren’t able to meet your requirements and you’ll end up with the right solution to fit your needs and budget.

We’ve highlighted a range of criteria, considerations and questions for you. Working your way through these should provide a solid basis for a brief.

1. Type of supplier

What expertise and skills are you looking for in a 360 partner? Consider what type of company you’re keen to partner with.

Will you need:

  • Just the 360 software or online platform
  • Dedicated project management support
  • Post-sales support (technical/IT or consultative support)
  • Experience in delivering 360 for different purposes (i.e. for appraisal or cultural change)
  • Theoretical and practical expertise to develop a culturally-appropriate 360 process
  • Technical knowledge to design an online 360 tool that will fit your business
  • Demonstrable IT security to store your data in the most secure manner

2. Consultancy support

Consider whether you’ll look externally for help to devise and introduce your 360 degree feedback programme? If so, how much? Consultancy support will ensure your programme is designed to meet your specific aims.

Will you need:

  • Guidance on introducing 360 feedback for the first time (or re-launching it)
  • Align 360 questionnaire with competency framework, values and/or strategy
  • Help communicating with key stakeholder groups
  • Support participants on how to receive feedback
  • Support participants with taking action and changing behaviour
  • Advice on frequency of 360 to drive behavioural change

3. Creating materials

You’ll need to think about what content will be needed for the 360 programme and who will be able to create these materials. Identify what expertise and capacity you have in-house to do this.

If you need external support from a supplier, make sure you capture these requirements in your brief.

Will you need help to:

  • Create a questionnaire and with the wording of questions and devising a rating scale
  • Create a competency framework (if you don’t have one already)
  • Create communication materials (emails, user guides etc.) for the programme
  • Translate 360 questionnaire into different languages

Learn more about designing 360 feedback questionnaires in our ‘how to’ guide .

4. Reporting

The quality and flexibility of reporting outputs is a key consideration when evaluating providers.
Consider who’ll need to access reports, what formats they’ll want data in and how data will be used.

Will you need to have:

  • Different levels of access to 360 data (e.g. for managers, admin users, executives)
  • Summary reports for participants
  • Group reporting and demographic splits (e.g. by gender, region etc.)
  • Norm groups, percentile and quartile reporting (shows individual scores versus colleague norms)
  • Analysis of results for stakeholders (e.g. capability, diversity, links with engagement scores)

Learn more about our 360 degree feedback reporting tools .

5. Supporting behavioural change

The success of 360 degree appraisal is ultimately measured by the changes that result. You need to provide the right tools, create the right processes and offer sufficient support to participants to be able to address the behaviours they need to change after 360.

Will you need assistance to:

  • Guide feedback receivers on interpreting their results to identify actions
  • Interpret group-level data to identify action at an organisational level
  • Host manager workshops to help feedback receivers interpret reports
  • Create action toolkits for feedback receivers

Getting participants to change behaviour based on 360 feedback can be particularly challenging when you’re dealing with a senior population and with people who are unwilling or unable to change how they work.

Learn more about this in our ‘How to create behavioural change after 360 feedback’ guide .

6. Technical requirements

Advanced knowledge isn’t needed but it’s useful to know your basic system requirements. Consult with your IT team to capture a list of technical and security-related restrictions or preferences for where data is stored, how the data is stored and how the system is accessed.

Consider the importance for your organisation of:

  • Approval steps / selection and approval of raters (by manager)
  • Customisable 360 tool (i.e. apply company branding to all materials, add new questionnaires, custom reports etc.)
  • Compatibility with other devices or off-line (i.e. smartphone, tablet)
  • Host the 360 (and all data) externally
  • Integration with other HR software or a company intranet
  • Rigorous security (penetration) testing by your IT team or an external tester

7. Budget and costs

The overall cost of introducing a 360 degree feedback system could vary wildly depending on the scale of your programme, the complexity of your requirements and how many people are to use it. Pay-per-use is the most common pricing model whereby you pay an agreed price or credit amount (can be anything from £50-£150) per 360 feedback participant.

Make sure you also factor in any upfront costs. For a customised 360 degree appraisal tool, you’ll have to pay for the development work and, when buying off-the-shelf, you’ll need to buy the software.

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Related resources

360 degree feedback: A complete guide to designing and running programmes

This complete guide to 360 degree feedback offers detailed advice on why and when to use 360, how to design and implement, and what support to offer participants.

360 degree feedback rating scales: What’s best practice?

This article explores different types of 360 degree feedback rating scales commonly used and considers the scenarios when each of them is most suitable.

How can you ensure 360 feedback always offers great value for leaders?

If 360 feedback is to offer real value to leaders, it’s imperative the process is freshened up to ensure its strategic relevance. Here we highlight three key design considerations for questionnaires.

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