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360 Degree Assessment Design

Conducting a successful feedback program requires careful consideration and planning every step of the way, including survey design, deployment, and data-delivery. The tips and suggestions listed below will help you avoid some of the most common mistakes.

Design your 360 Assessment Carefully

For a more detailed discussion on how to develop your own custom 360 assessment, see our article: Developing a 360 Feedback Strategy

Define Superior Performance - Identify Competencies and Expectations for your Organization: Work with the leaders of your organization to identify competencies which are expected of all employees. These competencies should be tied to your organization's core values, mission, and strategy. Work with the senior person or group in each department - not only will their input be valuable, but you will also get their buy-in which will be important to the success of your 360 feedback program.

Define Superior Performance - Differences by Level: If you are conducting 360 feedback at different levels in your organization, consider how the specific behaviors and requirements differ, depending on what level a person is at within the organization.

Define Superior Performance - Identify Position-Specific Competencies: We don't recommend creating a different 360 survey form for every position, but for a small number of key positions or functions, you might consider adding specific competencies that are required for successful job performance.

Compose Questions for each Competency: Start by working from our standard list of 360 survey items. If there are specific behaviors or skills that you want to measure that are not covered by one of our items, take time to compose effective questions for the competencies that you have identified. If you have never written survey questions before, consider doing some research on how to write effective questions or hire a consultant to help you. If your questions are not well written, the data you receive will not be as useful.

Quantitative versus Qualitative Data: It is important to collect both quantitative (numeric) and qualitative (comments) data. Numeric data will give you hard numbers that you can use to identify strengths and weaknesses. Comments will offer insights into specific issues that are often missed by quantitative data alone. Comments are often the most valuable part of the feedback process.

Pilot your Survey: Once you have written the questions/competencies for your survey, try filling out the survey as if you were rating a coworker that you know well. This is your chance to identify redundancy, confusing items, and missing competencies. You should also ask a small group of people to help you by doing the same exercise. You can include some extra items on the survey for the pilot respondents that ask them to comment on the survey itself. You should also include instructions that ask them to comment specifically on items that they find redundant or confusing and ask them if they think anything is missing from the survey.

Ready to Launch? Once you have gone through the above process, you are just about ready to launch your survey. But before you do, be sure to read the next article on 360 Deployment.

Build or Buy?


Rather than creating your own 360 feedback form, you might want to consider using an existing survey that contains a comprehensive list of validated categories and questions. You will save time and benefit from the expertise of people who specialize in 360 feedback. You also get the benefit of benchmark data which provide information on how your employees' results compare to people in other organizations.

The "buy" option is often the right choice for:
  • Small organizations
  • Companies that are using 360 on a limited or ad hoc basis
  • Companies that are new to 360 feedback
  • Companies with limited HR resources


On the other hand, a customized set of 360 degree feedback competencies allows you to tailor the content to meet any specific requirements you have. Organizations that have well established and publicized leadership principles and core values often opt for a customized 360 survey that follows the structure and content of their existing models.

The "build" option is best for:
  • Larger organizations
  • Companies with well established and publicized leadership models
  • Companies with an existing 360 survey that is already working well
  • Organizations with ample HR resources


So you want a 360 survey that is customized for your organization, but that is also proven, validated, and benchmarked? Or maybe you just don't want to reinvent the wheel by coming up with a comprehensive list of 360 competencies that will ultimately look a lot like many of the established 360 surveys that are already available.

A customized 360 survey that leverages existing competencies and items, but that also includes some content that is unique to your organization is a great option for many organizations.

"Both" is the right choice in many situations, especially for:
  • Medium-sized and larger organizations
  • Organizations with motivated HR staff who can champion the initiative
  • Organizations with established models of leadership and/or core company values
  • Organizations that are conducting systematic or broad-based 360 feedback