Setting up a 360º Feedback Cycle

This document explains how to configure 360° feedback for your organization. Learn how to set up 360° cycles, invite participants, and track your company's progress.

Cycle Setup Steps

Other considerations

Video Tutorial

This detailed tutorial walks you through the steps in setting up a cycle.

Creating new cycle or modifying existing cycle

To create a new 360° cycle or modify an existing one, go to the Company tab, 360s, and view the cycle administration screen. You can copy an existing cycle or create one from scratch using the 'Create Cycle' button.

This will take you to a screen that will guide you through a few steps to set up a 360° feedback cycle. Once you finish, you'll see an overview of your settings where you can preview your questionnaire before you create the cycle.

Select reviewees

First, select the employees who should receive feedback in this cycle. You can easily select teams, sort by department, or add all managers for a dedicated upwards feedback cycle. If you’d like to set up a future cycle or don’t know exactly who should be reviewed yet, just click ‘Select reviewees later’ to skip this step.

Name your cycle

Next, give the cycle a name and introduction. Reviewers will see this introduction when they give feedback to coworkers, so if you’d like them to follow certain guidelines or concentrate on a particular time period when writing their feedback, let them know here.

Who should select reviewers?

How should reviewers be chosen in this cycle? You have a few options here.

  • We recommend you keep reviewee nominations on, so that feedback recipients can suggest who they’d like to hear from - this will let managers and HR know whose feedback would be most relevant and valuable to them.
  • If need be reviewees' managers - as well as users with HR rights - will be able to add to or modify their reports' nominated reviewers, and will then approve a finalized list of reviewers for each report. Once approved, emails will go out to reviewers inviting them to provide feedback for the reviewee.
  • But it is possible to turn off reviewee nominations and rely solely on managers and HR Admins for reviewer selection. Or you can choose to restrict reviewer selection to just HR Admin users for very targeted cycles.
  • You can require managers or HR Admins to approve nominees, or you can disable that setting and skip the approval process entirely.
  • You can enable proactive 360º Feedback – meaning that from their Small Improvements homepage, users will be able to provide feedback to anyone, regardless of whether they were nominated as a reviewer.
  • You could even suggest how many people reviewees should request feedback from in order to give them a better idea of whom to choose.
  • If you'd like, you can ask reviewees to leave an additional personal message for their reviewers as well. Select the checkbox which will prompt reviewees to leave a note for their reviewers.

Compose the questionnaire

Next you'll compose the questionnaire that employees will fill out when providing feedback for their peers. There are two sample free-text questions which, of course, you can edit. 

You also have the option to include Multiple Choice, Linear Scale, or Checkbox questions. Read more about these types of questions and when to use them.

If you'd like to group questions by topic – e.g. a section on company values – you can add Headings.

To make the questions sound more personal, you can choose from several different replacement placeholders. For example, 'First Name' would then be replaced by the reviewee's first name. You can start typing to see a list of user placeholders, or click Insert and then select Replacements.

Add up to 10 questions, but remember, less can be more. Every question takes time to answer, so concentrate on what you want to get out of this 360. We suggest you keep it simple. The default questions ask what reviewees did well and what they could improve on. Although this may sound generic, these questions can actually give you very good results.

We'd suggest starting with just a few questions, at least in the first feedback cycle. You can always expand the question set in the following 360° feedback cycles if you feel more questions are necessary.

Visibility and anonymity settings

Who should see the feedback written in this cycle? You can choose to show feedback to the reviewee, her manager, and/or her indirect manager. The same goes for the reviewer of the feedback – you can choose to show the reviewer’s identity to reviewees, managers, and/or indirect managers. Note that hiding authorship does not hide the list of reviewers to the reviewee, rather just who wrote what. Though there is an option for this, see below. 

There are a few additional anonymity options you could enable:

  • If reviewee nominations are on, you’ll have the option to notify reviewees if one of their reviewers declines to give feedback. That way she can add an additional reviewer if need be.
  • If you have chosen to hide author identity from reviewees, managers, and/or indirect managers, you will also see an option to split feedback up by paragraph. Paragraphs will be displayed in random order to enhance anonymity. If you turn this on, be sure to let reviewers know so they can write each paragraph to make sense out of context.
  • You may also see the option to hide the list of reviewers from the reviewee. If you select this option, feedback will be entirely anonymous. Of course if reviewees had the option to nominate reviewers, they will know who they nominated, but reviewees will not be able to see the final list of approved reviewers who’ve given feedback. This may be useful if you don’t want reviewees to know how managers or users with HR permissions have modified the list of nominees. Note that if you select this option, you will no longer be able to inform reviewees if a reviewer declines to give feedback, as this would break anonymity.
  • If HR users are solely responsible for selecting reviewers, you may also see the option to hide the list of reviewers from a reviewee’s manager as well. Thus feedback would also be entirely anonymous to the manager.

Set the cycle's timeline

As the last step you’ll define the cycle’s timeline. First set a start date – when should the cycle and thus the section process begin? If you want the cycle to start immediately, keep this set to the current date and you’ll be able to send out email notifications about the cycle right away. If you’re setting up a cycle for the future, select a future date in this field and the rest of the timeline will adjust accordingly with our recommended settings.

Click on each stage to find a description of what it stipulates:

If Reviewee Nominations are on, you can set a due date for nominating reviewers. This date is not enforced in the tool, but we do suggest reviewees take it seriously, as once a manager approves reviewers it will no longer be possible to nominate additional reviewers (the manager may still add to the list, but the reviewee will not have this option).

  • If you’ve chosen to include managers in the reviewer selection process, you’ll be asked to set a window for approving reviewers. Note that reviewers will only be notified to give feedback once they’ve been approved, so you don’t want this window to be too long! It will be possible for managers or HR to add additional reviewers after this window has passed, though, so no need to worry if you forget someone. If you've disabled the approval process, you'll skip this step in the timeline.
  • Next set a due date for writing feedback! Reviewers will be allowed to run late, but feedback that has not been marked as ‘Done. Ready to share’ will not be released, so please encourage reviewers to mark feedback as ready to share before the release date. You'll be able to send email reminders from the Company Overview to help nudge people along.
  • Choose when feedback should be released to reviewees and/or managers (if you’ve chosen to hide feedback from reviewees or managers, this date will not be shown). There is also the option to release feedback immediately, not anchored by a timeline milestone. 
  • Note that if you have opted to release feedback immediately, email notifications will not have a fixed date and time from which to be triggered. Thus, you must rely on your team frequently logging in to review feedback.

Finally, set a cycle end date. After this date everything will be locked down and no changes can be made. Any feedback that was not shared will not be visible, and you will need to edit the cycle settings to extend this deadline if people do not share before this date.

Customize your emails

It can be very helpful to include custom information in your notification emails. It's optional, and you can choose to leave default content, or edit emails at the account level.

Click here for a full walkthrough on customizing emails.

Custom emails are the final step of the setup process, though you can edit those emails at any time during the cycle.

Create the cycle!

If Reviewee Nominations are on and you’ve set the cycle to start immediately, you’ll have the option to invite reviewees to pick reviewers right away, and preview the email they'll receive. If you want to customize this email, you can do so in your Administration tab under 'Emails.' Of course you may skip this step if you like and send invitations later, from the Company Overview.

Depending on how your cycle is set up, we’ll inform you in the confirmation overlay of any next steps to take after cycle creation.

And that’s it! Remember, you can always go to the cycle's Company Overview to send reminder emails and manage reviewees.

Analyze invite frequency and completion rates: Sort by reviewer

Once staff have nominated their reviewers, the next step is usually to ask managers to approve those reviewers. You can trigger an email right from the overview.

  • But before you let managers approve reviewers, you can check to see who has invited whom.
  • Locate the "By Reviewer" tab: This report shows who was invited by whom, sorted by the number of invitations. This "leaderboard" can be useful to prevent key people from being flooded with requests for 360 feedback! And at the end of the list you can also click a button to show who has not been nominated at all.
  • Once the cycle is underway, you can use this same screen to easily see who is running late in general, especially if some people have not had time to provide any feedback at all.

Managers approve, reviewers get notified

After the date for inviting reviewers (and the date for managers to start approving reviewers) has passed, you should inform managers to approve reviewers, by clicking the "inform managers to approve"-button at the top of the screen. Once managers have approved the reviewers, automatic emails are sent to reviewers within the next hour. By waiting for up to one hour Small Improvements can batch emails, so that reviewers won't get overloaded by mail.

Note: The emails you trigger to managers will only tell them to approve the reviewers of their direct reports. But senior managers are also able to approve the reviewers for indirect reports from the overview screen. This enables entire departments to work autonomously without having to ask HR for help all the time.

Reporting, tracking, and nudging employees

Once reviewers start providing feedback and clicking their "done" button, you'll start seeing green "check" signs in the overview, and also on the reviewer-details. The pie charts at the top start indicating progress, and you can click the pie chart segments to filter the list.

  • Note that the status per reviewer is not showing if you are looking at your own reviewers if the feedback cycle is set to "anonymous". In that case question-marks indicate that you (the admin) are not able to see the status of your own reviewers.
  • You can also nudge reviewers (on the reviewer-details panel), sending them a friendly automated email to remind them of their review.
  • Sending every reviewer an email would be a tedious task, so there's an option in the "Notify" menu that lets you send emails to every reviewer that still has open reviews.

Recipient perspective of responses

The ability to see the results or Multiple Choice, Checkbox or Linear Scale questions depends on the visibility settings of the 360 cycle. If you configured the cycle to show the results to the manager only, then only the manager can see the distribution of the responses. If the reviewee is allowed to see the feedback, they will also be able to see that distribution.

The ability to see who provided what response depends on the cycle anonymity settings. If the reviewee (or the manager) is not allowed to see who provided what feedback, then the responses are displayed as above. However, if the cycle is configured to not be anonymous to the reviewee (or to the manager) then the names of the reviewers will appear. Like so:

Parallel cycles

Nothing stops you from defining several 360 cycles in parallel. You could for instance create on cycle for all the engineers, and one for the sales people, and one for the rest of the company. They could share the same timeline, while the questions for engineers and sales people are a bit more specific for engineering or sales. You could also move the sales cycle back by a week in case a big trade show gets in the way. 360 cycles are very flexible.

Combining 360s with performance reviews

Although we don't exactly recommend it, you can of course also set up your 360 cycle at the same time as your performance review cycle. The risk of combining the two is that your 360 feedback might become more biased when staff feel they are competing for the same promotions or bonuses.

We'd suggest you conduct your 360s at least a month before performance reviews, or ideally even 3 months before. But if you must, then you can of course conduct the 360s during the same time frame as staff write their self-assessments, and ensure that the 360 feedback is available when managers write performance reviews. Up to you! Small Improvements is flexible enough to support all common use-cases.

Email overview

The system sends emails to staff to help them know what's expected of them. You can view, change, and toggle all automated emails on or off in your Admin tab under "Emails".

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