The value of a 360 degree survey comes from the variety of perspectives in the feedback. Selecting the right raters is a very important part of the 360 degree survey process and ensures your people get well-rounded feedback. Many people struggle to identify who should be included in their 360 degree survey rater groups. This article discusses how to select those who will provide feedback (raters) to those receiving feedback (targets) so you can get the best results from your 360 degree survey.

Step 1 – Make sure the right people are involved in choosing raters for the 360 degree survey.

In any feedback process, there is always the potential that those being assessed will experience a bit of angst. You can make targets more comfortable with the 360 degree survey by collaborating with them when selecting raters. The most effective approach we’ve seen is to ask the target to create the initial list of 360 degree survey raters and request input from his or her manager and HR. The manager or HR should approve the list and make sure each target has a well-rounded list of raters. By getting the target involved, that person also takes greater ownership of the feedback process and is more likely to be open to the feedback received from the 360 degree survey.

Step 2 – Understand the different types of raters that exist for a 360 degree survey.

Before we can choose who should rate your 360 degree survey targets, we need to discuss the different types of raters that are out there. Raters generally fall into one of five groups:

  • Self – This group consists of one person – the target. All targets should rate themselves on a 360 degree survey.
  • Managers – This group refers to individuals who oversee the work performed by the target and hold the target accountable for reaching operational goals. The manager is the only rater in a 360 degree survey whose feedback is not anonymous.
  • Peers – This refers to people outside of the target’s responsibility chain – neither a manager nor a subordinate – but who are at the same level of responsibility and position within the organization; it’s someone with whom the target has regular contact. An example might be a co-worker in a different department with whom the target collaborates to complete projects.
  • Direct reports – This group includes those who are an immediate subordinate to the target. Direct reports are generally supervised by the target and are a valuable source of information regarding the target’s leadership capabilities.
  • Other – This group refers to individuals who do not fall into one of the above categories, yet whose input is still desired for a 360 degree survey project. An example might be an external or internal customer.

The groups that a target selects from for the 360 degree survey will vary depending on his or her job function, current projects, business goals, etc.

Step 3 – Choose the right raters for the 360 degree survey from each group.

When choosing rater groups for the 360 degree survey, consider the following:

  • A target’s manager (or managers) should be required to provide feedback.
  • Direct reports of the target should all be invited to provide feedback as this communicates that each direct report’s input is equally important.
  • Choosing peers for the 360 degree survey can be the most challenging. Targets will gain the most value from being able to see how their performance is perceived in all aspects of their job functions. For this reason, you should avoid selecting all peers from a single project or team. In general, the peers should represent as diverse a group as possible. Choose peers who can provide feedback on different aspects of the target’s functions and responsibilities.
  • Consider other raters for the 360 degree survey based on the target’s job function, current projects, business goals, etc.

In general, make sure all of the raters you choose for your 360 degree survey meet the following criteria:

  • Raters should be those who have worked with the target for at least four months.
  • They should be people who interact with the target on a regular basis.
  • Raters should have a reasonable understanding of the target’s job function and capabilities within that job function.
  • Raters should be willing to provide open, honest feedback.

Step 4 – Choose the right number of raters for the 360 degree survey.

Getting feedback from multiple raters improves the reliability and validity of the overall ratings for the 360 degree survey. The ideal mix of raters includes a manager, all direct reports, all formal peers, and other relevant groups. While you want to avoid having too few raters, you also don’t want to overwhelm people by selecting too many raters. If their formal peer group is too large, choose those with whom the target works most frequently. Ten to 12 raters are effective for most 360 degree survey projects.

Good rater selection equals 360 degree surveys that work.

Following those four steps leads to a richer, more meaningful 360 degree survey experience. You also want to make sure you have the right tool to ensure the process goes smoothly. The 36 Dollar 360 is an easy-to-use, web-based 360 degree survey tool that makes loading and modifying raters for your targets a simple task. Raters love it because they only have to go through the survey once to evaluate multiple team members. With a good rater selection process and the right tool, you’re well on your way to developing everybody.