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Developing 360 Feedback Survey Questions

360 Degree Feedback Survey Questions

Most good 360 feedback surveys measure essentially the same behaviors and competencies. A good 360 assessment has been statistically validated, factor analyzed, and refined over time. We have fine-tuned our survey items and categories through a series of revisions over the course of many years using data from tens of thousands of participants.

If you are developing your own 360 competency model, you will probably find that about 80% of our 360 categories and survey questions overlap with your competency model. The most likely area where you will find gaps will be around your company's specific core values.

As you create your competency model, map any areas in your model to corresponding categories in our model. Within each of these categories, look at our specific survey questions, each of which references a specific behavior or skill. Select which items you want to include and add any additional items to address behaviors or skills you feel are missing.

One of the biggest advantages to referencing an established 360 survey questionnaire is that it will allow you to spot anything that you might have overlooked when you created your competency model. Be on the lookout for behaviors on our item list that might not be covered by your competency model.

By using an established 360 feedback questionnaire instead of writing your own similar item whenever possible, you get the following advantages:

  • Tested and validated item wording
  • External benchmarking data are available
  • You don't have to spend time composing your own survey questions

Different Competencies for People at Different Levels

As employees move up in the organization, the set of skills required to succeed at the next level are different than the skills that enabled the employee to succeed at the previous level.
The irony of internal promotion is that the most capable people at one level are often promoted to a higher level, where they flounder because they need a different set of skills at this new level.

If you are developing a 360 survey questionnaire that will be used by people at different levels within your organization, the mix of categories and items might vary quite a lot across the various levels. It might help to think about the different levels in terms of the requirements for success in the following three areas:

Vision, Strategy, Inspiration
  • Upper levels should include a lot of detail in this area.
  • Middle levels should include some items in this area. This is an opportunity to help people see what skills they will need in order to succeed at the next level. It is also an opportunity for you to identify high potentials for promotions. People at this level might not be responsible for defining the strategic direction of the organization, but they are responsible for communicating that to their employees. In addition, some degree of inspiring and motivating is relevant for anybody in a management role.
  • Lower levels (individual contributors/non-managers) will have few or no items in this area.
Teambuilding and Relationship Building
  • Upper levels should include a lot in this area. You don't have to be quite as thorough with regard to basic skills. Instead, focus more on emotional intelligence, support & relationship building at a more conceptual level, and creating strategic alliances with other parts of the organization.
  • Middle levels should include a lot of detail in this area, with a heavy focus on interpersonal skills, emotional intelligence, team management, and fostering team effectiveness.
  • Lower levels should also include quite a bit here. The focus will be more on interpersonal skills, cooperating with others, and supporting team efforts.
Task Management and Execution
  • Upper levels should include items that are more focused on achieving results - typically, they would not have reached this level if they had not been competent in the basics when they were at a lower level.
  • Middle levels should include quite a lot here, but some of the most basic items could be excluded.
  • Lower levels should include a lot in this area, focusing on the basic, fundamental skills of reliability, task management, and job performance.

Example - "Teamwork"
As an example of how a specific competency area is applicable across all levels of the organization, but differs at each level, consider the area of "Teamwork":
Upper Levels - Senior Exec, VP
  • Encourages cooperation and collaboration between business units
  • Establishes partnerships at all levels to achieve results

Middle Levels - Manager, Director
  • Resolves conflicts among team members
  • Sets clear, achievable goals for all team members to follow

Lower Levels - Non-manager, Individual Contributor
  • Works effectively to achieve team goals
  • Cooperates effectively with team members

When you are finished, you will have three or four different 360 questionnaires. By following these steps, you will have a vertically integrated, best-practice approach that uses a common core across all levels, but that also maps out a progression from the bottom of the organization to the top.