Why it’s Good to Know What Your Co-Workers Really Think About You

How do you ensure that you encourage each of your employees to grow to their full potential within your organisation? How do you make sure that every member in your team is not only leveraging their strengths, but identifying those areas for growth, while at the same time making meaningful progress in developing those areas?

Many organisations use a range of tools and products to identify these areas of individual strengths and areas to improve.  The 360 degree survey program, originally coined in 1985 by US marketing expert Mark Edwards2, has been around for over 25 years and is one tool that can give an individual some insight into their specific strengths and areas for improvement, as expressed by their co-workers.

At an individual level, the feedback from a 360 can provide an awareness of one-self, as well as the needs of others, and put into practice team-wide, these opportunities for growth and improvement can be identified, which can then propel a business into a more positive and productive workplace.

REACH has recently introduced a fresh approach to the 360; a feedback program that provides personal and professional growth beyond traditional 360 tools. As one of five components in the REACH Ecosystem, the REACH 360 goes beyond just feedback and picks up where a lot of other tools in the personal development training market fall short; here’s three reasons why.

Comparative Feedback

For many, hearing what their colleagues and peers believe are their greatest strengths and areas for improvement, creates a positive feedback culture in the workplace. The most effective 360 uses survey feedback for professional development purposes as opposed to performance assessments and appraisals.

In a study performed by the American Management Association1 of over 2,000 members of human resources, finance and marketing departments, 86% of respondents said the term ‘appraisal’ was tied to compensation decisions, and another 30% felt it was more related to retention and discharge. The key issue for some organisations is that they use 360 surveys as an opportunity to judge and rate the performance of an employee, rather than as an opportunity to help identify and develop the appropriate skills of that individual.

Researchers at Forbes Magazine8 uncovered that “leaders are less attuned to seeing their weaknesses but can often be equally unaware of their strengths”.  REACH has adapted its program from older and more limited constructs like Michael Beldoch’s Emotional Quotient (EQ). To overcome much of the academic criticism, which states there is no way of proving that EQ is a causal factor in performance issues, REACH has been developed from sixteen core skills that relate to workplace performance. These sixteen areas of development have demonstrated a direct correlation with leadership, management, supervision and sales performance.

The REACH 360 process allows ratees to compare the sixteen skills-based constructs they answered in their own self-profile, alongside feedback they received from their co-workers in the same constructs. Leadership Collaborator Helen Green4 believes that receiving comparative feedback can help combat self-doubt issues such as ‘impostor syndrome’, which is the belief that you aren’t up to the task and that one day you’ll be exposed.

For this reason, REACH 360 allows employees to compare their response sheet against their co-worker’s feedback. This important step in the development process not only helps boost a worker’s confidence in the areas that they may not have thought they excelled in, but also helps them discover potential areas for growth that they may not have been aware of, and is a big step forward in providing pathways for individual improvement.

 Providing Pathways to Improvement

While the professional development training industry’s survey technologies have improved the popularity of 360 programs, many experts have rightly pointed out that the by-product of this increased usage has created what is referred to as the ‘desk drop’.

Coined in the 1990’s by the consulting industry, this common approach to 360 occurs after all the data has been collected, the reports have been complied and the results have then been ‘dropped’ on a leader’s desk with no additional follow up support. In fact, Forbes’ Eric Jackson insists two of the biggest reasons most 360 programs fail is because a) no plan is set following feedback, and b) if there is a follow-up session post 360 program, it only happens once.  Behavioural change is one of the hardest habits to set in motion, so personal development programs like 360 need to have scheduled follow-up actions and activities delivered over time, or at least be revisited in a timely manner.

The REACH philosophy states that the initial surveying process of the 360 is only 10% of the outcome, while the other 90% is the personal and professional growth that follows. The REACH Ecosystem is a new paradigm that provides clarity and a path forward by providing organisations with the necessary resources to follow up and implement training and coaching to help answer ‘what next?’.

Following each 360, employees are offered tailored coaching packs with ten modules that aim to assist the individual in cultivating a growth mindset, visualising development targets and expanding their own personal REACH score.  Written in a positive, outcome-oriented way, the REACH 360 helps leaders grow and become more effective while reducing external performance factors such as survey fatigue by taking only a few minutes to complete.

Reduces Survey Fatigue

If you research the drawbacks of implementing a 360 program, you will find references to how long these surveys can take to complete effectively from start to finish. TLNT, a leading voice in the HR industry in the US5, claims “one of the big complaints of larger scale use of the 360-degree method is the administrative burden and time demands it places on raters who participate in multiple surveys.”

Co-founders of the leadership development training firm Zenger Folkman3 say 360-degree surveys should take no longer than 15 to 20 minutes, however, multiply that by the number of survey’s sent out per employee, and suddenly the entire office has wasted hours filling out pages of questions for a program that, typically, isn’t even followed up on down the track.

Another common issue that companies encounter when conducting large scale 360 reviews, is that they can often lead to inaccurate or unreliable results. While research conducted on behalf of Monash University7 suggests that surveys with a 10% or lower response rate can still be considered trustworthy if the facilitator checks the response quality.  Longer surveys are often what disrupt the reliability of these responses.

The REACH 360 alleviates the hassle of a long survey process, not only by minimising the time it takes to complete a survey down to only three minutes for most raters, but once a ratee has completed any of the psychometrics in the Reach Ecosystem, they will have already completed their own self-rating. This strategic system allows your employees to manage their time productively, but also ensures that the feedback you are receiving is accurate and reliable.

The power of hearing what your co-workers really have to say about you is the positive change it can generate. The power of the REACH Ecosystem is in its simplicity and effectiveness.


  1. Coens, T. & Jenkins, M. (2002). Abolishing Performance Appraisals. San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.
  2. Colman, A.M. (2008). A Dictionary of Psychology. (3rd) New York, NY: Oxford University Press
  3. Grapevine Evaluations. (2016). How Long Do 360 Reviews Take? Retrieved from: https://www.grapevineevaluations.com/long-360-reviews-take-2/
  4. Green, H. (2016). What Are The Building Blocks For Confident, Focussed & Trusted Leadership? Retrieved from https://www.trainingzone.co.uk/lead/strategy/giving-feedback-to-promote-confidence-and-learning
  5. Hauenstein, P. (2012). Frustrated With 360 Degree Surveys? This May Be A Better Alternative. Retrieved from https://www.tlnt.com/frustrated-with-360-degree-surveys-this-may-be-a-better-alternative/
  6. Jackson, E. (2012, August 17). The 7 Reasons Why 360 Degree Feedback Programs Fail. Forbes Magazine. Retrieved from: https://www.forbes.com/sites/ericjackson/2012/08/17/the-7-reasons-why-360-degree-feedback-programs-fail/#4ad57bb279d7
  7. Nair, C. S., Adams, P., & Mertova, P. (2008). Student engagement: The key to improving survey response rates. Quality in Higher Education, 14, 225–232. doi:10.1080/13538320802507505
  8. Zenger, Z. (2016, March 10). How Effective Are Your 360-Degree Feedback Assessments? Forbes Magazine. Retrieved from: https://www.forbes.com/sites/jackzenger/2016/03/10/how-effective-are-your-360-degree-feedback-assessments/#394db3caa690

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