360 Reviews: Improving Performance with Feedback

What is a 360 review?

A 360 review is the process of evaluating employee performance by collecting feedback from their peers, managers and subordinates. It’s an effective development tool for staff members at all levels.

It differs from traditional performance appraisals, which typically only provide feedback from a manager. 360-degree feedback focuses on how an employee’s contribution affects the work of fellow employees at all levels.

Most commonly, human resources departments use 360 reviews to understand how employees perform across all elements of their role.

The feedback should be constructive and unbiased to identify how they’re already succeeding and what needs improvement.

The goal is not to criticise an individual on what they do wrong. It is to help them understand their strengths and weaknesses from the perspectives of those they interact with routinely.

Who provides the 360 reviews?

360 feedback should be given by several sources, which can be internal and external to your organization. These can include:

  • Immediate managers
  • Peers and co-workers
  • Subordinates
  • Stakeholders
  • Customers
  • Self-assessment

Managers should always perform a review to assess the quality of the employee’s work. This would be in regards to KPIs and contribution to organizational goals.

Peers and team members should then provide another 5 – 10 reviews. These should be people who work with the employee regularly but can be internal or external.

It’s essential that the reviwee should also perform a self-assessment. This allows for a comparison between perspectives in your results analysis.

To encourage open and honest feedback, it should be made clear to all involved that feedback will be anonymous.

What should be measured in a 360 review?

360 feedback should measure competencies that encompass the entirety of an employee’s role. E.g. Creative skills, customer interaction, communication and leadership.

You could use close-ended questions to create a multi-rater review system for these competencies. Where the tallied ratings would highlight strengths and weaknesses. However, this would leave your results fairly one dimensional and without context.

Alternatively, you could employ open-ended questions to collect more in-depth feedback on an employee’s performance. But these require significantly more time and effort to analyze.

We’d recommend you use both these question types in tandem. This way, you’re not only quantifying performance feedback but also providing context to ratings.

It’s also important that any events or incidents are accurately reported (which open questions provide the space for). This is to gauge impact in the workplace and determine whether their behaviour is consistent with organizational goals.

However, make clear to all those giving reviews that these events/ incidents should be based in fact. And not on opinion or ‘feeling’.

Analyzing and reporting 360 feedback

All responses, including the self-reflection, should be collated as an average for the performance evaluation.

One person’s perspective is not indicative of an employee’s attitude or behaviour. But an aggregated report provides a more objective viewpoint.

Ensure that the feedback is constructive and descriptive, so the reviewee has a clear course of action.

You should also compare the results of the self-reflection against the larger group to identify the recipient’s ‘blind-spots’.

Blind-spots are areas where the recipient’s self-evaluation differs to that of the reviewers.

The 360 process often leads to higher employee engagement and satisfaction. It will also improve customer relationships and reduce staff turnover in the long term.

Forbes has a detailed list of ways to encourage employee engagement.

Advantages of 360 reviews

  • Wide variety of sources with different perspectives
  • Sense of accountability is promoted in the workplace
  • Identifies procedures and structures that stunt employee growth
  • Uncovers employee development opportunities
  • The anonymity of feedback allows for honest feedback
  • Provides insight on training needs
  • Core organizational competencies are promoted in all those giving and receiving feedback
  • The opportunity to provide feedback prevents the build-up of tension between employees in the workplace

Disadvantages of 360 reviews

  • A failure to plan and implement the feedback process effectively may impact the quality of data
  • Feedback providers tend to focus on criticism, meaning your results may be negatively weighted
  • There’s a chance that employees will collaborate and provide eachother with artificially positive feedback
  • Substantial data is needed to make the results meaningful and actionable
  • Employees will need to pause current tasks to provide the feedback
  • Data analysis can also be time-consuming
  • People may not answer honestly because they think the reviewee or a manager will read their feedback
  • Feedback loses value if only given by a few team members. The more people giving feedback, the more objective and actionable your results will be
  • Asking for feedback too often can demoralize employees

Tips for performing 360 reviews

Here are our top tips for conducting 360-degree feedback effectively and efficiently.

1. Train staff in the 360 processes

Employees will need guidance for providing 360 reviews. You must brief them on how to give impartial feedback. And to focus on more than the negative aspects of their colleagues’ performance.

2. Ensure feedback is anonymous

Those providing feedback should remain anonymous for a few reasons. Firstly, it will encourage open and honest feedback and, secondly, it will prevent any workplace hostility that may arise.

3. Only give contructive feedback

The purpose of 360-degree feedback is to highlight areas of development and encourage reviewees to take action. Once your results analysis is complete, you should give the reviewee specific suggestions for how to improve their performance.

4. Keep the survey short

We’d recommend you keep your 360 feedback survey as short as possible. The longer it is, the more likely it is to cause survey fatigue. This will result in one of two things: a low completion rate or responses of poor quality.

5. Act on the results

For this process to be effective, all parties need to be willing to incorporate the feedback. This not only applies to the reviewee but also the organization they belong to. 

This is because there can be pre-existing structures or processes hindering an employee’s performance.

6. Conduct 360 reviews regularly

These evaluations should be a regular process, to set goals and benchmark progress over time. This will ensure all employees remain motivated in their development.

But don’t conduct performance reviews too often or as a deterrent or punishment for staff. This will lead to a negative work culture, where employees feel under constant pressure or surveillance.