How to Conduct 360 Performance Reviews: A Guide for Leaders

Employee performance reviews come in many forms. Some reviews include only meetings with you directly, while some may also include employee self-assessments. A 360 performance review is a type of professional feedback that provides a group of coworkers the opportunity to give input about each other’s performance. This allows the employee and the organization to learn what their strengths are and what improvements to make.

Read more to find out how 360 reviews work, their advantages and best practices for you to implement them effectively.

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What is a 360 performance review?

A 360 performance review is a method for measuring employee performance. It uses feedback from approximately six to twelve people, including an employee self-evaluation, to provide a comprehensive look at an employee’s efficiency, productivity, contributions and work behavior.

Since employees receive feedback from all directions in the company, there are many roles involved in a successful 360 feedback process, including:

  • An evaluation administrator (usually an HR employee)
  • A manager who directly supervises the employee
  • Four or five team members who work directly with the employee
  • Customers or clients the employee regularly communicates with

Professionals give employees feedback by answering questions created by the evaluation administrator. Employees typically receive a performance rating on a scale from one to five. An option to leave written comments regarding an employee’s skills and abilities is often available as well.

Managers take information from these evaluations and relay relevant comments to employees (or give them complete access to the results). After receiving input from team members, clients and managers, employees can create new career goals and brainstorm ways to achieve them. The manager and employee then work together to develop ways to build their strengths and overcome challenges.

For example, if an employee works in a writing role and hopes to eventually manage the content, you can use this feedback to determine what changes to make in their current position to help them prepare for a content management role.

As opposed to typical performance reviews exchanged between a manager and employee, 360 degree feedback allows the employee to learn what their strengths and weaknesses are from people they regularly interact with.

Related: Employee Evaluation Form 

Benefits of 360 reviews

Implementing 360 degree evaluations can help motivate your employees to complete more quality work in an effort to reach their personal objectives and track how well they’re currently performing in the role. Below are the benefits of conducting 360 degree evaluations:

Provides well-rounded input from more than one source

360 reviews give employees feedback from a variety of sources, which is often more useful than a single person’s viewpoint. Rather than just receiving praise and constructive feedback from a manager, employees have the opportunity to get feedback from their direct coworkers, reporting staff members and other company officials. If more than one source makes the same comment, it can create a sense of credibility.

Since employees receive input from several professionals, they can better understand their performance from all angles — including their quality of work, how they’re perceived and how they affect others’ work. For example, a client may share a different relationship with an employee than a team member would, making it more difficult for a team member to notice how an employee interacts with customers. Receiving feedback from all perspectives helps gauge an idea of what elements the employee needs to work on.

Improves teamwork and individual accountability

Another way 360 evaluations can benefit employees and the company is by instilling a renewed sense of accountability and a team mindset. Teams that give constructive criticism can work more effectively together by improving communication and group development. This happens when employees review ratings (anonymous or not) from their coworkers. For example, an employee reviewing their evaluation results realizes that the two times they were late to work caused their coworkers to neglect their own duties to manage their phone.

Uncovers organizational needs

An advantage of 360 reviews is the ability to better understand individual employee needs on a personal and organizational level. 360 degree feedback can also help employers become aware of weak areas within the company that need strengthening. For example, you may discover a policy, procedure or approach that needs adjustment to help employees work more successfully, or receive insight on training needs, resulting in better planning for cross-training and cross-functional responsibilities.

Establishes areas for career development

Overall, a 360 review can help contribute to an employee’s career development. This is because their manager now has a multitude of reliable feedback to compare to make further suggestions about their performance moving forward and areas for improvement.

When providing final feedback to employees, it can also be beneficial to ask employees to set personal career goals. Focus on helping them build a plan to advance their skillset. This helps them feel more motivated to move up in their position. Provide regular check-ins to see how well they’re working toward different objectives and give praise when they accomplish them.

For example, a manager reviews an employee’s evaluation to determine they could use more help in leadership skills. They help them take a leadership class and earn a certification in team-leading.

Helps you understand where to implement training

360 degree feedback benefits not just the employee, but the organization as well since it helps you learn what your company needs to enhance its efficiency. This can involve offering better training and development opportunities or providing more resources to help employees succeed in their positions.

Reduces discriminatory tendencies and bias

Feedback from multiple people in varying job roles helps reduce potential discrimination based on race, age, gender and otherwise. Additionally, 360 reviews focus mainly on employee skill sets, which minimizes making evaluations for performance based only on recent interactions.

Common styles of 360 performance reviews

A 360 performance review combines feedback from a wide variety of sources. How you choose to implement 360 reviews is based on your industry and company culture. Here are four common styles of 360 feedback for effective employee performance reviews:

Manager-assessed feedback

In most cases, a 360 review consists of you receiving and analyzing all employee feedback. You would look for notable patterns of behavior as well as positive and negative feedback, then create a report. This provides employees with constructive criticism without overwhelming them.

Digitally-assessed scores

Another way to perform 360 reviews is to use performance management software. With this kind of software, each person whose input appears in the review typically gives an employee a score in a number of assessment areas. Gathering reviews this way makes feedback easy to organize and share since it’s completely digital.

External consultant administered surveys

Some organizations hire external consultants who administer the 360 review surveys. Instead of having you analyze the data, the consultant gathers information and shares it with you and sometimes with staff. You and the employees then meet to discuss areas of opportunity and improvement.

Direct employee-to-employee feedback

Some progressive organizations may use a direct employee-to-employee feedback approach. In this case, you would facilitate the sharing of feedback but no longer filter reviews. This is most helpful in companies with a strong climate of trust with close-knit teams.

How to conduct 360 reviews

Here is a list of steps to help you establish a 360 evaluation system within your company:

1. Establish criteria for rating each employee

The first thing you should do as an employer is to establish how you plan to rate your employees, colleagues and yourself. A 360 review is mainly used to assess an employee’s soft skill sets, rather than to review their actual job performance (e.g., how well they met their quarterly sales quota).

As a result, consider these factors and provide ratings such as non-existent, minimal, neutral, good, very good, excellent for a few of the following soft skills (depending on your employees’ role):

  • Leadership: Decision making, taking responsibility and approachability
  • Communication: Listening, non-verbal and oral communication, ability to receive feedback and give feedback constructively
  • Teamwork: Participation, readiness to help, reliability
  • Organization: Time and project management, attention to detail
  • Creativity: Problem-solving, critical thinking, originality
  • Interpersonal skills: Confidence, empathy, positivity, stress-management, enthusiasm
  • Company alignment: Understanding and compliance of values, mission, vision, strategic plans and processes

Pick a few of the most relevant skill sets to your company at the time of review and develop questions for your survey based on those factors.

2. Choose who will assess each employee

Participants should include the employee’s immediate coworkers and department supervisor. However, you can also ask customers and additional company personnel to participate if it’s relevant to their job duties.

Alternatively, you can ask each employee to personally request feedback from people they’ve worked with over the course of the review period.

3. Send out a survey for raters to answer (anonymously or not)

Send out the review for each employee to complete by email at least a week in advance so participants can take their time and provide helpful information. Be sure to emphasize the time frame in which they need to complete it and submit it back to you.

What questions should be asked in a 360 review? When asking team members, customers and supervisors about the employee, the intentions of these answers are to help the employee find ways to improve and advance in their role. Focus on the relationship and regular interactions between the employee and the person providing feedback when developing these questions.

Common questions you can ask are:

  • What interpersonal skills do you see the employee regularly use when working with you, team members and clients? This question helps the employee gain a strong understanding of how well they collaborate with others. This encourages them to continue using these communication skills to remain effective in their position.
  • Are there any interpersonal skills the employee lacks and should work to improve? Employees can use the answer to this question to build a strategy to enhance their qualities and turn weaknesses into strengths.
  • Do you believe the employee shows motivation and drive to complete their tasks effectively? This informs the employee of their work ethic and ability to complete valuable projects for team members, supervisors and clients.

Read more: Sample Questions for 360 Feedback: A Guide for Team Leads

4. Send the same survey to the employee for self-evaluation

It’s also important to send the survey to the employee so they can complete a self-evaluation ahead of your meeting.

5. Set a date and time for the 360 evaluation

You can do this by sending each employee an invitation through your email calendar so each employee can prepare for their in-person evaluation meeting.

6. Review ratings with the employee

Go over the employee’s strengths and weaknesses, as stated by the results of the survey. Be sure to praise them for their strengths and emphasize their weaknesses as areas for improvement. It’s also a good idea to set goals for each employee so they can improve upon their weaknesses.

Related: How to Conduct an Employee Evaluation

7. Follow up about progress

Establish a date and time for a follow-up meeting about an employee’s development in weak areas.

360 performance review best practices for managers

Here are a few important tips to perform 360 reviews effectively and fairly:

Use 360 reviews with other forms of employee evaluation

Consider using 360 reviews in conjunction with other performance evaluations for continuous, candid feedback throughout the year. Examples include quarterly and yearly performance reviews which discuss how well an employee is performing their job duties and meeting goals, and self-assessments, for employees to review their strengths and weaknesses for soft and hard skills.

Support your employees post-review

It’s important to provide employees with support once a 360 review is complete. Support comes in the form of resources to improve skills, coaching and mentoring, learning and development, as well as further reviews, acknowledgment and encouragement of progress.

Prepare the employee for the review

360 reviews provide candid evaluations of an employee, so it’s important they are fully prepared for this type of assessment. An employee is more prepared for a 360 review if they have:

  • Already received regularly occurring feedback from their manager
  • Reacted to feedback constructively
  • Been employed long enough to receive meaningful feedback from coworkers
  • An understanding of the benefits a 360 review provides them

Know what your definition of success is

Before measuring skill sets for your employees, make sure you’ve defined what success looks like. You should give employees specific goals to work towards and expectations of performance. For quantifiable goals, develop metrics for measuring performance and make progress transparent. For example, data dashboards provide real-time visual progress of any data you want to track, keeping employees informed and motivated to meet their objectives.

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Frequently asked questions about 360 performance reviews

How often should you conduct 360 degree feedback?

When implementing 360 degree feedback, it’s important to remain consistent. Conducting annual or quarterly 360 degree evaluations allows you to ensure your employees are following the strategies you created with them. This also helps you learn how well they’re accomplishing their tasks and what resources or support you can provide them. You can collaborate with them to build a new strategy or adjust the current one to better align with their needs.

Are 360 reviews anonymous?

360 degrees are typically anonymous because it allows others to feel more comfortable giving candid feedback that is more useful to managers. However, there is an argument that 360 reviews should be transparent to foster a more safe, constructive environment. It’s up to you to decide whether or not your 360 degree feedback process should be anonymous or not.

How can I track the effectiveness of 360 degree feedback on my employees?

You can gauge the success of your 360 evaluations by sending out another anonymous email survey, this time asking participants to evaluate the process and how it did or did not benefit them.

What types of businesses thrive off of 360 reviews?

360 reviews have the potential to benefit all kinds of companies. Small and medium-sized companies can use this method to help identify weaknesses that are preventing growth. In contrast, large companies can benefit from a larger pool of participants to provide even more useful performance data to employees and employers alike.

What can I use to enhance the quality of 360 performance reviews?

Consider using specifically tailored software applications that you can purchase online. These tools help you set up performance metrics and create email surveys to send to participants. They also help you gather survey data to review later on in the process.

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Last updated: Nov 05, 2020