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How to Perform a 360 Employee Review

Employee performance reviews can come in many forms, from one-on-ones to employee self-assessments. A 360 employee review allows a group of coworkers to give input about each other’s performances. Find out how 360 reviews work, their advantages and best practices.

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What is a 360 evaluation?

A 360 performance review measures employee performance using feedback from six to 12 people, including an employee self-evaluation, to provide a comprehensive look at an employee’s efficiency, productivity, contributions and work behavior. 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.

Roles taking part in the evaluation often include:

  • Evaluation administrator (usually an HR employee)
  • Manager or direct supervisor
  • Four or five team members
  • Customers or clients

Professionals give employees feedback by answering questions created by the evaluation administrator. Employees typically receive a performance rating on a scale from 1 to 5 with an option to leave written comments.

Managers take information from these evaluations and relay relevant comments to employees. 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 can work together to build their strengths and overcome challenges.

Related: Employee Evaluation Form

Benefits of 360 employee reviews

Implementing 360 degree evaluations can help motivate your employees. Other potential benefits can include:

Provides well-rounded input

Rather than just receiving praise and constructive feedback from a manager, employees get feedback from 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. Receiving feedback from all perspectives can also provide a well-rounded look at the employee.

Improves teamwork and accountability

A 360 evaluation can encourage accountability and a team mindset when employees review ratings (anonymous or not) from their coworkers. Teams that give constructive criticism can work together more effectively by improving communication and group development.

Uncovers organizational needs

Feedback from a 360 evaluation may help employers become aware of weak areas within the company. For example, you may discover a policy, procedure or approach that needs adjustment to help employees succeed or receive insight on training needs.

Establishes areas for career development

A 360 review can help contribute to an employee’s career development. It can provide their manager with reliable feedback to make suggestions about their performance and areas for improvement.

When providing final feedback to employees, it can be beneficial to ask employees to set personal career goals. Provide regular check-ins to see how well they’re working toward different objectives.

Reduces discriminatory tendencies and bias

Feedback from multiple people in varying roles helps reduce potential discrimination based on race, age, gender and otherwise. Since 360 reviews focus mainly on employee skill sets, they minimize making performance evaluations based on recent interactions.

Common styles of 360 performance reviews

You can choose to implement 360 evaluations based on your industry and company culture. Here are four common 360 review examples to consider:

Manager-assessed feedback

A 360 review typically consists of managers receiving and analyzing employee feedback to look for notable patterns of behavior and positive/negative feedback and then creating a report. This can provide employees with constructive criticism without overwhelming them.

Digitally-assessed scores

With performance management software, each person typically gives a score in several assessment areas. Since the feedback is digital, it’s easy to organize and share.

External consultant administered surveys

Some organizations hire external consultants who administer 360 review surveys. The consultant gathers information and shares it with you. You and the employees can then meet to discuss areas of opportunity and improvement.

Direct employee-to-employee feedback

Some progressive organizations use direct employee-to-employee feedback. You facilitate the sharing of feedback but don’t filter reviews. This is most helpful in companies with a strong climate of trust with close-knit teams.

How to conduct 360 reviews

These steps can help you establish a 360 evaluation system:

1. Establish criteria for rating each employee

Decide how you plan to rate employees, colleagues and yourself. A 360 employee review is mainly used to assess an employee’s soft skill sets, rather than review job performance. Consider these factors and provide ratings such as nonexistent, minimal, neutral, good, very good and excellent for some of the following soft skills:

  • Leadership: Decision-making, taking responsibility and approachability
  • Communication: Listening, nonverbal and oral communication, ability to receive 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 with values, mission, vision, strategic plans and processes

2. Choose who’ll assess each employee

Participants should include the employee’s immediate coworkers and department supervisor. 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 request feedback from people they’ve worked with.

3. Send surveys

Send the review for employees to complete at least a week in advance by email so participants can take their time and provide helpful information. Emphasize the deadline for completing and submitting it.

When asking team members, customers and supervisors about the employee, the intention is to help the individual improve and advance in their role. Focus on the relationship and regular interactions between the employee and the person providing feedback when developing questions.

Common questions are:

  • What interpersonal skills does the employee regularly use when working with you, team members and clients? This question can help the employee understand how well they collaborate with others.
  • Are there any interpersonal skills the employee lacks? Employees can use the answer to enhance their qualities and turn weaknesses into strengths.
  • Do you believe the employee shows motivation and drive to complete their tasks? This informs the employee of their work ethic and ability to complete valuable projects.

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

4. Send the survey to the employee

Have the employee complete a self-evaluation ahead of your meeting.

5. Schedule the 360 evaluation

Send each employee an invitation through your email calendar so they can prepare for their in-person evaluation meeting.

6. Review ratings with employee

Review the employee’s strengths and weaknesses, as stated by the survey results. Praise them for their strengths and emphasize their weaknesses as areas for improvement. It’s also a good idea to set goals so they can improve.

Related: How to Conduct an Employee Evaluation

7. Follow up about progress

Establish a date and time for a follow-up meeting about their progress.

360 performance review best practices

Here are some tips to help you perform 360 reviews effectively:

Use 360 reviews with other forms of employee evaluation

Consider using 360 employee reviews with other performance evaluations for continuous, candid feedback. Examples include quarterly and yearly performance reviews, which discuss how well an employee performs their job duties and meets goals, and self-assessments to review their strengths and weaknesses for soft and hard skills.

Support employees post-review

Provide employees with support once a 360 review is complete. Support may include resources to improve skills, coaching and mentoring, learning and development, further reviews, acknowledgment and encouragement of progress.

Prepare the employee for the review

Reviews provide candid evaluations of an employee, so it’s important that they’re fully prepared. An employee can be more prepared if they’ve:

  • Received regular feedback from their manager
  • Reacted to feedback constructively
  • Been employed long enough to receive meaningful feedback from coworkers
  • Understand the benefits of a 360 review

Define success

Before conducting a 360 evaluation, define what success looks like. Give employees goals and expectations of performance. For quantifiable goals, develop metrics for measuring performance and make progress transparent. For example, data dashboards can provide real-time visual progress of info you want to track, keeping employees informed and motivated.

360 evaluation FAQs

How often should you conduct 360 degree feedback?

Conducting annual or quarterly 360 evaluations can ensure your employees follow the strategies you create with them. It also helps you learn how well they’re accomplishing their tasks and what resources or support you can provide. 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?

These evaluations are typically anonymous to allow others to feel comfortable giving candid, useful feedback. However, there’s an argument that 360 reviews should be transparent to foster a safe, constructive environment. It’s up to you to decide if your 360 degree feedback process is anonymous.

What types of businesses thrive on 360 reviews?

All kinds of companies can benefit from 360 reviews. Small and medium-sized companies can use this method to help identify weaknesses preventing growth. Large companies can benefit from a bigger pool of participants to provide useful performance data.

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

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

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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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