A 360 review is an employee performance review in which feedback is gathered from many sources, including vendors, clients, managers, and colleagues to give a full picture of an employee’s performance. This review may gather data about an employee’s specific skills, the impact they have on their team, progress made on professional development goals, areas for further training, behavior, and any additional necessary information.
Should My Company Conduct 360 Reviews?
360 reviews are not always a good culture fit for every organization, but they do offer a few advantages when used successfully:
- They can be more thorough than reviews that gather data from one or two people.
- Feedback is typically offered anonymously, meaning that people may be more inclined to be fully honest.
- They can strengthen your culture and team by encouraging everyone to work together on performance reviews.
- They can positively impact performance – in one study of 385 surgeons, feedback from 360 reviews resulted in 60% of surgeons reporting they made changes to their practice based on the review results.
Despite these advantages, there are some concerns about 360 reviews and performance reviews in general. Research published in Harvard Business Review found that in performance evaluations, 31% of white women and 43% of people of color, but only 26% of white men, had at least one mistake mentioned in performance reviews. While in theory, 360 reviews are less biased because they rely on multiple sources, unreliable data can still be a problem, as everyone may have a different way of answering the same question. One person’s idea of “excellent performance,” for example, can be very different from your idea of excellent performance.
In addition, since feedback is usually anonymous, employees may feel targeted by specific criticism or suggestions. Hearing negative feedback can be difficult. Since employees don’t know who may have been critical of them, they cannot speak directly to those colleagues in order to resolve any problems. Questions about who made which comments can arise or even lead to employees guessing the source of the criticism. While anonymous feedback allows stakeholders to be transparent, it can leave some employees feeling they are being discussed behind their back. As such, it is vital to prepare everyone on the team for giving and receiving 360 feedback.
360 reviews are also time-consuming and require many resources because of the data collection needed.
How Can Your Company Conduct 360 Reviews Successfully?
Plan In Advance
To enjoy more of the benefits of 360 reviews and reduce some of the drawbacks, you should plan carefully:
- Carefully weigh whether 360 reviews are right for you: Do you have enough people to offer anonymity for each person evaluating a colleague? Does each employee interact with enough stakeholders that you can gather meaningful data from multiple sources?
- Establish a framework: If you decide 360 reviews will work for you, think about whether you will be basing the review on company values, communication, or some other criteria. What do you want to measure?
- Plan the logistics: Determine who will gather data, how, how often, and for which employees. Decide on a budget and a timeline for the reviews.
- Be open to the idea of offering these reviews for leadership and workers: Creating 360 reviews for your team, management, and leadership can mean extra work, but it can also reduce resentment by giving everyone a chance to offer feedback. Creating 360 reviews for everyone, including leadership, also gives you a fuller picture of any potential issues.
- Decide on a list of people to interview: For each employee, evaluate the direct contacts, clients, leadership team members, managers, peers, and others they may be working with. Which contacts will have the clearest picture of the competencies you want to evaluate?
- Ask the right questions: Aim for clear questions that directly relate to the goal of your review. If you’re trying to evaluate communication abilities, for example, you might want to ask about how an employee communicates and where different forms of communication could be helpful.
- Evaluate strengths and weaknesses: Some companies focus solely on things to “fix” in 360 reviews, but this can harm morale if workers only receive a list of what they are doing “wrong.” Focusing on strengths as well as weaknesses can balance the review, acknowledge what workers are getting right, and allow teams to build on positives while addressing any issues.
- Know how you will respond: You may want to use 360 reviews to decide on new training or to help workers with professional development. If possible, avoid using 360 reviews to decide on terminations or promotions, as this can lower morale. Before implementing the reviews, develop a plan for how your company might respond if you do uncover any concerning information, such as an employee who is underperforming or allegations of workplace misconduct. You may need to launch a follow-up investigation to determine if there is a deeper problem. Even if you receive more typical data suggesting a need for professional development, consider how you will respond if a 360 review uncovers areas for improvement but an employee does not want to change. Where possible, try to anticipate what might be expected from your company once the results are in.
Implement the Review Process
Once you are ready to start gathering data, a successful 360 review process has a few steps:
- Tell your employees about your goals for the 360 reviews: Before launching 360 reviews, explain to your team why you have chosen to review them. You might even set up a Connecteam training video to explain the goals of the reviews, what you hope to learn, and how the information will be used. Give team members a chance to express ideas about 360 reviews and to ask questions.
- Send out surveys: To save time, you may use a secure system, like Connecteam Surveys, to gather information for your 360 reviews. When sending out surveys, give everyone at least a week to reply and set a deadline for when you need the responses.
- Look for themes: When evaluating feedback you’ve gathered, look for repetition rather than one-off comments. What type of feedback shows up for an employee from multiple sources?
- Prepare employees for feedback: In about a third of cases, employees experience lowered performance after getting a review, especially if the feedback conflicts with their own perspective of their performance. Consider having company discussions or even training about how to receive and accept feedback. Help employees understand that the 360 review is only one tool and does not reflect on their value as employees or as people.
- Present information carefully: Find someone in the leadership or management team an employee is comfortable with to review feedback together in person. Give the employee a chance to respond and ask questions. It can also be useful for management and leadership to get training in offering feedback, especially if 360 reviews will be used regularly.
Maintain the Momentum
A strong review process doesn’t end once the 360 review results are in. Instead, companies who are successful with these reviews think long term and:
- Provide support for workers: Offering coaching, training, further discussions with management, mentorships, and other support allows workers to act on feedback.
- Keep it specific: Instead of asking a worker to “improve their customer service,” for example, you might want to provide a specific script or ask them to reach out personally via email to one customer a day for the next week. This gives employees a plan they can follow.
- Follow up: After 360 evaluations are complete, follow up with employees to see whether additional thoughts have come up once they’ve had time to reflect. If you notice employees making an effort or getting things right, you can recognize your workers with Connecteam to offer additional encouragement. You may also want to follow up with another 360 review to help workers see how they have improved. The goal should be to inspire employees to grow.
- Use additional forms of evaluation: You will get a more accurate perspective if you seek out other forms of evaluation, including customer feedback forms, traditional performance reviews, and other methods.
360 reviews may be a good match for larger companies where employees interact with multiple stakeholders. When implemented successfully, these reviews can provide a broader perspective on specific parts of an employee’s performance.