February 6, 2024

Effective appraisals are an essential part of employee development. They provide employees with positive feedback and constructive criticism that can help define their path with your company and motivate them. That’s why gathering comprehensive feedback is crucial—and 360-degree feedback is one of the most robust solutions. 

Although employers have many performance review methods and techniques to choose from, 360 reviews offer highly well-rounded insights by gathering feedback from various managers, colleagues, and even customers. Discover how it works and how 360-degree feedback can enhance your overall employee development, engagement, and retention.

What is 360-degree Feedback?

A 360-degree review, also known as a multi-rater feedback or multi-source assessment, is a comprehensive performance evaluation process that involves gathering feedback from various sources with insights into an employee’s performance. These sources typically include supervisors, peers, direct reports (if applicable), and sometimes even external stakeholders such as clients or customers. 

The term “360-degree” reflects the idea that feedback is collected from all around an individual, providing a more comprehensive view of their performance. It typically focuses on an employee’s soft skills and overall contributions to the company, allowing them to understand their strengths and weaknesses and how to improve.

360-degree Feedback Benefits

More Robust Insights

360-degree feedback gives employees well-rounded insights on their performance and skills from diverse perspectives—which often means more substantial and accurate feedback than if they were only evaluated by their direct manager (not all bosses excel at giving specific, constructive feedback, so a 360 review allows them to get better insights from other individuals).

Additionally, it provides valuable information and guidance if the employee wants to advance, take on more responsibilities, or move to a new position.

Hiring & Developmental Needs

360 reviews also reveal developmental needs for both the individual and the organization. They highlight areas where the employee needs to improve and specific ways leadership can support them with coaching and other resources. This enables you and the employee to set goals and a plan to achieve them.

Since the feedback comes from multiple people, it makes the case that the employee actually needs to work on it. It also shows what they must work on relative to specific stakeholders, whether managers, coworkers, or direct reports. 

For example, as their manager, you may not see everything the employee’s peers do. Perhaps you only see their high level of work, but their peers find the employee difficult to work with. The individual might need to improve their interpersonal skills to become a better communicator, listener, and team player.

As for the organization, 360-degree feedback identifies:

  • Where you might need more support
  • What areas employees need more training
  • Which policies/processes need to be updated
  • Opportunities for improved onboarding and cross-training
  • Issues like low employee morale and engagement so you can find a solution

Building Better Managers

Did we mention that you should use 360 reviews on leadership and staff alike? They can be an excellent tool for fostering better managers! These assessments give employees an anonymous channel to share feedback, making them more likely to submit honest insights.

Good leaders will pay attention to their effect on their team, where they might need work, and adjust accordingly. 360-degree feedback also gives managers a bigger-picture view of how their employees are performing from the perspective of other departments and stakeholders so they can manage and develop them more effectively.

How to Manage 360 Performance Reviews

Gathering 360-degree feedback requires more time and energy, but it’s worth it, thanks to the specific, diverse, and actionable insights you’ll receive! However, you’ll want to create a well-defined process to prevent possible drawbacks of this performance appraisal method. 

For example, if not done correctly, 360 reviews can leave employees with:

  • Vague, confusing, or even contradictory feedback
  • Insufficient number of participants—meaning weak feedback
  • Lack of an action plan or goals

The above can result in ineffective assessments, which demotivate and frustrate employees. To avoid these issues, follow these tips as you implement 360-degree feedback in your performance appraisal process.

Establish a Structure

Your 360 review survey should include a range of questions measuring an employee’s competencies in key areas like leadership abilities, interpersonal skills, communication, and problem-solving/critical thinking. Inform employees how they will be evaluated ahead of time so they understand how they’re being assessed. Then, use a rating scale (e.g., poor to excellent or unsatisfactory to outstanding).

Involve the Right Participants

The point of a 360 performance review is to gather diverse feedback about the individual’s soft skills—which means you’ll need input from various people. While the number can vary significantly based on your company’s size, structure, and specific goals for the review process, it usually ranges from five to fifteen participants. Typically, these include:

  • Coworkers
  • Direct supervisor
  • Direct reports (for leadership positions)
  • Customers or clients the employee works with directly
  • Colleagues in other departments as relevant

Surveying a wide variety of raters will prevent skewed feedback. Ask too many work buddies, and the reviews will likely be too perfect; ask coworkers with whom the employee is not on the best of terms, and the feedback could be too harsh or unfair. Consider your selections carefully.

Remember to send the survey to the employee, too! They should perform a self-evaluation before the evaluation meeting with their manager.

Create an Anonymous Review Process

As mentioned earlier, one of the benefits of 360-degree feedback is that it allows for truly anonymous submissions. Whether rating peers or managers, most employees are nervous to share critical insights about the people they work with. Keeping the process anonymous may make reviewers more comfortable sharing their candid feedback. Note that going about this delicately is important to prevent distrust and whispers.

Train Your Teams

As you implement a 360 performance review process, consider training leadership and staff on providing constructive, helpful reviews. Educate them about and share examples of beneficial, specific feedback versus vague, confusing feedback. Remind everyone that these reviews aim to improve teamwork, productivity, and efficiency—and be clear about what you need from them to work toward the overall goals.

Schedule an Evaluation Meeting

After all raters have submitted their assessments of the employee, schedule a meeting to review the feedback with them. Give the individual enough time to prepare and complete their self-evaluation. 

During the meeting, be sure to: 

  • Give them kudos for their strengths
  • Address their areas for improvement with specific recommendations
  • Set an action plan of goals and milestones so they understand how to improve

Follow Up

One of the biggest mistakes employers make after conducting performance appraisals is failing to follow up. Managers can avoid this and show employees they want them to succeed by scheduling check-in meetings to monitor their progress, offer support (e.g., coaching/mentoring or learning and development opportunities), and determine the next steps in the employee’s growth. These meetings should be part of your everyday performance management!

Enhance Your Performance Reviews with 360-degree Feedback

Now that you understand 360-degree reviews, you also understand how they can promote growth and a higher level of performance among your team. Not to mention, when done well, they can foster a culture of openness and rapport among team members!

You’ve probably also realized how much work this process entails to ensure effective feedback. It requires careful planning and communication to ensure participants understand the purpose of the evaluation and feel comfortable providing honest and constructive comments. Establishing clear guidelines for confidentiality and using the feedback gathered to support the employee’s growth and development are essential.

If 360-degree feedback sounds like a great fit for your organization, but you need guidance developing a solid process, contact BlueLion today at 603-818-4131 or info@bluelionllc.com. From selecting the ideal group of participants to creating comprehensive assessment questions to follow-up plans, our HR consultants will assist you every step of the way.

The information on this website, including its newsletters, is not, nor is it intended to be legal advice. You should contact an attorney or HR specialist for advice on your individual situation.