Blog·360 Feedback

February 27, 2020

How to Deliver a Successful 360 Review

A great 360 review encourages employees to develop their professional and interpersonal skills and highlights the blindspots we all miss in our own behavior.

The 360 Review Process

  • Administrators create a set of review questions to assess skills, competencies and development.
  • Employees nominate evaluators to provide feedback.
  • Managers approve evaluators, receive and collate all feedback.
  • Managers deliver summary feedback employees and develop an action plan.

360 reviews have become a popular part of the continuous performance management cycle because they allow us to assess a broader picture of our behavior and skills. These can be consequently discussed in our regular employee-manager meetings. We all have blindspots in our work life that impact our professional development. 360 reviews that are focused on personal performance improvement, not performance outcomes, can be an incredibly valuable tool for encouraging new perspectives and developing skills in a long term.

What is a 360 review?

A 360 review (also often called 360 degree feedback asks for individual assessments across many different work relationships. 360 reviews provide an insightful, broad-picture assessment of an individual's behavior from multiple touchpoints. While most organizations are familiar with annual employee performance appraisals, a 360 review is not a performance review!

360 reviews are personal and help employees to develop their business and interpersonal skills, and shouldn't focus on the delivery of targets and outcomes. Everybody can improve no matter what level they're at. 360 reviews are therefore useful for everyone from the CEO to middle management to entry level employees.

Who participates in a 360 review?

There is no set formula for who should participate, but always keep in mind that the 360 review is about the individual. You want to gather 360 evaluations from participants at multiple levels in the employee's working life. Also be aware that you want enough participants to give a broad performance feedback picture for the individual, but not too many that you overwhelm everyone with the number of feedback reports they need to write. Generally 4-7 reviewers per employee works well, and these should include:

  • Supervisors (project-based or dotted line managers)
  • Colleagues
  • Subordinates
  • Senior leaders
  • Clients and external suppliers (if relevant to the employee's role)

360 Review Participants

Why are 360 reviews useful?

Flatter organizational structures can see managers and team leads supervising upwards of 20 individuals at a time, and that can create difficulties in assessment when you're relying on just a direct manager's feedback.

360 reviews provide a more rounded view of an employee's behaviors and contributions. Meeting one's targets is important. However, if they get there by undermining fellow employees and causing stress for others, both they and their manager need to be aware of that and implement steps to improve their interpersonal skills.

Your colleagues can also have areas of skills and expertise you're not aware of, and can provide really useful suggestions for your own professional development that are as important as a direct manager's plan.

How does the 360 review process work?

  • Administrators create a set of review questions to assess skills, competencies and development areas for all employees.
  • Employees (in consultation with their line manager) nominate participants to provide feedback.
  • Managers receive and collate all feedback.
  • Managers deliver summary feedback to the employee and develop an action plan together.
  • Development and progress from the last 360 review cycle is discussed.

Questions to include in a 360 review

360 review questions should focus on skills development, interpersonal relationships and an individual's demonstration of competencies and company values. Keep your questions short, simple and focused on one core area at a time. Make sure that your 360 review doesn't take participants longer than 15-20 minutes to complete. Otherwise you will have people losing interest in the process, especially over multiple review cycles.

Some of the skills you can assess are:

  • Teamwork
  • Communication
  • Organizational values
  • Problem solving
  • Leadership

You can also grab a few of our general feedback questions that will help you to design a 360 review form across a few different business areas.

Tips when creating 360 reviews

  • Keep it short (no long-form surveys).
  • Consider start, stop and continue feedback. Ask reviewers to identify what an employee should start doing (where they can improve), what they should stop doing (critical areas hindering their work) and what they should continue doing (what's going well).
  • Train and coach individuals to give and receive constructive feedback well. People can be reluctant to participate when they've never done a 360 review before and don't have the right tools to help them. Some resources to help you with training include:

👉 Examples of positive feedback for colleagues

👉 How to ask for feedback for yourself

👉 How to give feedback to a supervisor

👉 Tips for Giving Constructive Feedback

  • Take the time to properly explain why you're running a 360 review, what the outcomes will be and what levels of confidentiality are enforced.
  • Always follow up with face to face meetings. Receiving critical feedback can be tough, and it's a manager's job to summarize key themes and deliver these in an empathetic and encouraging way.
  • Don't feed 360 reviews in to compensation and bonus plans. Doing so almost guarantees you'll stop getting honest feedback when people are aware that their bonus is on the line.
  • Get senior leadership buy-in to the 360 review process. When leadership is modelling the behavior they want to see in the organization, it's 10 times easier to get employees to understand the importance and benefits of 360 reviews.

When properly constructed you can deliver a great 360 review process that really helps individuals to develop their professional skills. Always remember that the feedback loop is continuous, and you can improve on every feedback cycle. If you'd like to learn more about the history of 360 degree feedback and why it has such a big impact on organizations, check out our Essential Guide.

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