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.
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.
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:
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.
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:
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.
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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