There are times when a performance appraisal does just the right thing and times when it just makes matters worse.
Done right, a 360 review can be a smart and simple way to tighten the ship for smooth sailing. Done wrong, your 360 review may feel more like stirring the pot and can have some serious unintended consequences on your team's confidence and productivity.
Here's how to sidestep the pitfalls and make your 360 review a great experience for everyone.
What is a 360 review?
A 360 review gathers the input of everyone who works and interacts with a specific employee on a regular basis, or on a specific project. This could be team members, managers, members of your leadership team, or even customers and vendors.
Generally speaking, a 360 review is a great tool to use when you want to take a look at a certain individual's role within the business and assess their strengths and weakness on an in-depth level from a variety of viewpoints (not just the managers).
Companies like Netflix have made informal 360s a regular part of the business. But keep in mind, Netflix also has a lot of resources. If you don't have a big budget or the right performance management tool, 360 reviews can quickly become a major headache for your teams.
The pros of the 360 review
The companies who find success with 360 reviews usually use them after a big project, regardless of whether it was a success or failure.
This is a great time to learn more about what works and what doesn't by getting fresher, more diverse opinions from all the key stakeholders involved. A 360 review also works well with employees who make it clear that they want to grow and improve by giving them tangible, real-time insights. And because they're less of an "institution" than the annual review, 360 reviews can even help create a deeper sense of trust, fairness and accountability within teams.
- Get insights from everyone, not just the manager
- Help develop a performance-oriented culture
- Get a deeper understanding of how stakeholders interact
- Give tangible insights to development-focused employees
The cons of the 360 review
We're not going to sugarcoat it. A 360 review can be a BIG undertaking. You need to get your ducks in a row before you launch into it.
Start by identifying all the team members the review subject has worked with and asking them to act as objective reviewers. Make it clear to them exactly what it is that you're looking for (namely, insights that help the organization perform better) and make sure the questions you use support that. Where most 360s get into trouble is they lean too heavily on ratings, ask questions that are too general or assume their reviewers already know the goal and purpose of the review.
In those cases, what usually ends up happening is the exact opposite of what you want to happen. Reviewers provide info that is irrelevant or unproductive simply because they don't know what needs to be shared and what doesn't.
- Can become overly personal
- Requires careful thinking and planning in the pre launch stage
- Takes a lot of time to administer and collect the feedback
- Can be a bottleneck for teams and reviewers
How to make your 360 review as productive as possible
At the end of the day, 360 reviews are a great way to get deeper insights on your people and drive better performance within your business. But as with any other type of review, the strength of your system is everything.
Take the time to think through your 360 review. What do you want it to accomplish? Who needs to be involved? What are the core questions you need to ask? Will your team members know who said what even if the survey is meant to be "anonymous"? How does that impact the way you introduce the goal of the review to your teams?
Use the answers to these questions to help you coach your reviewers and make them aware of exactly what information you're after. With a review as comprehensive as a 360, it's imperative to help your reviewers know how to focus their time and energy and to close the feedback loop to make the process feel as productive and helpful as possible.
Otherwise, you may be looking at just another time-consuming review process that can end up hurting more than it helps.