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Guidelines for successful 360º reviews

Ali Cox

Ali Cox

Table of Contents

Why 360º reviews?

The traditional annual performance review is not optimal for engaging and retaining people. Why is this?

• They are not timely.
• They are subjective and subject to bias.
• They are usually developed from one person’s perspective, the manager, and therefore do not give a well-rounded perspective.
• The feedback is typically too broad and not actionable.
• They are stressful for both sides of the feedback, often engendering feelings of dread and even panic.

We need a system that provides timely, effective, quality feedback.

Timely feedback

Engaging and retaining talent is crucial for organizational success in today’s competitive world. Continual motivation is key, along with a system that helps ensure our people are aligned with our vision and strategies, are focused on continuous improvement and learning, and are agile vis-à-vis changes in the organization and market.

People who are not living up to expectations need timely feedback so that learning and corrective actions can take place.

People who are performing well need timely feedback as well; this promotes better engagement, happiness, and a feeling of accomplishment. It also encourages the continuation of positive behaviors and learning.  

Effective, quality feedback

A system where one person evaluates another with little or no feedback from anyone else inherently contains bias. Obtaining input from multiple perspectives and through various lenses is key. We get a clearer picture of how the person is performing and how they can better serve their coworkers and customers by eliciting information from peers, customers, and other “stakeholders” who are affected by the person’s work. This combined perspective helps create balance among those different perspectives and create a clearer picture for the employee about their behavior, impact, and skills.

Feedback is a gift

While 360º reviews are NOT designed to replace performance reviews, they should be a critical part of determining elements such as bonuses, pay changes, incentives, career paths, etc.

Reviewing job performance, such as meeting sales quotas, writing a certain number of articles a month, or answering a certain number of calls, should be reviewed as a separate part of the performance.

The benefits of 360º reviews are numerous, including the following:

  • Discovery of gaps in the organization. We will often discover learning and skills enhancement opportunities via these reviews.
  • Career path clarity. With regular and continuous reviews, an employee will better understand how they fit into the organization, where they might be headed, and how to meet their own career path goals.
  • Reduction of bias resulting from a single perspective.
  • Improved accountability and trust within teams. Most teams benefit from the constructive feedback resulting from 360º reviews. They are more involved in each other’s development, promoting a good sense of team.
  • Valuing individuals for their contributions to the team and the organization.

Guidelines for successful 360º reviews

Here are some basic guidelines to follow for effective 360° performance reviews:

  • Determine the correct people to involve, such as these roles:
    • The employee’s direct manager
    • The employee’s team members (include all team members, especially if it’s a small team).
    • Internal customers the employee and/or the employee’s team serves.
    • Potentially external customers via surveys or questionnaires.
    • An administrator, typically from human resources or talent area.
  • Make them regular and continuous: hold quarterly reviews and goal setting.
  • Include a short survey that shows people how they impact the people they work with. Ensure that it is confidential. Consider using an outside party to ensure confidentiality.
  • Include action plans and follow-ups.
  • Focus on these areas:
    • Identification of skills development needed for the upcoming work to be done.
    • Measuring progress of skills developed over time.
    • Identification of the impact of behavior on others is sometimes “blind spots” that people don’t realize they have, but that impact their work, teammates, and/or customers.
  • Educate everyone on how the reviews will be done, what tools will be used, how the results will be used.
  • Focus on discovering strengths rather than using the process to uncover deficiencies (not to say that deficiencies shouldn’t be addressed).
  • Results should be tailored to the individual and their role.
  • A 360° Review should focus on the person’s “softer” skills, such as:
    • Teamwork: accountability, reliability, helpfulness, collaboration
    • Interpersonal: empathy, trust, positivity
    • Alignment with the vision: working towards organizational vision and strategy
    • Learning and creativity: attitude towards innovation and learning, problem-solving
    • Agility: the ability to adapt to changes needed by the organization
    • Leadership: decision-making, facilitation, serving the team

Sample Questions for 360º reviews

Any review should be designed to fit your organizations’ needs, but here are some sample questions:

  • What have you worked with [name] during this period? How did it turn out?
  • How well does [name] work within your team?
  • What actions has [name] taken that contribute positively to the team?
  • Have you had conflicts with [name]? If yes, how did they resolve the conflict?
  • How does [name] demonstrate alignment with our values?
  • How well does [name] demonstrate commitment to the team and its work?
  • Does [name] complete commitments on time?
  • How well does [name] resolve problems?
  • How well does [name] respond to feedback?
  • Would you change anything about how you work with [name]?
  • Are there any areas of improvement you would suggest for [name]?
  • Would you recommend [name] to a colleague?
  • How willing is [name] to admit to mistakes?
  • How well does [name] adjust to changing priorities?
  • How well does [name] work with the team’s customers?
  • Overall, how effective is [name]?
  • Does [name] treat everyone respectfully?
  • How much trust do you have in [name]’s ability to make good decisions?
  • How high is the quality of [name]’s work?
  • Is [name] proactive?

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About the Author

Ali Cox

Ali Cox

Alison (Ali) Cox, Netmind Lead Expert – Agile & Business Analysis, has experience since the mid-1980s in various areas, including business analysis, project methodology development and training, systems development (mainframe, client-server, and web), and telecommunications management. Alison began her career in the financial services area, and then moved into systems development for accounting systems. She has provided consulting and training in business analysis and project management for small companies to Fortune 500 corporations worldwide and speaks Spanish fluently. Alison is also a partner of TEMSS (Telecommunications Efficiency Management Strategies and Services), which provides telecommunications efficiency auditing and billing analysis services to clients in all areas of business across the United States. She completed her Master of Business Administration in MIS and Accounting from the University of Georgia. Connect with Ali on LinkedIn.

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