Most companies are familiar with standard performance reviews. However, if your organization is looking for an alternative or supplementary method of sharing feedback with individuals, teams, and managers, 360° reviews are a great option to look into. As the name suggests, this type of feedback gives people a more comprehensive picture of their performance and comes with many benefits which we’ll explore in this article.
But first, let’s define what a 360° review looks like, and how it differs from a standard performance review.
What are 360° reviews?
A 360° review is a method of feedback that gives employees, teams, or managers the opportunity to hear from various people they work with. The purpose of this review is to allow everyone to understand their performance based on diverse perspectives, and hone in on strengths and growth areas. So how does this differ from the standard performance review? There are a few key distinctions:
- Have a manager assess how an employee or team has done by looking back at performance
- Go directly to the manager and are often not shared in raw form with the employee or team
- Have implications for decisions around compensation and promotions
- Help an individual or team understand what they should keep doing and where they can improve
- Go directly to the individual or team and are written specifically for the recipients
- Can inform learning and growth opportunities but do not affect compensation and promotions
Benefits of 360° feedback
Now, let's explore how the 360° review benefits individual contributors, teams, and managers.
360° reviews can be an excellent growth and development tool for individual contributors. This type of review consists of feedback from the employee’s manager, a handful of peers, and any other people who have experience working with the individual. There are many benefits associated with this approach:
Providing more balanced feedback
One of the advantages of 360° reviews is that they provide a well-rounded view of an individual’s performance. Since the feedback comes from multiple people, the chances of capturing a wider range of strengths and areas for improvement are greater than if only one person were to provide that feedback. It also minimizes the potential for bias in feedback. For instance, if an employee is good friends with their manager, they may receive only positive comments and miss key growth areas as a result. With feedback coming from all angles, there’s a much smaller chance of missing out on this kind of constructive feedback.
360° reviews provide an opportunity for individuals to strengthen relationships with the people they work with. Seeing the positive feedback others share about them can create a sense of camaraderie while receiving insight about areas for improvement can help them become better team members. Also, knowing that others will eventually review them may motivate employees to produce their best work and be more mindful about the way they interact with people.
Inspiring starting points for learning and development
Finally, one of the greatest benefits of 360° reviews for individuals is that they create opportunities for learning and development. For example, an employee may have received a few comments about improving their presentation skills. This is where managers can help employees take action on the feedback they receive – whether by helping them seek out a coach or taking an online course. One more added benefit: research shows that investing in the growth of your employees will also keep them at your organization for longer.
Teams can also get a lot of value out of 360° reviews. In this case, the feedback can be collected from internal team members, the team’s manager or lead, and other employees who frequently work with the team. This combined approach should give teams a better sense of how they’re performing and progressing toward their shared objectives. Here are the benefits of this approach:
Opening up communication
A study found that people who participate in 360° reviews report that issues that were previously difficult to discuss become easier to address, due to open communication channels and the removal of the fear of retaliation – such as risking a promotion or raise for speaking up about problems on the team. Removing barriers to open conversations can also lead to other positive outcomes, such as a boost in employee morale and lower turnover rates.
Another positive side effect of 360° reviews is that they can help teams work more productively and effectively – simply by nature of openly sharing feedback with one another. Research also finds that as teams continue to seek out feedback from one another, they increase trust with each other and are more likely to achieve performance goals.
360° reviews have the power to clarify expectations by identifying behaviors that promote team objectives and values. For example, let’s say your team recently wrapped up a big project. The 360° feedback indicates that they were excellent at meeting deadlines, but still made some mistakes that slowed down the process. This makes it clear to the team that time management is one of their strengths, while detail-orientedness is an area they could improve on for the next project.
Just as individual contributors benefit from feedback from their managers, managers could use receiving feedback from their direct reports, in addition to that of any colleagues with whom they work closely. There are many advantages that come with having managers participate in 360° reviews.
Improving relationships with direct reports
Managers have a lot of influence over the people who report to them - which is why they account for 70% of the variance in employee engagement. This means that if they’re not embodying the essential traits of a good leader, their employees are the ones who will feel the negative effects. This might breed resentment, poor performance, and low morale. But if managers take the 360° feedback they receive from their direct reports and translate them into actions, they have a chance to build better relationships and improve themselves as leaders.
Increasing transparency in conversations
It’s important for managers to be aware of how they’re perceived by employees. Unfortunately, it can be difficult for managers to get honest feedback, and the higher they are in an organization, the harder it gets. This can happen for a number of reasons: employees may be nervous about the repercussions of giving constructive feedback across the hierarchical divide, they may not know how to bring up the topic, or they may not be given the opportunity to do so. In this instance, 360° reviews can carve out the process, time, and space needed to give upward feedback and kickstart those transparent conversations if desired by both parties.
Boosting team performance
As we mentioned before, managers have a lot of influence over employees, and therefore over their teams. So if managers can’t keep their teams engaged, performance will inevitably suffer. Unfortunately, a survey of employees found that only 28% felt their managers were highly skilled at fostering engaged individuals and teams. The good news is that managers can take their 360° feedback and use it as a way to inform and act on their areas for improvement. Doing so will lead to better-managed teams, who will, in turn, feel inspired to perform their best.
Regardless of whether it’s for an individual contributor, a team, or a manager, 360° reviews can add a ton of value in terms of professional and personal growth. Take the time to understand whether this new approach to feedback is a good fit for your organization, and then take the first steps to implement it in a strategic way.