What is a 360 review? [And Why It’s Important in HR]

What is a 360 review? [And Why It’s Important in HR]

In case you think 360 reviews are a modern workplace concept, let’s take a moment and examine the history behind them first.

While it may not be the first time the practice was put into place, the first known use of this type of feedback from leadership, peers, and subordinates was by the German military in World War ll.

From there, move ahead to the 1950s and we find that the Esso Research and Engineering Company used surveys in their 360 reviews. These anonymous surveys led to significant performance improvements, greater efficiency, and ultimately financial successes that brought them under today’s Exxon Mobil’s group of companies.

Moreover, thanks to the digital revolution with online surveys, 360 reviews have gained tremendous popularity.

Companies who have adopted the 360 review process include:

  • Accenture
  • Adobe
  • Facebook
  • Goldman Sachs
  • Google
  • Netflix

Today, approximately 85% of all Fortune 500 companies have implemented the 360 performance review process as an integral part of their leadership and employee development initiatives.

One of the most notable early examples of 360 review feedback was its usage by General Electric’s then CEO Jack Welch during the 1980s and 90s.

Key takeaways:

  1. The concept of 360 feedback has been around since World War ll
  2. It gained popularity in the 50s, most notably at the Esso Research and Engineering Company
  3. Today, approximately 85% of all Fortune 500 companies use some form of the 360 performance review

What is a 360 Review?

A 360 review is a performance management system that provides employees with anonymous feedback. This is provided by managers, peers, subordinates, direct reports, even vendors and customers. Employees should expect to provide a self-evaluation as well. A 360 performance review measures competencies and can ultimately assist in professional development.

Why is it called a 360 review? Because as you read above, the required feedback comes from all directions. Those who lead or manage, those who work under the employee, and even lateral and external coworkers.

A 360 review:

  • Includes a self-assessment
  • Includes feedback from all directions
  • Helps to measure competencies

Why is Feedback Important?

Some may ask, what’s the point? Why is employee feedback so important?

Feedback plays a key role in helping us recognize, understand, and develop our strengths. While it may not be too surprising to learn most of us aren’t all that attuned to our weaknesses, we are—at least to some extent—equally blind to some of our strengths.

This is in part because our strengths are often things that come naturally to us.

For example, if you are naturally a good listener, you’re not likely to pat yourself on the back about it, or perhaps even be cognizant of the fact. Because you didn’t need to exert any effort to become a good listener, you just are.

Transversely, if you had to work hard at becoming a good listener, you are certainly aware of the ability.

A process that helps you discover your weaknesses and strengths—like feedback—can only benefit you in today’s organizations. Feedback helps to acquaint you with your strengths and weaknesses, ultimately pointing you in the right direction.

Does this mean that you have to agree with everything others say about you? Certainly not. But knowing how others perceive you is useful information that can aid in future decisions.

Think of a 360 employee review as a map that keeps you on track, not as an open forum for your workmates and leaders to criticize you.

Key takeaways:

  1. Feedback helps to recognize, understand, and develop strengths
  2. Think of feedback as a map that can help point you in the right direction and keep you on track
  3. Feedback isn’t about giving others a chance to be critical of you

So why is the 360 employee review important to Human Resources Development?

The Benefits of the 360 Review

As discussed above there are clear benefits to 360 performance evaluations. They may seem like an opportunity to open yourself up to a world of angst, but let’s look at the positive instead of the assumed negatives.

  › The Power of Multiple Perspectives

What better way to obtain a clear view of how others perceive you? Especially the people you work beside day in and day out. And not just your peers. Also, those who have oversite over you and those who report to you. Your internal customers and perhaps a few external customers too.

When judging others, people tend to do so with the same measuring stick they use on themselves—that would be their own expectations and past experiences.

Gaining the insight of only one person won’t necessarily have an impact on us, because they look at us through their own unique lens. The beauty of a 360 performance review means you have the insights of an entire, diverse group.

If a large percentage of that group feels or sees the same way, that adds a layer of credibility and hopefully more meaningful to the one being reviewed, motivating them to make the necessary changes.

The 360 review process:

  • Aids in collecting data about how others perceive you
  • Provides a variety of beneficial input since people tend to judge based on their own expectations and past experiences
  • Lends credibility due to multiple perspectives
  • Can lead to behavioral change

  › Fosters Teamwork and Trust

In an environment where appraisal results are typically positive, it builds trust between employees and this can lead to stronger, better performing teams.

This is in large part because employees are working together and effectively helping each other understand their actions and performance.

  › Employees Feel Valued

When an employee offers feedback on a manager’s performance and ultimately sees positive changes take place as a result, the impact can be favorable. Knowing they were listened to and that their opinions matter can engender a strong feeling of value. And knowing they have a measure of power to encourage positive change can promote a sense of loyalty.

How Can You Help Advance the 360 Review Process?

If you are asked to take part in a 360 performance evaluation, what can you do to help assure its effectiveness?

Here are a few tips.

  • Feedback needs to be constructive in that it is helpful and presented in a way an employee can understand.
  • No one likes to be hit with negativity, so make sure you frame any improvements constructively. Also place an emphasis on acknowledging good work and keeping feedback, specific.
  • Be factual and objective. This is about things that actually happen, not how you feel about what happens. This is especially true when dealing with problem issues.
  • Don’t wonder. Get to the point of a matter and be straight forward.
  • Don’t generalize by saying things like you “you always do” or “you never do.” This isn’t helpful and is counterproductive.
  • Never make comparisons of co-workers. Instead, if comparisons are necessary, only make them against your own standards, whether that be standards for goals or earning rewards. Or compare against your expectations.

What Can a 360 Degree Review do for You?

Let’s do a brief recap of the ways 360 management reviews or employee reviews can help.

  1. When used as a development tool a 360 review helps employees become more effective by pointing out their strengths and weaknesses.
  2. You can use it to measure performance—as a Performance Appraisal Tool.
  3. A 360 review will help you assess competencies and behaviors and also more subjective things such as teamwork.
  4. They provide feedback on how others in the organization perceive an employee.

Simply put, 360 reviews are an invaluable tool.

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