Key Skills Needed for An Effective 360 Review Performance Evaluation

Learn the best way to administer a 360 review performance evaluation for optimal success within your feedback program.

With all of the types of employee performance reviews out there, and despite the best of intentions, it begs the question: is implementing and carrying out the controversial feedback method of 360 review performance evaluations demotivating?  

There seem to be so many professionals making their voice heard when it comes to dismantling this specific type of feedback process, but little is out there on how to set yourself, your organization, and your fellow employees up for success when trying to implement the dimensional review type.

Back in 2011, Adobe released a study, “Performance Reviews Get a Failing Grade,” a survey of 1,500 U.S. office workers that detailed how traditional performance reviews are considered unproductive and irrelevant by employees and managers who go through them.

Yet, it seems that reviews in general — traditional or dynamic — are not viewed in a positive light.
At the surface, the reason may be obvious: no one likes to be criticized. But, it goes much deeper.

However, the main reason is suspected to be more about a lack of understanding of how to use the review type correctly. Teaching people how to give and receive feedback is most of the battle when it comes to getting the most out the evaluation tactic.  

360 Review Feedback Definition

Feedback given by supervisors in typical annual or semiannual employee reviews tends to focus on the employee’s level of success (or failure) in meeting the performance requirements of their role at that time.

This type of performance evaluation provides comprehensive feedback from several sources to help employees develop business and interpersonal skills that drive professional growth.

What makes it one of the most underutilized employee evaluation tools is that anyone, from a CEO to a store clerk, can benefit from the personal insights gained from 360 degree reviews.

The Pros and Cons of 360 Degree Feedback

As with most processes, there are advantages and disadvantages. And despite this evaluation’s effective impact in driving leadership, management, and personal development, 360 reviews aren’t the be-all, end-all solution.  

Therefore, it’s important to lay out all the cards on the table to see if the process is a correct fit:

  • A 360 review is a mechanism to facilitate development. It’s up to the employee, of course with the support of management, to do the hard work which drives meaningful change.
  • This kind of review should not solely replace a traditional employee evaluation or consistent feedback channels. If a manager has specific performance issues with an employee, s/he should discuss those with the employee directly, honestly, and immediately.
  • Without executive support and participation, 360 degree reviews will be difficult to integrate into the company’s culture.
  • The 360 degree review process is primarily for the benefit of the employee being reviewed, not the entire team or the organization.

“The organizational benefit is less tangible,” says SurveyGizmo CEO Christian Vanek. “It comes in the form of the development of stronger and more capable staff — but that only happens if the reviewee buys into the concept and process.”

6 Key Skills for an Effective 360 Review Discussion

The questions you will want to ask during this process greatly depends on your organization and which model of the evaluation you decide to use.

There is a plethora of questionnaire templates out there that you can leverage, but don’t be afraid to take a stab at crafting those questions yourself as they should reflect the culture, mission, and values of your individual organization.

Rather than offering a question template, consider factoring in the following skills into your own questions and methodology practices.

  1. Leadership skills  
  2. Communication skills
  3. Team skills
  4. Organization skills
  5. Creativity skills
  6. Interpersonal skills

Other key points to factor into the 360 evaluation discussion that are worth remembering include:

  • Avoiding technical skill questions.There are better ways to measure and provide feedback on those.
  • Maintaining focus. When phrasing questions, try to focus on the reviewer’s attention on the impact of the subject’s habits and skills, not on personal attributes.
  • Choosing the right questions. Be sure to ask open-ended questions about what the subject should stop doing, start doing, or continue doing for each main area.
  • Keeping your survey short. It’s perfectly fine if you decide to only focus on a small selection of skills at a time. Just be consistent in your method across the organization.
  • Using a single scale for all scale questions. A scale of 1 to 5 is common and easy for participants to understand.
  • Balance is key. Keep a balance between scale questions and open-ended questions.

“360 reviews were designed to provide a more holistic review for individuals,” says Kate Ellenbaum, Senior Recruiter at SurveyGizmo. “Oftentimes direct managers aren’t in the loop on the full picture of what a person brings to the team and what s/he are like in the trenches.”

“The benefits of 360 degree feedback are often lost when intention and execution are not aligned,” says Ellenbaum. “These types of reviews are designed to be more motivating when it comes to full professional delivery. It’s not just managing up that matters, it’s being a dependable and good teammate and not pushing off work to your team, missing deadlines, etc.”  

One Last Note

Remember, the ability to administer excellent 360 reviews is a skill, and skills take time to perfect. To do them well, they require continual feedback from all involved. Learn by observing others and going through the process a few times yourself before jumping in with both feet.

Grab a copy of our complete guide to learn more tips and tricks on effective 360 degree reviews.

The Complete Guide to Running 360 Reviews

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