Your company is wrong about 360 Degree Reviews

360-degree reviews are about the employee, not the company, and more companies should start to implement them that way.

Employee stressed by performance review

When I search for 360-degree reviews online, I'm often disappointed in the results. Scores of websites demonstrate how 360-degree feedback reviews intimidate and frustrate employees throughout corporate environments. Many companies implement systems to perform 360-degree feedback as part of their performance appraisals, so let me go ahead and put this out there.

360-degree feedback reviews are not meant to improve your company! 360-degree reviews are intended to enhance your employees understanding of how they are perceived and how they are performing, so your employee can develop for their benefit. Many companies approach these reviews as annual performance reviews, with managers receiving reports on how their people are rated. It's built-in as a typical review that’s meant to judge the person’s performance in the job. That is not what 360-degree feedback reviews are about; it's not about the company but the employee. It is not for the company to succeed; it is because they want their people to succeed.

You should implement 360 feedback with the idea that this is feedback to help the employee get to the next level and succeed. So, what's the difference? The difference is that genuine 360 feedback is meant to empower people, to get information on what others think they do well, and what areas they need improvement. If you haven't asked your peers what they think of your work, it's easy to misunderstand how your work is perceived. Get regular feedback from your peers; it's crucial for your understanding of how your peers see your performance. Once you know how your work is perceived, it allows you to double down on your strengths and identify the areas you need to improve.

When companies genuinely care about their employees, they will actively engage in growing their employees. Companies need to make sure that they are getting actionable feedback to improve their career. That's right, not their performance but their career! If you genuinely care about your employees, give them the tools and opportunities to succeed, even if that means it is outside of your organization. Implement it in such a way so that it is about the employee’s growth, and not yours.

What does a successful 360-degree feedback program look like for it to be successful?

A successful 360-degree program is set up to be about the employee, not the process. The focus is on getting the individual actionable feedback. First, the organization needs to commit to invest in the process. It should be communicated from all levels of the organization how important it is. Allowing people to have time not only to respond to review requests, but also to process their results is essential. Organizations must also commit to and make clear that 360-degree feedback is not meant to take the place of performance reviews. This feedback does not affect the employee's compensation in any way. Remember, the purpose of the reviewers' input is not to improve things for the company, but to help the employee improve so that they can be successful. Reviews should be private to the employee. There isn't a need for the manager to be involved other than providing feedback unless, due to resource constraints, they are gathering the data for the review.

What should go into a 360 review?

I’m not a fan of reviews that rate people on different business qualities. Many 360 degree reviews will have people rate others on their leadership abilities, decision making, and other areas that company leadership deems essential. While it may feel good to get a chart that shows you are an 8 out of 10 in leadership, what is that telling you? How do you turn that into feedback that you can use to improve your career? This type of feedback is often seen in systems where the organization is implementing 360-degree reviews because they feel that it will improve their organization. Stop! Ask a few simple questions and get the responses.

  • What are my strengths?
  • What are my weaknesses?
  • What should I immediately start focusing on good or bad?

While it may seem too simple, these three open-ended questions will help get the information you need to focus your career growth. The simplicity of these questions is essential! While that chart telling you you're an 8 of 10 in leadership with a few comments might be helpful, it doesn't tell you how to get from an 8 to a 9, or a 9 to a 10. What is an eight on the business leadership scale? Focus on getting feedback that can help people grow. If they are processing the reviews and taking action on it, they will see growth on a personal and professional level. Personal and professional growth isn't something that should be measured quantitatively. Consider these reviews to be more like advice than action steps. Perhaps you will take action on all of it, maybe only a little of it, but it is about individual growth.

What to do with the results

There is much anxiety over the idea of 360-degree reviews, but there really shouldn't be. Part of the reason is that organizations use it as a means of performance appraisals when they shouldn’t be. If you have a culture of improvement in your workplace, this should not be a problem. Communicate clearly that the feedback doesn't factor into performance or compensation reviews. Provided that you have taken the time to communicate this, employees should feel safe to process the report.

While there may be some occasions where people may submit things to be vindictive, I’ve generally found that this is not the case. In a healthy work environment, most people are eager to help each other succeed. As an employee, it is vital to process whatever observations people can provide. Perhaps you are stronger in certain areas than you thought. If your strength lies outside of where you thought it was, it's essential to consider what changes you could make to double down on that strength.

Consider your areas of improvement as opportunities to grow. Don't take this section of feedback personally, even though it is about you. Consider what people are saying and be open to the idea that they are probably correct. Sometimes it can hurt to know that we aren't the best in all areas but understand this, no one is! Contemplating your growth opportunities and making a plan to improve it is how you take your career to the next level.

Feedback is good. Feedback is critical for the growth of individuals and businesses. From an organization standpoint, make sure that you are focusing on the individual. Make sure that you are implementing feedback systems because you want your employees to succeed, not because you want them to perform better. 360-degree feedback reviews should be an employee benefit, not a task.