What Is a 360 Review?

A 360 review can give you a much more holistic and accurate view of an employee’s skills and performance. In a traditional performance review, employees are reviewed by their direct manager or supervisor. But, managers don’t always have a clear picture of every aspect of an employee’s work. 

That means that these kinds of reviews are often inaccurate, or incomplete at best. Read on for our full guide to how 360 reviews can change things for the better. 

Key facts: 

  • 360 reviews encompass feedback from all directions instead of just from an employee’s direct manager. 

  • While 360 reviews can be complex and time-consuming to organise, they typically produce better results than traditional reviews. 

  • 360 reviews can help pinpoint areas for improvement both individually and on an organisational level.

Start from the top with our performance review template today.

What Is A 360 Review? 

A 360 review is a type of performance review that gathers feedback on an employee’s performance from multiple sources. This typically includes their manager, reports, colleagues and various other stakeholders in or outside of an organisation. 

The purpose of a 360 performance review is to offer a more holistic (and therefore more accurate) view of an employee’s performance and potential than their direct manager’s assessment alone. 

Types of 360 Feedback 

There are two major types of 360 reviews that you could implement at your organisation: 

1. Episodic 360 Reviews

An episodic 360 review is typically carried out on senior employees as part of a leadership development programme. They are usually quite in-depth and involve getting input from dozens of people. 

For this reason, episodic 360 reviews usually require the assistance of a coach or assessment expert to interpret the responses. An expert can help you distil feedback into a format that’s easy to understand.

2. Periodic 360 Reviews

Periodic or regular 360 reviews are generally performed for all employees as part of their annual performance reviews. 

For this reason, they tend to be a bit less in-depth than episodic 360 reviews. However, they still require input from a number of people and can be challenging to organise. 

The Biggest Benefits of 360 Reviews 

Here are some of the biggest benefits of conducting 360 reviews over other performance evaluation methods: 

Feedback From a Variety of Sources

One benefit of 360 reviews is that they can help employees understand their performance in relation to different groups of stakeholders. For example, an employee might receive a positive review from their manager, but less positive feedback from their direct reports. This would indicate that the employee needs to work on their leadership and management skills. 

It’s also worth noting that not all managers are skilled at giving feedback. 360 reviews give all employees the opportunity to receive constructive, useful feedback that could help them to improve. After all, feedback can (and should) come from anywhere. 

Pinpointing Key Areas of Development

360 reviews are effective at identifying areas for improvement. For example, if an employee’s manager, direct reports and colleagues all mention that the employee has problems with prioritising their workload, it’s clear that this is something they need to work on. 

If the employee had only been reviewed by their direct manager, this problem might not have come up. Even if it did, it wouldn’t have been as obvious that this was truly an area for improvement. 

360 reviews can also help companies identify areas for improvement on an organisational level. For example, if multiple employees’ 360 reviews reveal problems with effective leadership, this could be an organisational problem. The company could then address the situation by providing training for managers to help them improve their leadership skills.

More Trusted By Employees 

Not everyone is good at giving effective feedback, especially when that feedback is negative. That means that employees might not trust their supervisors when they tell them that they are doing a great job. Equally, employees who receive negative feedback from their managers might feel that they are being treated unfairly.

A 360 review gives employees a more well-rounded view of their overall performance. This makes them more likely to believe that the feedback they receive is accurate — whether it’s positive or negative. 

Another important feature of 360 reviews is that the feedback given is anonymous as an option. Employees are therefore more likely to believe any feedback they receive, simply because the person giving it would have no reason to lie. This is particularly important when employees are asked to give feedback about their supervisor or manager, which they might be uncomfortable doing under their own name. 

Performance Review Template: Host More Productive Conversations

Guide Performance Review

Add more structure to your performance conversations today. Download our templates to help guide the conversation.

Potential Drawbacks of 360 Reviews

Of course, there are also some downsides to conducting 360 reviews. Here are some of the cons of this method: 

Can Be Time-Consuming and Difficult to Implement

360 reviews can become unwieldy and difficult to manage if you don’t have a proper system in place for gathering and curating feedback. For this reason, it might be a good idea to invest in a piece of software that can help you to manage your performance processes. 

If you’ve never done them before, you might also want to start by conducting 360 reviews on just a small number of employees. This gives you a chance to smooth out your processes for collecting and analysing data before you roll the programme out to the entire organisation. 

Less Effective With Fewer Respondents

A 360 review produces more useful results than a traditional review because it encompasses a wide range of opinions. But if you have too few raters, you might end up with feedback that’s too narrow — and therefore inaccurate. 

For example, if the only people rating the employee are their friends and close colleagues, the responses you get might be misleading. Conversely, your results could skew negatively if the raters you choose don’t get along with the employee in question. 

For a 360 review to be effective, you need to gather feedback from a wide range of people that come into contact with the employee in different contexts. 

Requires Effective Change Management Processes

A 360 review is only the beginning of the process of improving an employee’s performance. And, for it to be effective, employees need to show a genuine willingness to make changes and work on any weaknesses that come up. 

Of course, employees might be more responsive to feedback that comes from a 360 review than a traditional review, as it’s more likely to be accurate and unbiased. But if you want to see real change in your organisation, conducting 360 reviews alone isn’t enough. You also need to invest in building a culture that promotes development, humility and the desire to improve. 

Five Steps to Implement a 360 Review Process 

Here are the basic steps to follow if you want to implement a 360 performance review programme at your organisation: 

  1. Build your framework: This involves putting together the necessary documentation and deciding things like who will receive a review and how you’ll roll out the programme. 

  2. Choose your HR software: You’ll use this software to automate performance cycles and make it easy for employees to give and receive feedback. 

  3. Request reviews: Use your software to request feedback from each employee’s manager, coworkers, reports and anyone else whose views you think would be helpful. 

  4. Collect and collate feedback: It’s important to package the information in a way that makes sense to the employee and gives them an overall view of the feedback you’ve received. 

  5. Share the feedback with the employee: Work with them to define action steps and discuss how they’ll work on any areas for improvement that have been identified. 

For a more in-depth guide to putting together your 360 feedback programme, as well as some sample questions and advice on building your own, read our full guide to 360 feedback

FAQs: 360 Reviews

Still have questions? Here are the answers to some FAQs about 360 reviews: 

Are 360 Reviews a Good Idea? 

360 reviews allow managers to gain an accurate picture of an employee’s performance and potential. However, they can also be a lot of work. It’s important to think carefully about whether they are worth the time and investment before developing a 360 review programme for your organisation.

What Is the Goal of a 360 Review? 

The goal of a 360 review is to give managers and employees a holistic, accurate understanding of an employee’s performance, and help them to identify areas for improvement.

Are 360 Reviews Anonymous? 

360 reviews should almost always be anonymous because this helps people to feel comfortable giving honest feedback. However, some organisations give employees the option of attaching their names to a comment if they feel it would be useful to the person being evaluated.

Streamlined Performance Processes With Personio

Conducting employee reviews is a long and time-consuming process — but you can reduce your workload by setting up automatic performance reviews with Personio. 

Managers and employees will be automatically prompted when it’s time to complete their reviews, and you can create custom, standardised appraisal forms and rating scales to make sure the feedback you receive is measurable, useful and constructive. 

Once reviews are in, you’ll be able to view the results in an easy-to-understand visual format, giving you a bird’s eye view of performance across your organisation. 

Want to see what else Personio can do? Request a demo today. 

Drive Performance, Company-Wide

Performance Questions