360 Degree Performance Review: Providing Effective Employee Feedback

July 14, 2014

The concept of 360-degree assessments, feedback, or evaluations is based on the assumption that an organization can cull more information from a variety of sources than from managers alone. This process replaces the traditional top-down rating with anonymous performance feedback from peers, subordinates, managers, and in some cases, even customers and suppliers.

Before even investigating 360-degree assessments, identify your goals and the results you expect. Will you use the information for development purposes only, or will it become a factor in pay and promotion decisions? What will be your timeline and training needs, and how will you communicate the results to participants? A 360-degree assessment can be administered using paper and pencil, on the Web, or even by telephone. The method you choose will depend on your goals and your participants. When selecting appraisal forms for 360-degree reviews, you’ll want to look for flexibility, costs, and support services that meet your needs.

Employee Evaluation

The evaluations will generally contain four or five rating scales with space for comments, with between eight and fifteen respondents assessing each employee. It is important to use at least six evaluators to preserve anonymity, to train participants on the system, and to communicate the timetable. If used properly and under the right circumstances, 360-degree feedback provides honest information and different perspectives, and during growth and change periods it can be a perfect tool to gain a picture of the entire organization. It can be especially useful in work situations that involve many cross-functional teams or relationships.However,this appraisal method will not work for every organization. It may not work in companies with a distinct hierarchy of management and reporting structure or where there is a low level of trust among employees.


Furthermore, it may not be effective over the long term. Studies have indicated that when you solicit ratings from the same group over a long period, the evaluators tend to be less honest and more flattering. In addition, implementation of the process can be daunting because of the number of people involved. Do not cut corners to minimize costs.

Excerpted from HR Answer Book (Amacom Books)The HR Answer Book is an easy-to-use problem solver that can be read cover-to-cover or as a quick reference in specific situations.

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About The Author

Shawn Smith is an attorney, corporate executive, and frequent speaker on management issues. Her articles have appeared in numerous legal and business publications. Rebecca Mazin is cofounder of Recruit Right, an HR consulting firm; has held key positions at organizations including Hyatt Hotels, Owens Corning, and the National Labor Relations Board; and is the author of The Employee Benefits Answer Book.


  1. avatar

    […] to success. Horizontal leadership has become more important in modern, matrixed corporations; a 360-degree process would reveal progress against this opportunity, but so could the examination of calendar and email […]

  2. avatar

    […] they should change about their own actions, or who exhibit a reluctance to change, can benefit from 360-degree feedback, according to McKinsey’s Scott Keller and Carolyn Aiken in the report “The Inconvenient Truth […]

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