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Blog : 360 review - proceed with caution.


360 review - proceed with caution.

Jane Sunley discusses 360 degree reviews.

Imagine the scenario:

Johan, who hasn’t had any sort of formal performance appraisal since he first joined Bixmax & Co as a supervisor three years ago, receives an email to let him know he’s required to take part in a 360 degree appraisal. The guidance notes tell him that five of his colleagues and five of the people who report to him will be submitting anonymous feedback about his performance. He and his line manager will fill out a similar form and he’ll be sent a report with the results that he can discuss with his line manager. Johan feels he’s doing a good job though no one ever really tells him either way, he keeps himself to himself and doesn’t really go all out to make himself popular with other team members. He prefers to concentrate on getting the job done. He’s a firm though fair manager though does have quite a lot of performance issues to deal with, mainly due to poor recruitment which he isn’t involved in as it’s dealt with by a separate recruitment team.

He’s worried; he’s suspicious and sceptical about the process and really starts to worry about the whole exercise. The next day there’s a strange atmosphere at work, people look worried. They ask each other about the 360 and start to speculate as to what it will mean for them. Some people are really looking forward to being able to tell the management what they think about their colleagues and managers.

I could go on, though you can imagine how this scenario might play out… Used with care, 360 degree appraisal can be a very useful tool. However it’s vital to use this responsibly within a culture that’s ready to deal with it. According to the CIPD anyone using 360 feedback must ensure:

  • Issues of confidentially are clearly communicated, detailing who will have access to the data and for what purpose
  • It is clearly stated how feedback will be given and by whom
  • The process for identifying respondents is clearly set out with recipients having some opportunity to input
  • Sufficient time is allowed to pilot the process and to consult with individuals and employee groups on both the design and implementation of the process
  • Both recipients and respondents are adequately briefed on the process, how to complete the relevant forms and the aims and objectives of the exercise
  • Adequate opportunity is given for people to comment and raise their concerns
  • People are not forced or coerced to take part by managers
  • Feedback is never attributed to an individual, that feedback reports and developments plans are kept secure and that data protection rules are obeyed - see our factsheet on data

And I’d like to add:

  • The organisation already has a well-established and trusted 180 degree process in place and so extending it to a 360 approach would be a logical and welcome next step
  • It is carried out fairly and sensitively, with full support around the outputs
  • The individual should ‘own’ the process and therefore feel in control rather than having something ‘done to them’

Unfortunately we’ve been brought in at the back end of disaster whereby well-meaning leadership teams have decided to adopt 360 without full understanding and experience, and then had to deal with the fall out. In short, how it should work is:

  • Approximately eight people, for example peers, subordinates, members of the leadership team fill in questionnaires describing an individual's performance
  • Often the individual and his or her line manager fill in a questionnaire too
  • Ideally the feedback process should be anonymous so that summary information is available but no one knows ‘who said what’
  • The feedback is presented to the recipient by a skilled coach or well trained manager

We’ve been developing award-winning talent management systems for almost ten years and have come up with a way to incorporate 360 feedback into the regular appraisal process. This makes for an efficient and effective review.

However, when it comes to 360 we spend most of our time talking clients and potential customers out of utilising 360. Why? Because culturally they’re not ready for it; or they don’t understand the potential implications; there is prevailing distrust of management; or they aren’t prepared to train their managers in coaching and feedback skills to a high enough level or to invest in skilled coaches to assist with the feedback process.

There’s a bit of a 360 bandwagon. People read or hear about it, feel it would be good for their business and then find a ‘free trial’ via the Internet or other quick and easy solution.

Managed and implemented well, 360 feedback can enhance performance. However, if is suddenly introduced out of the blue and / or perceived to be in any way threatening, it can seriously damage both engagement, performance and retention. What are your experiences?

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