by Shayne Thomas
05 Mar 2020
The Importance of 360-Degree Reviews
Add a new dimension to continuous performance management today
Oftentimes, when we talk about annual performance reviews, it’s easy to get in the habit of thinking that this exchange of information happens only between employees and managers.
While feedback conversations are certainly a major component of continuous performance management as well as key for developing stronger employee-manager relationships, it really only provides a limited perspective on an employee’s performance.
After all, unless it’s only you and your employee at the workplace, which is highly unlikely if you’re reading this article, there’s a good chance the members on your team work with different people across the company every day—and those relationships and interactions are likely quite different than the ones that managers have with their own employees.
This is why we’re a big supporter of 360-degree reviews. They add an entirely new dimension to the feedback loop, uncovering new information, hidden successes, potential challenges, areas of improvement, and many other insights about employees that managers could possibly never effectively glean on their own. And because it comes from outside of the immediate employee-manager relationship, there’s nothing keeping outside reviewers from being honest and candid. While honesty can sometimes feel brutal, unfiltered feedback is truly the key to making meaningful performance improvements. Remember, the entire purpose of this exercise is not to put employees on the defensive; rather, it’s to celebrate where they’ve excelled in the past and to hone in on where they can improve in the future.
Truth be told, it’s a win-win for both managers and employees alike—although it can sometimes feel daunting for those getting bombarded by a wave of 360-degree feedback requests whenever annual performance review time rolls around. (Trust us, we’ve all been there, and we thank you for taking the time to provide such thoughtful feedback!)
The sources of 360-degree feedback
This kind of feedback can come from anyone, whether that person is upstream, downstream, or even on the same “level” as the employee being reviewed. The value of this is simple: by receiving feedback from people across and outside the organization, you can start to piece together a more holistic picture of your employees’ overall performance.
Here are a few angles to pursue when deciding who to solicit 360-degree feedback from:
- Coworkers: This is what you would call “lateral” feedback or, in other words, feedback from other employees who are just as much in the trenches as the person being reviewed. These people typically have a solid understanding of how a given person operates on a day-to-day basis and whether (or not) he or she works well with others. Just be aware that some of these reviewers may have personal relationships that extend beyond the workplace, so be mindful of potential bias.
- Cross-Functional Managers: As the organizational silos get broken down more each day, employees in businesses of all shapes and sizes are getting more opportunities to work with people outside of their immediate team. This is a boon for learning and development—and a great way to help employees explore new opportunities in your company. As such, the managers of these cross-functional teams will also have an opportunity to work with your team members and, you guessed it, can shed some light on their experience with them as well. It doesn’t matter if that collaboration was direct or indirect; any contact had, even if extremely limited, can help you get a better understanding of how your employees work with other managers and their teams as well as under different management styles.
- Outside Partners: As companies grow, it’s not uncommon to work with a number of outside vendors, contractors, and partners for getting work done. So, why not think outside of the box (pun intended) and reach out to these partners to get a better understanding of how your employees are engaging with them. While a bit less “traditional” in the most textbook sense of 360-degree feedback—and certainly less formal, overall—the input gained from third-party partners can add yet another dimension to the feedback loop that you likely won’t get from within your company.
So, why go through the hassle of soliciting feedback?
We’ve said this many times before, and we’re going to say it again: feedback is important. Even more important, ongoing feedback. That’s why we have to stop thinking about soliciting feedback as a “hassle” or as though we’re bothering people by asking them to provide it.
When approached thoughtfully, feedback can truly be worth its weight in gold—on all fronts. In the context of performance reviews, however, here are some key benefits that go hand-in-hand with requesting 360-degree feedback:
- Uncover hidden talents
Other people in your company may be working with your employees in ways that you don’t—and that’s perfectly fine. You can’t really micromanage that experience. However, because you aren’t living and breathing your team’s every move, you may miss out, albeit unintentionally, on learning about the unique qualities that make your employees truly shine. The only way to find this out is to ask. And you never know, once you learn about these hidden gems, you may be inspired to figure out how you can use these skills and talents to your (and your team’s) advantage!
- Create more effective development plans
Similarly, the experience that others have with your employees can uncover skills gaps as well. This should not be seen as a negative. In fact, as a manager, you should embrace this feedback and use it to your employees’ advantage by creating a learning and development plan that will help them overcome specific challenges or learn new skills. Oftentimes it’s easy to think that “negative” or “constructive” feedback is a kind of passive-aggressive way of reprimanding someone. That’s not the case whatsoever. Feedback is really about coming face-to-face with the brutal, honest truth; in the context of the workplace, when managed appropriately, it can transform so-called deficiencies into new opportunities for growth. If you wanted to use a metaphor, think about constructive feedback like a caterpillar transforming into a butterfly.
- Focus on the future
As a manager, your job is to help your employees succeed, working with them each and every day to not only do the job they were hired to do but also to help them achieve their professional and, to a lesser extent, personal goals. You are essentially their coach. As such, you should always be on the lookout for the rising stars within your team—and, even though you hate to see them go, help them work their way up (or across) your company’s career lattice. While you can probably spot your employees with seemingly limitless growth potential, the feedback you received from others can help reaffirm what you may already know to be true.
Cornerstone is here to help
The 360-degree review process may sound like a lot of work. But it doesn’t have to be when you can work with a simple solution that automates and streamlines it all.
Our 360-degree feedback tool gives you the opportunity to request feedback on a project- or general-level (i.e. for the annual performance review). This is especially useful for gaining feedback on employees working with cross-functional teams or with outside vendors.
Even more, managers can see who submitted feedback—to ensure that no one ever gets too harsh with their reviews, as can sometimes be the case with a fully anonymous review workflow—and, should they choose, they can make the 360-degree reviewers (but not the reviews themselves) visible to their employees as well. This all adds a valuable layer of accountability that helps ensure that the feedback provided is truly constructive.
The good news for you: Cornerstone is here to help. Reach out to us today to learn more and schedule a demo. (Your feedback is encouraged, too!)