360 Performance Reviews: What They Are and How They Work

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 21 December 2022

Published 14 July 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Performance reviews are one of the many formal review processes employers use to evaluate their employees. A 360 performance review can help an employer understand each employee's strengths and weaknesses. They can then offer informed feedback to help their employees improve. In this article, we explain what 360 performance reviews are, how they work and how to put them in practice.

What are 360 performance reviews?

360 performance reviews are employee assessments developed after collecting anonymous feedback from people who know the employees well. This feedback reveals information about an employee's performance, skills and professional relationships. These reviews are sometimes called 360-degree performance reviews, 360-degree reviews or 360-degree appraisals. Businesses may consult the following people when assessing an employee with a 360-degree review:

  • Their peers

  • Their supervisors or managers

  • Employees they supervise

  • Employees from other departments they interact with

  • Customers

  • The employee under review

Related: Management Skills: Definition and Examples

How to conduct 360 performance reviews

If you are a supervisor or manager, you may need to conduct a performance 360 review of your staff, using the following steps:

1. Inform all people involved

Talk to the person you're reviewing and the people you'd like to provide feedback. Explain why you're conducting a 360 performance review. Make sure people know their feedback is anonymous, so they feel comfortable sharing their honest opinions. Note who can access their feedback and how they'll use it.

2. Create a survey form

Create the survey form you'll distribute to collect feedback. You could create an email form or a traditional paper survey. You may have a 360 performance survey template that you customise for each employee's review. This approach helps you collect feedback relevant to each employee's duties and professional goals.

3. Collect feedback from relevant people

Distribute your surveys to relevant people for their feedback. Collecting feedback from between 10 and 20 people should give you a good cross-section of opinions about the employee. Make sure you include the employee under review, their peers, their supervisor and anyone who reports to the employee. People should also work with the employee you're reviewing for at least six months so they can give informed feedback. Provide a deadline for completion and send reminders if people are slow responding.

4. Analyse and summarise results

Compile the results of the surveys and look for trends in the data. List the detailed results then provide a summary of common opinions and observations about the employee. Keep your summary brief to make sure the employee can easily comprehend it.

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5. Provide constructive feedback

Schedule a meeting with the employee you're reviewing to discuss the results. This meeting should occur a few days after the employee receives their review, so they have time to digest the results.

Praise the employee for their strengths and suggest ways they could improve their weaknesses. Discuss how the employee's self-appraisal matches or differs from the results. Remain positive and constructive throughout the meeting to make sure the employee learns and feels encouraged by the process. Agree to meet up again to review the employee's progress in a few months' time.

Related: What Is a Performance Review and Why Does It Matter?

How do you write a 360 review survey?

Follow these steps to write a 360-degree feedback questionnaire:

1. Write relevant 360-degree feedback questions

Write a list of concise feedback questions you could ask. Use simple language that every person completing your survey understands. Make your 360 feedback questions relevant to the employee's job. For example, a question about a sales assistant might read “Does this employee deliver excellent customer service?”

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2. Add a rating scale

For each statement, add a rating scale from 1 to 5. For example, your scale may range from 1 being never and 5 being always. Explain the scale so respondents understand how they're rating the employee.

3. Encourage additional comments

Encourage respondents to leave any further comments about the employee. This space lets respondents address additional aspects of the employee's performance and conduct. You may be able to incorporate these comments into your final review or let them inspire further questions on your next 360 review survey.

How do you write a 360 review?

Once you've collected your completed 360 surveys, follow these steps to write a 360 review:

1. List the results

List each question from the feedback form and the employee's results. You might include a list of all results, the highest and lowest scores and the average score for each statement. You could also include the additional comments respondents made about the employee.

2. Summarise the trends

Outline the trends revealed in the data. Mention any areas the employee scored very well in and the areas with lower scores. If the employee has previous 360 reviews, you could also mention whether the results show improvement.

3. Note advice for the employee

Explain how the employee can use the information in the report. Outline any recommendations, including areas to focus on and suggested action, such as training or counselling. Note a date when you'll review the employee's 360 performance again.

Ways to prepare for giving 360 performance reviews

The following tips can help you prepare for giving someone feedback for their 360 performance review:

  • Think carefully about your answers: Consider how the employee performs and interacts with you.

  • Be honest: Remember that your feedback is anonymous, so you can share freely. Honest feedback is the most useful, whether it's positive or negative.

  • Take your time: You should have several days to complete the feedback form, so use this time to your advantage. Set aside time to complete the feedback form to focus on it without distraction.

Ways to prepare for getting performance reviews

Getting a 360 performance review can be daunting, as it shows how others think of you. The following tips can help you prepare:

  • Continue operating as usual: People may become skeptical if they see you altering your behaviour to win over your reviewers. Continuing your duties as you normally do can provide a more accurate 360 evaluation.

  • Embrace the learning opportunity: Your 360 performance review lets you get a comprehensive picture of how people see you. Look forward to what you can learn from the criticism and use it to make you a better employee.

  • Get into a positive frame of mind: While criticism helps you improve, the praise you receive is also important. Feel good about the prospect of learning what people think you're doing well.

Related: The Importance of Positive Feedback and How To Deliver It To Others

FAQs about 360-degree performance reviews

The following answers to frequently asked questions about 360-degree performance reviews can help you understand their value in the workplace.

Are 360-degree performance reviews effective?

360-degree performance reviews can be an effective way to assess an employee, as they consider a range of viewpoints. Together the viewpoints of the respondents can create a comprehensive picture of the employee's skills and performance. A range of factors can impact a 360 performance review's effectiveness, including:

  • The relevance of survey questions

  • The clarity of survey questions

  • The relevance of the survey respondents

  • The honesty of the survey respondents

  • The analysis skills of the person collating survey results

  • The action plan developed from the 360 performance review

What are the advantages of using 360-degree appraisals?

Using 360-degree appraisals can be very beneficial, because:

  • They are comprehensive. Consulting different people reveals details about an employee's performance that supervisors may be unaware of.

  • They are often objective. Consulting different people, rather than just an employee's manager, helps reduce bias.

  • The appraisal process is collaborative. As employees review one another, they get to understand their place as part of a team. This can develop accountability to other employees.

  • They are customisable. A 360-degree appraisal form can be easily customised to see whether employees are meeting their professional goals and responsibility.

  • They are anonymous. Anonymous responses encourage honesty

  • They reveal strengths and weaknesses. Positive and negative comments can help employees understand what they do well and what needs work.

  • They can improve performance. When people understand everyone they come in contact with may review them, they may focus more on building positive relationships.

What are the disadvantages of using 360-degree appraisals?

While 360-degree appraisals can be very beneficial, they also have some limitations because:

  • Their effectiveness can vary. Factors listed above can influence whether 360-degree appraisals are effective.

  • They collect a limited amount of information. As all feedback is anonymous, employees can only learn what's provided on their appraisal sheet. Respondents may also submit incomplete survey forms.

  • The process can be time-consuming. Creating surveys, collating the results and writing appraisal reports can all take time away from other duties.

  • They can become biased. While 360-degree appraisals should be objective, as many people share their views, biases can also show. For example, a very personable employee may receive an overly positive appraisal simply because they are well-liked.

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