Peer-to-Peer: Is 360-degree feedback a good performance-evaluation tool?

Written by ProfitGuide Staff


“Has anyone ever used 360-degree feedback as a performance-evaluation tool? It seems like a useful exercise, but are there any measurable results? Does individual performance and teamwork noticeably improve? I also wonder if introducing this process will raise the hackles of my employees.”

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Reader responses

Deb Carpenter:

It’s not the tool or process that makes a difference. Just like your golf swing, it’s the follow-through. These reviews can work well if you have the discipline and structure to support them.

I was at a company that used 360-degree reviews, and it included techniques for improvement with the feedback. When I was reviewed, my customer-service performance was ranked in my bottom five areas. I interviewed the people who had contributed to the review to see whether they had any suggestions. They were very receptive and provided valuable input, and I put as much as I could of their advice into practice.

As part of our performance management process, I discussed my progress with my manager each quarter, and I also periodically re-surveyed the original participants who had ranked me in the bottom five. The next review, my customer service was ranked in my top five. I had had a customer-service epiphany.


I would advise using a couple of strategies. I was involved with 360-degree feedback for a number of years from both sides, and you should be very selective in what information the individual hears. Criticism from one’s peers does not always sit well. Also, I can tell you that the comments do not remain anonymous. This creates a rift in employee morale. I agree that there can be a lot of value in these evaluations, but they need to be edited to maintain anonymity. I can also tell you that towards the end of our HR manager’s term at the company, most people refused to take part in these reviews because of the shoddy way they were administered.

e Johnson, Kia-Ora Healthcare Inc.:

Using 360-degree feedback is very effective because a true picture of the person emerges. The person’s direct reports, who often see a different person than the manager above, can give feedback about the person’s performance, in addition to that from colleagues and superiors. This definitely gives the person a complete view of how others in the organization perceive them.

As to how much it changes performance, that varies. However, it becomes part of the person’s goals for that year and their development plan for coming years. Their future success in moving up will depend in part on how well they improve based on their 360-degree feedback. If they don’t improve in areas of especially great need, this can be used as one of several tools to put in place a performance improvement plan.

Having given feedback both as a report and as a peer, I’ve found it very valuable. I also have seen it used as a tool to prove to a person in a management position that they are not effective, and are in fact mean-spirited, and to have that person moved to a non-supervisory job. This was very effective for the organization.

Rollie MacInnis, Invictus Consulting:

Most professional HR consultants offer 360-degree review processes. The principle behind them is that ‘all feedback is gold.’ The problems with 360 degree reviews tend to be in the following areas:

  • Trust. Will candidates and the company use the results for good purposes?
  • Why are we doing this? It ought to be about learning, growth and development of people, particularly leaders.
  • Have we asked the right questions?
  • Will people tell the truth? You need to take biases into account in assessing the results.
  • Do the candidates want and value the process?
  • How do you interpret the results so they have meaning for the candidate and the company? Does the person giving and interpreting the test understand the “real work” that each job involves, the culture and the players?

“I’d suggest getting a 360 done on yourself to judge whether it’s likely to be worthwhile. That will give you a good sense of how others might respond.”

Heidi Ehlers, BLACK BAG creative recruitment inc.:

I have recently developed this process for my business. First, I asked the employee being reviewed (let’s call him Bob) to outline his personal and financial goals. Then I developed a 360-degree review process that asked for quantitative and qualitative feedback from fellow employees, as well as a self-evaluation from Bob.

Then I set a minimum acceptable quantitative measure and measured Bob’s performance against it. I created this process because Bob had asked for a substantial raise even though he wasn’t performing to expectations at his current salary. I asked the HR departments of a few of my clients for their performance reviews for employees earning the salary Bob had asked for, then measured his performance against those criteria.

Did it raise hackles? Three weeks after his review, Bob quit. Did it bring to the forefront a clear understanding on everyone’s part of what the expectations were, and precisely what was required for Bob to earn the raise in question? Absolutely. Bob was left with a simple decision: raise your game to this standard and receive a substantial raise, or leave.

Would I recommend this process? Yes. Although I had repeatedly expressed my frustrations to Bob verbally, involving the team (and Bob) in a 360-degree process depersonalized the conversation and made it reflective of the team’s standards.

For her answer, Heidi Ehlers will receive a copy of Selling to Anyone Over the Phone, by Renee P. Walkup.

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Originally appeared on PROFITguide.com