Improving Your Performance Appraisals with Well Planned 360 Degree Assessments

Key techniques for successfully doing employee performance appraisals

by Rod Dunne on November 24, 2011

in Human Side

The use of 360 degree performance appraisal has become increasingly common among organizations in the last two decades. Appraisals have always been considered an essential tool for the effective evaluation and management of staff at all levels, as well as for improved achievement of organizational goals.

However, the types of performance appraisal methods generally used have focused on a linear top-down assessment, conducted only by the employee’s immediate superior.

In a 360 degree appraisal, on the other hand, feedback is obtained not just from the immediate superior but from several different sources at all levels. These will include peers and subordinates, and also a self evaluation by the actual employee.

In addition, if the employee deals directly with people outside the organization, such as customers, feedback will be sought from these as well. This way the assessment will be thorough and comprehensive.

The 360 Degree Appraisal Steps

Because performance is being measured, the first step in a 360 degree assessment is to work with leaders in the organization to identify the competencies that are expected from all employees, plus the competencies that are required for specific positions. You need to define the stakeholders, participants, documentation and process in your performance management system.

The performance appraisal forms should be drawn up to enable the employee to be rated on each competency at five levels, and there should also be space for comments, to provide additional insights. Before being provided to the whole company, the 360 degree evaluation survey should be piloted with a small group, to identify and iron out any confusion, omission or repetition.

The next step is to identify raters at each level – employees as well as managers should have input into this selection.

Finally before launching the survey, all employees should receive training in the goals of the 360 degree review process, and in the right way to fill out the performance appraisal forms.

Major Problems That Can Hold Up A 360 Degree Performance Review

One major problem that has affected the 360 degree performance appraisal process in the past has been confusion about the goals of the process. In the past, multirater feedback has been more commonly used for development purposes, rather than for appraisal, but the survey instruments for the two are quite different.

The appraisal instrument needs to rate performance based on what employees have accomplished, rather than how, or by what behaviors. Failure to distinguish the two could seriously compromise the whole process. this can often be overlooked if the wrong performance evaluation comments are used (i.e. toowill emotional) rather than well-defined performance metrics (e.g. number of calls answered, lines of code written, bugs found, sales made, etc.).

One major practical problem will be caused if too many employees are assessed at the same time, causing gridlock. For every individual being assessed, there are 6-12 raters, so too many at once could cause them to be overwhelmed. It is advisable to roll out the program in small groups, horizontally across the company.

Simplifying The Work Involved For Managers And Employees

In order to reduce the workload for managers, some organizations outsource the 360 degree performance review to a neutral third party. This also enables both those responding and those being assessed to feel more comfortable with the process, as it can be less threatening to provide feedback to, and receive it from, an outsider.

Another possibility is to offer the option of providing feedback on the Internet, something which most corporate performance management software incorporates nowadays. It will relieve management of the task of collecting and collating the information. A paper option should be provided as well, to give respondents the chance of doing the work at convenient times, such as when traveling.

REMEMBER: A 360 performance review has real potential value for the organization, but it is important to be aware that it can be a source of mistrust and suspicion, as well as confusion, among the staff.

The essential conditions for a 360 degree performance appraisal are that every stage must be meticulously planned in advance, and that every aspect must be clearly communicated to employees. The more careful the planning, and the clearer the communication, the better quality the information will be.

Author Rod Dunne...

Blog owner and sole writer Rod DunneI am the owner and sole writer on This is my personal blog detailing troubleshooting tips for small businesses. Posts are based upon 2 decades in consultancy & innovation management within startups/maturing companies.

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