PEOPLE OPS PLAYBOOK

How to run a 360° review: essential practices for streamline

360° reviews have an important function: they aim to minimize individual bias and group-source suggestions and goals for employee growth, which is often harder to achieve in performance reviews that only consider top-down manager input. 

With feedback coming from many different perspectives, the 360° review is more holistic in scope, and it’s easier to spot discrepancies, patterns, and areas for improvement. 

Traditional performance reviews aren’t ideal: 77% of employees still cite their performance review process as a reason to leave their jobs.* So why are more organizations not implementing 360° reviews as a viable solution? It could be that managers are worried that increased feedback could backfire and discourage employees, especially when team members are just learning what helpful feedback and constructive criticism look like. 

360° performance evaluations are one key to making reviews fairer, but they must go hand-in-hand with relevant training and a culture that truly values honesty, transparency, and respect. 

This playbook explores how well-executed 360° reviews look in practice, breaking down the components and steps that leadership and HR managers should implement before updating their performance management system.

👏 Automate your 360° reviews and transform your feedback culture

Leapsome’s Reviews module allows you to create a streamlined framework for running reviews and tracking employee development.

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Learn more 

*Leapsome State of People Enablement Report, 2023

What is 360 review feedback? Why are performance reviews important, & what are the key components of a 360 performance appraisal?

What is a 360° performance review?

A 360° performance review is an opportunity for an employee to reflect on their own performance and get feedback from managers, peers, and other collaborators and project stakeholders. Some organizations also invite suppliers and customers to participate for even more well-rounded feedback. 

Performance appraisal best practices still apply when running a 360 review, but multi-source input means the employee has the opportunity to learn from their colleagues as well as the leaders and supervisors they report to. This system also helps to even out potential short-term effects of unconscious bias, such as decreased morale or stifled innovation, as well as the long-term effects, like low gender parity within your organization or an inability to attract diverse talent.

When done well, the 360° review is a cornerstone process for organizations that want to promote company-wide alignment and career development.

Benefits of 360 reviews

As many teams become more dispersed with remote and hybrid work, 360° employee reviews reinforce the message that feedback and growth are collaborative processes — and that every voice matters. It’s not down to managers alone to decide where their direct reports excel and where they need to improve. 

Also, unlike traditional performance appraisals, a 360° review process gives team members an opportunity to practice formally giving input, which can help build trust between colleagues and develop leadership skills. That’s essential when you consider the data: Nine out of ten employees don’t see their current performance review framework in a positive light, and remote team members are especially dissatisfied.

In a nutshell, the key benefits of 360° reviews are:

  • Obtain a more holistic view of employee performance and avoid managerial bias. 
  • Uncover wider organizational issues often overlooked in a conventional, top-down review.
  • Get a better understanding of team dynamics by parsing peer feedback.
  • Better identify training needs when multiple team members notice and flag some of the same skill gaps.
🎯 Run impactful 360° reviews with Leapsome

Combine self-assessments, peer reviews, and top-down feedback into a single visual dashboard so it’s easy to follow up.

👉 Book a demo


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Wann Sie dieses Playbook verwenden sollten

When to use
this playbook

We recommend this playbook for any CEO, People Ops leader, or manager looking to cultivate a transparent, development-focused culture of feedback within their organizations and stay competitive and innovative in an uncertain economic climate.  

We also suggest taking this approach if you’re seeing a decrease in employee satisfaction and an increase in turnover — that might mean it’s time to implement 360° review performance evaluations as part of your engagement initiatives.

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Was Sie für dieses Playbook benötigen

What you’ll need for
this playbook

Clarity on values & principles

Your values are great guides for the review process and can help assess alignment with your goals. Still, even companies with a fully articulated values system struggle to connect values to the employee’s specific sense of purpose at work. 

If this is a current issue for your organization, executive coach Sarah Furness recommends coming up with one single-sentence mission statement that you can apply to both macro and micro business scenarios. She recommends to “ask yourself, ‘What’s the single most important thing this company was put on earth to do?’.

Transparent communication about the structure & purpose of 360 reviews

Your employees need to know that you won’t use 360s to judge or penalize them. Be clear that the goal of 360° reviews is to help employees develop and grow, not to punish them for ways they’ve fallen short. 

Also, ensure they understand why you’re asking multiple sources to provide feedback and explain the reasoning behind your review cycle frequency. If you decide to increase evaluation frequency from twice a year to four times a year, for example, discuss the “why” behind that decision with your employees, incorporating data and concrete evidence where possible. That will reassure them you’re not changing the way you do reviews because they’ve done anything wrong — and convince them of the benefits of your 360° evaluations process.

A chosen methodology

Make sure you have a solid system set up to analyze and track growth. We recommend using a platform Leapsome Reviews to set up your 360° review process because you can create automated review cycles and customizable analytics dashboards to monitor long-term trends in development.

HINTS & TIPS
Hinweise & Tipps
  • If one of your values is “We listen to and respect each other,” create questions on general skills that reflect these topics. These could include prompts around openness, transparency, or interpersonal skills.
  • Encourage employees to keep a record of their achievements for easier self-assessments. “Throughout the year, make it a habit to write down achievements in your favorite note-taking tool at whatever frequency works for you — daily, weekly, biweekly,” writes Engineering Lead Saloni Shah on LinkedIn. “I would suggest not going over 2 weeks without noting down achievements or learnings - we tend to forget easily!”
  • We recommend a 5-point scoring scale for reviews. They can connect to expectations instead of evaluating skill levels as “good” or “bad.” Some companies use a tilted five-point scale. It has two negative points (“needs improvement” and “needs strong improvement”) and moves up to “meets expectations,” “exceeds expectations,” and “superb.”
  • Paper-based reviews are confusing and stressful, but performance review software with a 360° feedback tool can save lots of time. Create reusable templates and tools that automatically trigger review cycles and set up an analytics dashboard for insights.
  • Reports should feel comfortable asking questions during any 360° review discussion. Performance appraisals can be a lot to digest, and team members need an opportunity to take ownership of the experience and advocate for themselves.
  • Consider offering your employees bias awareness training so they can offer 360° review feedback that’s fair and focused on development rather than unhelpful preconceived notions.

How to run this People Ops Playbook:

Wie Sie dieses People Ops Playbook durchführen:

Leapsome’s Reviews module leverages AI to build performance summaries and suggested action plans for development
Leapsome’s Reviews module leverages AI to build performance summaries and suggested action plans for development

1. Decide what to focus on

Each review cycle should serve a specific purpose to prevent employees from feeling that the feedback process is not simply a matter of dotting i’s and crossing t’s. Moreover, HR managers and team leads should ensure that each reviewer knows what criteria their performance review will cover. 

For instance, the first review you conduct during a new team member’s trial period may focus on assessing how well the employee is ramping up to their new role and discussing what they need to integrate and develop. 

A senior manager’s mid-year review would likely look very different, exploring how well they guide their team through large-scale projects and meet other essential management-level competencies.

2. Choose the recurrence

According to our 2023 Workforce Trends Report, roughly four in five employees agree that performance reviews are helpful, and they want them to happen more than once or twice a year. 

That’s why we recommend running quarterly reviews to regularly monitor employee work performance and track their progress toward specific objectives. This gives managers and direct reports more opportunities to identify blockers to progress and re-adjust development plans and goals when needed.

3. Determine who will participate

360° review reviews traditionally involve a:

  • Self-assessment The subject of the review provides feedback on their own perceived performance.
  • Manager assessment The reviewee’s direct supervisor can provide a clear view of their performance based on regular 1:1 check-ins and ongoing monitoring.
  • Peers and direct reports People who work with the employee should assess their teamwork skills and leadership abilities since they are often the closest to their work.
  • Customers and clients: Customers and clients can provide an external view of the work the reviewee delivers.

You’ll need to carefully consider whose feedback will make the most impact and be most relevant for the employee being reviewed. 

Ask yourself these questions to get more clarity about who should take part:

  • Which stakeholders and teammates do employees at this level tend to interact with most? Consider coworkers and individuals like customers or suppliers who can speak to this employee’s day-to-day performance and consistency.
  • Who can best address the development and growth opportunities needed at this level? Identify which colleagues and leaders have the same or similar experience as your review subject.
  • What key projects or initiatives did the reviewee recently take part in? Make sure to loop in any additional stakeholders who have had the opportunity to work closely with the employee, even on one-off assignments.

4. Set a timeline for providing feedback

Make sure you give review respondents ample time to provide detailed feedback. While it usually depends on the number of participants involved, we suggest offering one to two weeks for completion so the reviewee’s colleagues and peers have enough time to reflect on their observations and gather relevant examples for every review.

🥱 Take the manual work out of 360° performance reviews

Delivering regular performance reviews shouldn’t take up all of your time on the admin side. Automate the process with Leapsome to stay on top of evaluations and get more accurate progress tracking.

👉 Book a demo

5. Draft your review questions

Leapsome's competency framework feature is highly customizable and enables fair and consistent assessments in performance reviews

As you put your questionnaire together, make sure that every team member has the relevant data they need to answer the questions meaningfully. For example, if asking the question, “What is the most important development goal they should work on?” make sure respondents have access to your organization’s competency framework so that they’re assessing employees fairly based on established competencies that are used for every employee in the same or a similar role. 

Here are a few example questions for 360° reviews

  • What is this employee doing well that they should continue doing?
  • What is the most important development goal they should work on? 
  • What support do they need to move forward on individual development goals?
  • What support could they use to further develop in their role? 
  • How are they showcasing the company’s value of listening to and respecting each other?
  • What are the three biggest challenges they are currently facing?

You should also include a few of these role-specific questions and define which ones are relevant to each perspective:

  • For peers Can you provide examples of situations where the individual demonstrated strong communication skills? Are there areas where communication could be improved?
  • For managersCan you share times when the individual made decisions that positively impacted team or organizational outcomes?
  • For direct reportsHow well does your manager communicate expectations, provide feedback, and keep you informed about team priorities?
  • For project stakeholdersCan you provide examples of specific tasks or deliverables the employee completed that positively impacted the project's success?

Note that 15-20 questions is the ideal length for questionnaires to get the most meaningful feedback but avoid taking up too much of your participants’ time. 

⭐ Make your feedback more constructive and actionable 

Use our free download as a 360° review template and empower everyone at your workplace to give more positive, insightful input that moves your organization forward.

👉
Download the free template

6. Invite participants & communicate guidelines

Create a centralized feedback form for all reviewers so you don’t risk any assessments falling through the cracks. Remind participants that all answers are confidential, and be sure to communicate the following guidelines to keep all feedback helpful and respectful:

  • Be frank but empathetic, focusing on strengths to keep feedback constructive.
  • Ensure that constructive feedback is actionable, providing one or two specific steps the employee can take to improve.
  • Don’t overwhelm them with too much information. Focus on key points and illustrate your evaluation with concrete examples.
  • No feedback should be a surprise for the reviewee. In a culture of transparency and continuous growth, managers and supervisors should be making use of 1:1 meetings and informal check-ins to keep team members up to date on their progress, performance, and development from month to month.
Leapsome’s Reviews module makes hosting 360 feedback easy by enabling both qualitative and quantitative employee assessments

7. Interpret results

This is arguably the most intimidating part for managers, but it doesn’t have to be. Platforms like Leapsome can easily summarize review data for you — and even build out the next steps based on feedback. 

When you’re analyzing the results, make sure you keep these practices in mind:

  • Focus on patterns and themes rather than individual comments Identify strengths and areas for improvement across multiple reviews to paint a more holistic picture of the feedback.
  • Consider the source Remember that leaders, project stakeholders, and direct reports may have very different perspectives and frames of reference than the reviewee when delivering their criticism.
  • Identify specific areas for development — These should be easy to translate into action plans so that managers and direct reports can come up with development goals during the review meeting.
Leapsome’s platform offers helpful visualizations like spider graphs to show different reviewee skills and help you identify gaps

8. Set up a review meeting

Manager and reviewee schedule a meeting to discuss the feedback. The focus on development should be top of mind — and that should also include reinforcing strengtThe manager and reviewee now schedule a meeting to discuss the feedback. The focus on development should be top of mind — and that should also include reinforcing strengths the reviewee already has. Unlike traditional performance reviews, 360 reviews are about growing together and focusing on the future, not pointing fingers.

Follow this meeting agenda template if it’s your first time going through review results with a direct report:

  1. Review feedback together Explain the data and highlight recurring themes and patterns.
  1. Collaboratively identify strengths and areas for development — Prioritize focus areas based on importance, potential impact, and alignment with current company and team goals.
  2. Create a development plan — Determine strategies and action steps for achieving growth objectives and set SMART goals for improvement.
  3. Determine next steps Agree on what to discuss in a follow-up meeting and how the employee will self-monitor progress.
💡 Interested in learning more about feedback and reviews? We’ve got you covered: Check out our free template with best-practice questions for performance reviews — including specific questions for 360 and leadership reviews — and 25 smart questions to ask in performance reviews.

And how about offering your employees even more support when it’s time for their 360° performance review? See our guide and infographic on how to write a self-assessment for your next performance review. 😉

Follow-up best practices for 360° performance appraisals

Make 360° feedback for managers an easy process

Many organizational leaders expect managers to be the champions of their feedback culture, yet they don’t set them up for success. Recent Gallup data shows that only 48% of managers agree they have the skills and training they need to excel in their work. 

Many managers need more clarity around performance appraisals and professional development, which companies can provide by:

  • Setting up clear guidelines and instructions for 360° evaluations Outline the purpose behind this process and train them on how to provide actionable feedback. Make instructions centralized so they’re easily shareable amongst team members.
  • Choosing an easy-to-use feedback platform A customizable yet user-friendly platform like Leapsome enables you to create reusable review templates and automate all future 360° review feedback cycles.
  • Offer training and mentorship Give new managers opportunities to shadow team leads and department heads who have a great track record of leading performance reviews.

Monitor progress with goals and development plans

One of the best ways to empower team members to track their progress is to have direct reports schedule weekly or biweekly check-ins and 1:1 meetings with their team lead. While it’s great to keep these meeting agendas flexible, we suggest you:

  • Review action steps outlined in development plans Identify any barriers or challenges, and brainstorm solutions for moving forward.
  • Adjust goals as needed It’s important to be flexible and willing to tweak team members' objectives when priorities shift or circumstances change. 
  • Celebrate milestones – Managers should recognize completed goals and great work by using Leapsome’s Instant Feedback module to share public praise. Our platform also integrates with Slack and Microsoft Teams, so it’s easily visible to the rest of your company.
A screenshot of Leapsome's Instant Feedback module.
Build team members’ confidence and transform your feedback culture by sharing public praise with Leapsome’s Instant Feedback tool

Run impactful 360° performance reviews & nurture your feedback culture with Leapsome

If your employees are feeling disillusioned with the traditional review process, implementing 360° performance evaluations is a great way to bring them more balance, fairness, and diverse input. 

However, if you want to truly transform your feedback culture, you need a platform like Leapsome. With our Reviews module, you’ll have access to best practice templates that make it easy to set up and automate your 360° review cycle. You can also track employee performance across specific skills and competencies with our built-in development matrix. 

What’s more, Leapsome Reviews is now supported by AI features, which means it’s so much faster to summarize key performance data and generate the right development goals.

An employee performance review tool like Leapsome is essential for running powerful 360° reviews and gathering actionable insights. Watch this video to see how easy it is to get started.

Illustration of two people carrying a box over stairs, another two stacking blocks mid-air, and another two working on a board with boxes and scales, transparent background

Frequently Asked Questions

How often should employees get a performance review?

While not every company should adhere to the same rigid review schedule, we recommend aiming to run 360° review reviews quarterly or at least biannually. However, you may prefer to run ad-hoc reviews triggered by specific milestones or events. 

As long as you’re trying to build a broader culture of continuous feedback and recognition and incorporating more regular informal check-ins and meetings into the process, you’re likely to see positive results from more frequent performance reviews overall.

What are mistakes to avoid in performance reviews?

Managers and leaders should avoid these common performance review pitfalls:

  • Focusing only on recent events – It’s important to take a holistic view of an employee’s performance rather than developing tunnel vision around recent events our outcomes.
  • Turning it into a lecture – Reviews should be a two-way discussion rather than a one-sided critique. Team members should feel empowered to ask questions and advocate for themselves when necessary.
  • Not making feedback actionable – After the review discussion, employees should have clear development goals and concrete action steps they’ll take to improve.

Should compensation be tied to performance reviews?

Linking compensation to performance reviews can be beneficial and appropriate in certain circumstances. For example, bonuses and raises are a great way to reward high performers for certain development milestones, especially if employees clearly understand your remuneration model and don’t feel like your company makes arbitrary compensation decisions. 

However, it’s generally not a good idea to tie compensation too tightly to larger team-wide or organizational goals an individual can’t fully control. It’s also important to remember that review metrics can be subjective, and performance reviews can be biased. That’s why we recommend scheduling performance review and compensation conversations separately, so you can take a development focus.

Can feedback be anonymous?

Performance appraisal feedback can be anonymous, and that often helps participants to be more honest. 

However, allowing some opportunities for non-anonymous feedback gives employees the chance to follow up with coworkers and project stakeholders to ask questions and get clarity about their input.

Ultimately, it’s up to every company to decide what works best for their employees.

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