360 degree reviews

How to Conduct a Constructive 360 Degree Review

In last year’s Alternative Hangouts, a number of our panellists mentioned that they perform 360 performance reviews. But what exactly are they and how can they help your team develop their skills?

What is a 360 degree review?

While traditional appraisals look like employees receiving feedback from their employer about their job performance, a 360 degree review has a more holistic approach. Instead of just factoring in feedback from a manager, 360 degree feedback requires input from multiple team members. This extends beyond basic technical performance expectations and focuses on the development of soft skills. It’s important to note that a 360 review isn’t designed to replace a performance appraisal but to complement it so that technical skills and soft skills are intertwined for maximum impact.

These soft skills might include but aren’t limited to the following areas:

  • Leadership
  • Communication
  • Teamwork
  • Organisation
  • Creativity and innovation
  • Relational

Ultimately, the goal of a 360 degree review is to empower employees to harness their potential. It is not designed to overwhelm them by flooding them with harsh criticism.

What are the benefits of 360 degree reviews?

360 degree reviews are most effective when the employee has been with the company for at least a year, is open to feedback and has a desire to develop their soft skills. When conducted in the right way, 360 degree reviews have multiple benefits, such as:

  • Helping the employee gain awareness of blind spots and build on their areas for growth
  • Giving the employee the opportunity to create a relevant, achievable plan for self-development
  • Allowing the employee to hone in on areas of natural affinity and build these soft-skills, such as leadership, communication, innovation and teamwork
  • Teaching the value of feedback – how to give it and how to receive it

Before instigating a 360 performance review, read the room. Is the employee being reviewed open to feedback? Are they keen to grow? And do they have the time in their workload to dedicate to this development? If not, a 360 degree review might do more harm than good by adding pressure the employee isn’t in a position to shoulder. In this case, assess the situation again in a few months.

How to construct the 360 performance review

There are numerous ways to conduct a 360 performance review, and each organisation will need to consider the best method for their team. Some companies choose to conduct the review completely internally while others seek an external consultant to come in and assist with the process.

Internal 360 degree reviews

Many companies conduct a 360 performance review by asking someone in the company to distribute a survey and interview certain members of the team in which the employee works. This survey would ask the employee’s peers for both positive and constructive feedback which the review facilitator would compile into common patterns and specific action points to discuss with the employee. A variation of this method is to collect feedback and use an electronic tally system to score the employee in the areas for evaluation.

External 360 performance reviews

The process is much the same as an internal review but using the expertise of a trained, external consultant. External consultants can help add a fresh degree of objectivity to the review process and are also helpful when the manager themselves is being reviewed. They help organise the survey and oversee the process of setting targets based on the feedback.

In more detail, a 360 performance review typically includes four parties:

  • The employee being reviewed
  • The manager of the employee
  • The facilitator of the review
  • Reviewers – peers of the employee

The employee’s role

The employee’s role is to be open and receptive to the feedback given. Ultimately, the employee is under no obligation to take this feedback onboard but it’s important that they understand the feedback is there to help them to grow as a person, not to judge or discipline them. This is a good lesson for self-awareness. If the employee becomes angry or defensive about a specific comment, this is an opportunity for them to learn about how they respond to difficult feedback.

The facilitator’s role

The facilitator is in charge of coordinating the review and, as such, should be someone neutral without any conflict of interest when it comes to the employee being reviewed. This may be somebody in HR or a trained external consultant. Their role is to explain the review to those involved, including the goal and structure of the review. Once the participants are clear on the process of the review, the facilitator conducts the interviews or collects feedback via a survey before discussing the results with the manager and creating a plan of development. This plan is then presented to the employee and amended as needed to help create a useful framework from which the employee can grow.

The manager’s role

The manager usually provides feedback as part of the review, rather than facilitating it. This allows them to take a step back and offer their evaluation rather than manage everybody else’s feedback. It’s useful for managers to bear in mind that their role in the review is not to provide feedback about the employee’s ability to fulfil their job description, but rather to offer perspective on their soft skills to allow them to develop as a person in the workplace. The manager knows the employee in a unique way and it’s their job to point out the employee’s strengths as well as any areas for growth.

At the end of the review, the manager will meet with the facilitator to discuss the targets for the employee and how to support them in their journey.

The reviewers’ roles

The reviewers should be a handful of people who work alongside the employee and can offer useful and relevant feedback to help with the review. The feedback provided is anonymous but this shouldn’t be used as an opportunity to air any grievances. Instead, any feedback should be honest views on the employee’s skills, and be constructive and well-intentioned to help them develop and grow as a person or commend them on skills they already display.

360 degree reviews


360 Degree Review Structure

The general process of a 360 degree review is as follows:

  • The facilitator meets with the employee

This is an opportunity for the facilitator to explain the purpose of the exercise to the employee and discuss their own goals and plans for their development. It can be helpful to ask the employee to reflect on their strengths and areas for growth and write them down so they can later compare them to the feedback they receive.

  • The facilitator meets with the employee’s manager

This meeting can help the facilitator to understand the manager’s expectations of the review and together look over the goals the employee has set for themselves. This is a chance for the manager to add his or her input and for the facilitator to suggest ways in which the manager can help support the employee to attain these targets. The facilitator will also ask the manager to recommend a group of people to act as peer reviewers.

  • The facilitator collects feedback

Either through a survey or in-person interviews, the facilitator will explain the process to the reviewers, set necessary boundaries, and collect feedback for the employee.

  • The facilitator draws up a report

Using the feedback from reviewers and the manager, the facilitator compiles a report that categorises common themes regarding the skills of the employee. This is then discussed with the manager, and an action plan is put in place to present to the employee. The facilitator may wish to remind the manager that the plan doesn’t have to be taken into account by the employee and is only a suggestion to help the employee develop, should they wish to. It may also be useful to help the manager come up with an action plan of their own to help create an environment where the employee can thrive.

  • The facilitator delivers the report to the employee

The manager may or may not be present for the delivery of the report, depending on the preferences of the parties. It’s worth considering that the employee may be able to receive the feedback better when it is only being delivered by a neutral facilitator.

It’s the facilitator’s job to communicate the feedback sensitively. This might look like reminding the employee that there might be feedback that is difficult to hear, but that this is an opportunity to grow, and that it’s ok to take time over it. It might be useful to circle back to the employee’s own goals from the initial discussion and see how it compares to what others have said.

By the end of the meeting, the facilitator and the employee should have agreed on a realistic action-plan and identified what would help the employee to achieve their targets.

The facilitator can then check in with the manager to present the final plan and confirm what the manager will do to help the employee thrive in the areas of development they have chosen to focus on.

360 performance review

360 degree reviews might seem like a lot of work, and they are, but they are highly valuable tools that help employees feel invested in, give them a chance to grow holistically, and allow them to thrive in the workplace, making them an even stronger asset to your team. Whether you’re part of a law firm, accountancy practice, or in-house legal department, 360 degree performances are relevant and useful. Have you tried it in your team yet?


if you’re a manager who would like to hear from others in your field about how they handle staff reviews, attend one of our Alternative Hangouts where you can network at a digital event for your sector. You can also register your interest for a space at our upcoming events.