How to run a 360° performance review

TL;DR: Also known as performance appraisals, 360° reviews are a process for collecting and providing feedback from different points of view. This process aims to be less biased and more growth-oriented than reviews that only consider top-down manager input.

In a 360 performance review, an employee does a self-reflection and is evaluated by their manager(s), peers, and reports, as well as customers, suppliers, and partners. The 360° speaks of this holistic scope. Some companies may choose not to include customers, suppliers, and partners (e.g., if not relevant to an employee’s function).

With feedback coming from all directions, it’s easier to spot discrepancies, patterns, and areas for improvement. Chances are, teamwork and accountability will also grow stronger due to a clearer understanding of accomplishments and development needs and peers sharing constructive feedback.

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

When focused on development, feedback can be a huge benefit to your organization. The goal of performance reviews is to gather feedback from different angles on specific skills, values, and competencies. When done right, 360 feedback is a powerful tool for alignment, development, and adjusting someone’s career path if needed.

For example, maybe the feedback gathered shows that someone’s potential and accomplishments warrant a more senior role. You could take action with a promotion and strengthen talent retention. Or, with a clearer understanding of strengths and areas for improvement, you’ll have the clarity you need to support your report in their career and offer relevant training opportunities. In turn, you’ll have a more engaged and skilled employee.

360 appraisals are also excellent for understanding if your team is aligned with your culture and the core competencies required for each role. In addition, they often uncover organizational issues that hinder progress.

🎯 Run impactful 360° reviews with Leapsome

Combine self-assessments, peer reviews, and top-down feedback into a single visual dashboard

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Wann Sie dieses Playbook verwenden sollten

When to use
this playbook

We recommend this playbook to any CEO, People Ops leader, or manager looking to embrace a development-focused approach to reviews, in line with the future of work.

Note that you can roll out 360 reviews to all employees and, if you’d like, also gather one-off feedback for an individual or employee subset.

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Was Sie für dieses Playbook benötigen

What you’ll need for
this playbook

Clarity on values and principles

Your values are great guides for the review process and can help assess alignment with your goals. These include company values, leadership principles, and overall skills the company expects its employees to develop.

Transparent communication about the structure and purpose of 360 reviews

Your employees must know that you won’t use 360s for punishment.

A chosen methodology

Anonymous or transparent feedback? How will you analyze results and track growth? Will there be scores and comments for each question? Which scale will you use?

Hinweise & Tipps
  • If one of your values is “We listen to and respect each other,” create questions on general skills that reflect these topics (e.g., openness; transparency; humbleness; interpersonal skills).
  • Focus more on qualitative rather than quantitative input.
  • Once your feedback culture is more mature, transparent feedback is recommended.
  • Communicating the structure and purpose of reviews is an excellent opportunity to revisit your culture and strengthen psychological safety in your company.
  • 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. Use or create templates and automatically trigger review cycles. Set up an analytics dashboard for insights.
  • Reports should feel comfortable to reach out to managers and peers for extra clarification. Performance appraisals can be a lot to digest.
  • Skill-related questions are best answered with a score and a comment (“What is already great? How to make it even better?”).

How to run this People Ops Playbook:

Wie Sie dieses People Ops Playbook durchführen:

1. Decide what to focus on

A 360 review during a team member’s probation period shouldn’t comprise the same questions included in their one-year performance. At three or six months, you may still want to assess whether the employee is a culture fit; at one year, you’ll have a much better understanding of their performance, skill set, and development goals.

2. Choose the recurrence

While traditional reviews are usually done once a year, we advise increased recurrence for 360 performance appraisals. To reap the benefits of effective feedback, we suggest running biannual reviews — that is, unless your questionnaire with qualitative questions is very extensive.

3. Set a timeline

Define a timeline for all participants to answer the questions and provide their feedback. Once all feedback has been collected, a time should be scheduled for a feedback talk between manager and reviewee.

4. Define the scope

A successful 360 performance review must include all perspectives:

  • Self-assessment
  • Manager assessment (may include more than one manager, e.g., in cases of solid-line + dotted-line reporting)
  • Direct report assessment
  • Peer assessment (our recommendation: 2–7 peers)

5. Set up the questions

Choose questions that align with your culture, but don’t forget to address team-specific skills. 

Team-specific: Make sure you understand the core competencies related to a specific department.

General: Decide on general, development, and culture-oriented questions to be answered by all employees — including those being evaluated. Examples:

  • What should I/they continue doing?
  • What is the most important development goal that I/they should work on? 
  • What support do I/you need to move forward on individual development goals?
  • What support could you offer them to further develop in their role? (not included in the self-assessment)
  • How am I/are they doing regarding our company’s value of listening to and respecting each other?
  • What are the three biggest challenges you’re currently facing? (self-assessment only)

When setting up questions, define which ones are relevant to each perspective (i.e., reviewee, peers, managers, reports).

Very important: Ensure that the questionnaire is not too long! 15–20 questions should be the limit — and the upper end might already be too much for some participants.

6. Invite all participants

And don’t forget to give them a deadline. If you decide to implement a platform to prevent you from drowning in paperwork (like Leapsome!), you can use best-practice templates and set up automated reminders.

You should also communicate the following guidelines:

  • Be frank, but empathetic, and also focus on strengths. We can’t stress enough how critical it is to keep feedback constructive.
  • Ensure that constructive feedback is actionable.
  • Be careful not to overwhelm someone with too much information. Focus on key points and illustrate your evaluation with facts.
  • No feedback should be a surprise for the reviewee. A feedback culture promotes continuous feedback throughout the year, which can be done in opportunities such as 1:1 meetings.

7. Result analysis

Ask managers to analyze results and pay attention to discrepancies to guarantee a more focused feedback talk with development suggestions and support.

8. Feedback talk

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 strengths the reviewee already has. Unlike traditional performance reviews, 360 reviews are about growing together and focusing on the future, not pointing fingers.

Finish review talks by discussing and aligning development goals. This makes reviews catalysts for change, leaving employees motivated.

Follow-up best practices for 360 performance appraisals

Support your report as a mentor by drafting a development plan together

The next time around, revisit results from previous reviews to track development and roadblocks. This will also help you be consistent with ratings while taking development expectations into account.

Keep nurturing a feedback culture in your company

Encourage your people are used to giving each other open and constructive feedback.

💡 Interested in learning even 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 on how to write a self-assessment for your next performance review (with infographic). 😉

Run impactful 360° performance reviews with Leapsome

Leapsome is the only platform that closes the loop between performance management, employee engagement, and learning. 

An employee performance review tool like Leapsome is essential for running impactful 360° reviews and gathering actionable insights. Watch this video to learn how the reviews module is set up on our platform.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How often should employees get a performance review?

Besides running biannual 360 performance reviews for all employees, we recommend that you support new hires with structured feedback during their probation period (e.g., at 2 and 5 months for a 6-month probation period).

What are mistakes to avoid in performance reviews?

  • Focusing only on weaknesses;
  • Overwhelming the reviewee with too many questions and information;
  • Not giving actionable feedback.

Should compensation be tied to performance reviews?

We’ve discussed this at length with the help of experts — find out the answer here.

Additionally, if you want performance reviews to support promotion and compensation decisions, set up private questions that only the manager and admins can access.

Can feedback be anonymous?

Performance appraisal feedback can be anonymous, but allowing for non-anonymous feedback gives people the chance to follow up.

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