360 degree appraisal: What you need to know

Getting feedback from your colleagues doesn’t always have to be personal…

OK, so you already know what appraisals are, but what happens when you’re given a 360 degree appraisal? Aside from providing you and your manager with some well-rounded feedback on how you’re doing at work, they could also help you to improve your performance.

To help you understand how they work, here’s everything you need to know about 360 degree appraisals:


What is a 360 degree appraisal?

A 360 degree appraisal is a holistic employee review process.

It involves gathering the anonymous views and opinions of colleagues, managers, and direct reports, which is used to give an employee well-rounded and constructive feedback.

This type of appraisal may also take insights from clients, vendors, or consultants – providing they work regularly with the employee being reviewed.


How is a 360 degree appraisal different to a traditional appraisal?

A traditional appraisal is usually carried out by your line manager, and reviews everything from your performance through to your goals – ensuring they’re in line with the company’s objectives.

A 360 degree appraisal differs in that it gains insights from a range of sources, providing a broader view of your capabilities. And, although traditional appraisals cover what’s being/been done, 360 appraisals review how you’re doing it on a daily basis.

But, unlike a traditional appraisal, it can’t be used to understand whether an employee is meeting their objectives, targets, or basic job requirements – meaning that both types of appraisals are often used in conjunction with each other.

Who are 360 degree appraisals for?

Although 360 degree appraisals were originally designed for those in leadership positions, it’s becoming a popular review method for colleagues of all levels.

Not only does it allow employees to improve in their current role, it also helps those wanting to progress to management understand what areas they should build on.

360 degree appraisals for non-managers differ in that they don’t include input from direct reports.


What are the benefits of 360 degree appraisals?

360 appraisals are a great way to address a range of competencies with a broad level of feedback.

Here are a few reasons employers use 360 degree appraisals:

  • They measure otherwise difficult to quantify factors like team work, communication skills, and leadership
  • They give colleagues new potential areas for development
  • They improve working relationships
  • They allow colleagues to see things from a different perspective
  • They focus on the ‘how’ as well as the ‘what’
  • They increase self-awareness and encourage better behaviour
  • They’re anonymous, meaning people can be completely honest with their feedback


How do 360 degree appraisals work?

Although the way they’re carried out may vary depending on your role and company, here’s a general structure of how a 360 degree appraisal could go:

  • A group of colleagues, customers, and/or managers will receive a feedback form to complete, which includes questions and rating scales
  • The person receiving the review will also have to fill out a self-assessment form (before any feedback is revealed)
  • The results are combined to create an anonymous report of the employee’s strengths and weaknesses
  • The feedback is used to help the employee create a well-informed developmental plan

360 degree appraisals will often be carried out in an addition to a traditional appraisals, in order to give the most comprehensive overview of your performance.

What questions could be asked in a 360 degree appraisal?

The questions you or your colleagues are asked will depend on your role, and the nature of your relationship.

However, they’ll usually consist of ratings based or Y/N questions, followed by open-ended questions that allow you or your colleague to elaborate on the previous answer.

The questions should also be straight forward, non-emotive, and objective – so expect to be asked about easily identifiable behaviour that avoids subjectivity.

For example; a series of questions about problem solving could go something like this:

  • Does the employee solve problems effectively?
  • If yes, what kind of skills does the employee exhibit?
  • If no, what areas do you think the employee needs to improve on?

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360 degree appraisal tips

Some of our top tips for getting through a 360 degree appraisal include:

  • Do be objective – see it as a learning experience, and be honest with yourself when it comes to the feedback you receive.
  • Don’t ask who said what – the point of a 360 degree appraisal is that it’s anonymous. So try not to let it affect your working relationships.
  • Do take feedback on board – take as much as you can from the experience, and aim to work on areas that are highlighted for improvement.
  • Don’t take it personally – the answers will usually have been vetted by your line manager, and should always aim to be constructive rather than cruel. See it as an opportunity to be better at your role, and you’ll have nothing to worry about.


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