What Is a 360 Review?

Definition and Examples of a 360 Review

Manager providing 360 review results to her colleague
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The 360 review is a professional feedback opportunity that enables a group of coworkers and managers to provide feedback about a fellow employee’s performance. Unlike a typical employee performance review in which an employee's work performance is evaluated by only their manager, a 360 review takes into account feedback from peers and reporting staff—even customers and other people who interact with the employee.

Learn more about 360 reviews and how they work.

What Is a 360 Review?

In a 360 review, feedback about an employee's performance, skills, and contributions is solicited and then shared with the employee.

Coworkers who participate in the 360 reviews usually include the employee's manager, several peer staff members, reporting staff members, and functional managers from the organization with whom the employee works regularly.

The term is called a "360 review" because performance feedback is solicited from all directions in the organization. The objective of the feedback is to give the employee the opportunity to understand how their work is viewed in the total organization by coworkers in any position.

The 360 review tends to focus more on how the employee affected the work of other employees then on whether the work was accomplished, which is the goal of a typical performance review. In those reviews, the manager may seek additional informal, often verbal, feedback from other employees, especially managers, about the employee's performance, but that's different from a formal 360 review.

The 360 review focuses directly on skills and the contributions that an employee makes. The goal of the feedback is to provide a balanced view to an employee of how others view their work contribution and performance, in areas such as leadership, teamwork, interpersonal communication and interaction, management, contribution, work habits, accountability, and vision, depending on the employee's job.

The review allows coworkers to assess the employee’s impact on furthering their goals, objective accomplishments, and positive customer results as observed by team members.

  • Alternate names: 360 feedback, peer feedback, multi-directional feedback

How Does a 360 Review Work?

Organizations use a variety of methods to seek 360 feedback about employees, depending on the culture and climate of the organization.

In many organizations that use 360 reviews, the manager asks for and receives the feedback. The manager then analyzes the feedback looking for patterns of behavior to note as well as positive and constructive feedback.

The goal is to provide the employee with the key and important points without overwhelming them with too much feedback data. Often the manager has sought feedback in response to specific questions so the feedback is easier to organize and share.

Some organizations use instruments that tally results electronically and give employees a score in each area assessed, while others rely on open-ended questions. Online processes make the feedback easy to tally up and share.

Organizations may also hire external consultants to administer the surveys, usually when managers are receiving a 360 review. The consultants then analyze and share the data with the manager, or with the manager and staff in some cases. In the best of these circumstances, the manager and staff join together to plan improvements for both the manager and the department.

This process is strongly recommended as the best chance of improving the overall organization as well as the performance of the individual employee. Sharing the 360 feedback received as well as goals for performance improvement can help a team unite in their efforts to help a manager achieve their performance improvement plan.

In more progressive organizations that have built a climate of trust, employees provide 360 feedback directly to each other, without the manager as a filter or go-between.

No matter how you collect and share the 360 feedback, you must always take care that the feedback is as descriptive as possible so that the employee has something tangible to improve on. When sharing is open, make sure also that you solicit frequent employee feedback about how the process is working and affecting employees.

Take a look at sample questions for 360 reviews for ideas about what questions will solicit solid, actionable information in a 360 review process. In any case, remember that how you introduce, monitor, and evaluate the effectiveness of the 360 review process is critical to its success or failure.

Key Takeaways

  • A 360 review is a performance evaluation tool that solicits feedback about an employee from all directions: their managers, coworkers, and direct reports.
  • A 360 review seeks to provide actionable feedback to an employee and gives them a better understanding of their contributions to an organization.
  • For 360 reviews to be most effective, they should be built on a foundation of trust and transparency.

Article Sources

  1. The Management Center. "360 Feedback – A Field Guide for Managers." Accessed July 14, 2020.

  2. American Psychological Association. "Do 360 Evaluations Work?" Accessed July 14, 2020.