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360 Degree Performance Reviews have been used with increasing frequency in corporate America. In a typical year, SLDI conducts several of them as part of coaching engagements.
Even though 360 reviews are more time-consuming and expensive than other assessments, many companies consider the investment worthwhile. Other popular assessments, such as the DiSC, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, and the Core Values Index, examine the inner world and behavioral patterns of a specific individual. But they tell us nothing about how others view the individual's performance.
360 reviews fill this void. They gather perceptions of the individual from upline management, peers, and direct reports. Input from customers and clients may also be solicited. The goal is to look at the person's performance through the eyes of observers from all sides. Thus the name "360 review."
The answers appear when you click on a question.
360-reviews provide a number of benefits, three in particular.
It's vital for 360s to be conducted in a way which protects the anonymity of those who make input. That is, the feedback to the person being reviewed must mask who may have offered a certain comment or evaluation. Being able to assure interviewees of this anonymity is vital to maintaining the candor which the process depends on.
An early step in the 360 review process is to identify the people to be in the cohort which makes input. This cohort is agreed to by upline management, HR, and the person who is the subject of the review.
As for the mechanics of the review, there are two different approaches to administering it.
SLDI prefers the interview process. Where companies already have a standard online method of gathering 360 input, we are glad to utilize that system, if the company wishes. An online process is easier to administer and orchestrate and is notably less expensive than an interview-style 360.
The interview approach, however, has certain distinct advantages. It allows the interviewer not only to gather information, but to listen to the tone, emotion, and inflection in the interviewee's voice.
These aural cues help the interviewer determine when to pose follow-up questions. Follow-up serves to clarify the context, the deeper meaning, or details and specifics behind something an interviewee has said. While such follow-up questions can reveal vital insights, they are not possible with a written or online instrument.
Based on our experience, this cohort should never be less than eight or nine people. Otherwise the sample of opinions is probably not broad enough to get an accurate picture of co-worker perceptions.
We have found that having about a dozen people in the cohort is somewhat ideal. On occasion, at a client's request, we have conducted 360s with 15, 16, or even 18 people. Once we have input from eleven or twelve people, however, we find that additional input causes little alteration in the picture already developed.
However, we do make one exception to this rule of thumb on cohort size. If the 360 is to include input from customers or clients, a slightly larger cohort is called for to assure an adequate sample of external viewpoints.
As opposed to 360s which collect their input in writing or on line, an interview 360 is easily customized to address specific topics or concerns. For instance, some 360s are heavily weighted around a person's communication skills. Others more heavily weighted around delegation skills.
We do not prejudge what questions should be asked. Rather, through preliminary dialogue with upline managers and HR personnel, we identify categories of questions to pursue. We then draft a set of questions to cover these categories and submit these questions to HR for their signoff.