What’s possibly the most dreaded phrase in the English language? For most business owners and their employees, it’s “annual review.” It can be awkward and can take business owners a lot of time to put together. And if not done well, an annual review can make team members feel like they’re on the express train to loserville with their career slowly circling the drain.
But here’s the good news: The right kind of annual review can be one of the most powerful weapons in your arsenal—helping everyone grow professionally. And one the best ways to do it well is with a method called 360-degree feedback.
What Is 360-Degree Feedback?
So, before you stop reading because 360-degree feedback sounds way too complicated, take heart. It’s simply a review tool that asks for honest feedback for a team member from their leader, four to eight peers, and whoever else you want to include. The team member provides feedback as well. And the coolest part of all this: You can use it to ask for feedback on your leadership and help your growth too—although you might want to send your ego or thin skin on a quick vacation first.
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Using 360-degree feedback helps team members (and you) understand their strengths and weaknesses and where they need to improve professionally. It’s named “360 degrees” because the responses are from a variety of sources—not just the team member’s leader.
360-Degree Feedback Process
So now that you know what the heck it is, how do you go about giving this type of review? Before we share, one thing to keep in mind: When it comes to any kind of annual review, there should be no surprises for the team member. They should get continuous feedback, positive or negative, almost weekly. Don’t wait a year to correct mistakes or celebrate a job well done. In fact, we don’t even use the word review at our company. We call it an annual check-up.
During this process, feedback is focused on the weaknesses and strengths of the person being reviewed. Most feedback is collected by digital survey—you’ll send the survey to the team member’s leaders and peers, and anyone else you decide is necessary. The questionnaire usually covers several subjects. At Ramsey Solutions, our survey covers four areas of strengths and weaknesses:
- Rapport—Are they empathetic, compassionate, a relationship builder, highly collaborative and a team player? Do they deal with issues in a positive way?
- Credibility—Are they loyal, competent, trustworthy, transparent, highly dependable and consistent?
- Trust—Are they humble, kind, authentic and consistent? Do they have integrity?
- Influence—Are they grateful, generous, an expert in their position and passionate? Do they provide value?
Before you send out the survey, though, there are a few steps you need to take.
- Set goals for the feedback. What are you trying to accomplish?
- Ask yourself what strengths and weaknesses you want to focus on. These answers will determine the questions you ask on the survey.
- Explain the process to your entire team. Introducing a new performance feedback system can make your team members a bit nervous at first. You need to explain what it is and why you’re using it.
- Once the survey is created, take it yourself to see how long it takes. Nothing is as off-putting as a super long questionnaire with endless questions.
- Before sending the survey, share it with one of your top leaders to get their input.
Once the surveys are complete, a leader will review the feedback and then go over the results with the team member. They’ll share the team member’s accomplishments in the last year, and go over the areas where they need to improve or grow.
Feedback usually remains anonymous to the team member. Leaders share the responses with the team member, but the individual names are left out. This allows people to give honest, constructive feedback without worrying about making things awkward around the office.
How Effective Is 360-Degree Feedback?
This form of feedback can be extremely effective in your company, as long as you use it the right way. Using 360-degree feedback provides many benefits:
- You’ll give your team members ownership of their career development and positive hope for the future.
- Team members receive open and honest feedback from all different levels of your company, which increases their motivation to succeed.
- Survey responses help team members become more accountable to each other.
- The feedback provides insights that your team members can use to improve and grow.
- Your team will know their opinions matter, and teamwork will improve as a result.
What Are the Negatives of This System of Feedback?
Although 360-degree feedback is an awesome tool, there are some cons associated with it too:
- If someone has an axe to grind, whether justified or not, the survey is the perfect place to stick it to the person being reviewed. On the flip side, a peer may not want to be honest and hurt their friend. Look at the results with an open mind.
- Although the survey may include excellent reviews, it’s human nature to focus on the negative. Make sure you address both the good and the bad.
- Part of the feedback will come from inexperienced raters.
- You need significant employee buy-in/participation, or it’s not going to work.
An annual review is not something any business owner or team member should dread. When done well with 360-degree feedback as a tool, reviews can actually be enjoyable—and team members will learn what they need to do to continue their growth.
If you would like to know how Ramsey Solutions rates its team members, check out our Leadership Growth Assessment. It can be used for feedback for you, your team or leaders at your company. Once you complete the assessment, have an open and honest conversation about it with your team. This will send a clear message that well-intentioned feedback is both welcome and encouraged.