360 Evaluations

Written by Serena Berger
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360 degree evaluations have rapidly become the most popular form of employee evaluations used at the managerial level of large and successful companies. Surveys indicate that over 90 percent of Fortune 500 companies use 360 evaluations to help employees grow and develop. A 360 evaluation is not generally used the way that an annual review is used--to determine whether to give someone a raise or to construct a concrete plan of action. Rather, it is used to help an employee gain a sense of how he or she is functioning within the company or a team, so that the employee can make the adjustments necessary to grow and be more productive.

Many review processes involve nothing more than a supervisor sitting down the employee and presenting him with a short list of what he's done right and a longer list of what needs to be improved. Employees dread performance reviews, and within a few hours of the meeting, often take away nothing more than whether or not they have gotten a raise--and a bad attitude if they have not or if they feel unfairly criticized. 360 degree evaluations are usually anonymous, and the results can go directly to the employee and/or his supervisor so that the focus remains on self-improvement, not image or ego.

The Benefits of 360 Evaluations

360 degree evaluations rely on honest feedback from all directions so that an employee knows he is getting a full and accurate picture of how his performance is perceived. While it's easy to resent a single boss who always seems to be critical, if you're getting feedback from 10 or 15 people in different position, you tend to trust that the aggregate is fairly objective. Peers, supervisors, clients, subordinates, and the employee herself all provide assessments of the employee's performance. You can design a questionnaire with numerical evaluations if you want to be able to run a quick analysis of data from multiple sources, or you can give people the opportunity to write a letter, saying whatever they feel is relevant.

You may be getting the sense that 360 degree evaluations are more expensive to administer than supervisor reviews or other forms of HR management and testing. This is generally true, which is why many companies have limited the 360 process to higher level employees--managers and above on the pyramid. There is no denying, however, that a 360 degree evaluation is one of the best tools for development at any level, and is particularly useful for building strong teams. To keep the costs down, you can invest in software which facilitates the administration and processing of 360 degree evaluations.

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