The SmartCompany Olympics Challenge: Discus – Spin around with a 360 review

discuss-200The athletics is in full swing at the Olympics at the moment including the discus. Take a leaf out of the Olympian’s book and try SmartCompany’s Olympic challenge for today – spin around with a 360 degree review.

Performance reviews are a necessary but difficult part of any business. Plenty of entrepreneurs forget them altogether, but as any human resources expert will tell you, they’re a critical part of keeping and rewarding key staff.

But there’s a type of review practice you may not have encountered before – the concept of the 360 review.

It’s simple. Not only will the business review each of its employees, but those workers in turn judge the performance of their managers and, if necessary, the executives. Basically, anyone who is in charge of a team will be reviewed by their peers.

While it may not work for every business, it deserves a try. For today’s Olympic Challenge, we’re going to take a look at how the 360 review works, and whether you should implement it in your own business.

The pros and cons

The 360 review is designed to give employees a chance to be heard. This isn’t a novelty, either – smart businesses know they can only hear about certain problems from different areas of an organisation.

Essentially, you’re trying to hear both sides of an issue when it comes to employees and their managers. Perhaps someone isn’t quite gelling with a certain team and would be better suited elsewhere. Or maybe you’ll find a manager is working quite well, but the team itself aren’t performing to the best of their ability.

The pros are simple – you can gain access to a much more accurate assessment of an employee’s behaviour from a different perspective. Whether or not you subscribe to the “wisdom of crowds”, if you see multiple people referencing the same problem, you probably have an issue.

Diane Alexander from the University of Rhode Island pointed out in a 360 study in 2006 that while general reviews are great for excellent performers, or poor performers, others in the middle are overlooked.

Of course – there are caveats. The accuracy of the review obviously depends on how often the people interact with the employee in question and the formality of the process itself. Make sure you’re actually interviewing people who can give you valuable feedback.

How does it work?

The 360 review system is a formal one. The person in charge, whether it is a manager, or executive, receives feedback from multiple people. It can be done in a group or individually – it really depends on the company’s personality.

The person is then given the results of that feedback, just like any other review.

What are some key things you need to know?

If you’re seriously thinking about implementing a 360 review structure, here are a few things you should keep in mind:

  • The participants in the review actually have to feel as if their feedback will be heard. There’s no point in having one of these interviews for fun, and staff won’t bother contributing if their contributions aren’t listened to.
  • You need to plan out how the 360 review is going to happen. Will you use anonymous forms? Or will you conduct interviews? Plan out exactly how you want to get the results.
  • Figure out which proposals you actually want to take on board. Some workers may want to recommend some changes that aren’t actually suitable. Make sure you confirm the terms of reference beforehand.
  • Use some of that feedback and apply it across your entire staff. You may come up with some ideas you hadn’t seen before.


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