When it comes to performance reviews, tradition is going by the wayside.
Many companies have traded their old ways for a more agile approach to performance management. And this shift isn’t limited to future-forward tech giants like Netflix, Google, and IBM. Big-name consulting firms like Deloitte and performance management pioneers like General Electric are on the bandwagon too.
Considering the research, it’s no wonder. According to Gallup, employees give performance reviews a less-than-stellar grade. Only 14% of employees strongly agree their performance reviews inspire them to improve, while 2 in 10 strongly agree that the way their performance is managed motivates them to do outstanding work.
So how do you hold your team accountable while also inspiring them to grow? We’ll show you how and why we conduct 360-degree performance reviews at TeamGantt and share insight into best practices other companies implement as well.
Unlike a traditional performance appraisal, a 360-degree review goes beyond manager feedback by including peer and even direct report voices in the process to paint a more complete picture of employee performance.
After all, employee performance isn’t a one-way street. And let’s be honest: As a leader, you can only see so much.
While you’re in meetings and cranking out reports, your team is working side-by-side to get ‘er done. And 360 reviews don’t just hold your team members accountable to you. They hold them accountable to each other in the daily interactions that shape your team’s success.
And that kind of accountability breeds efficiency.
As a small team, we have to make sure we’re all performing the best we can.
- Nathan Gilmore, TeamGantt co-founder
“You might have your own suspicions about how somebody’s doing and what peers think about them. A 360 review gives you a full picture of that person—their performance, their strengths, their weaknesses,” Nathan explains. “When you’re more keen to other issues or trends, you can help that person along throughout the year and encourage them in a certain area or give them more resources.”
Rethinking your own performance management process? Here are some tips and tools you can use to conduct 360 reviews with your team.
Trust is a must for any 360 performance appraisal to be successful. Team members should feel confident sharing their most honest feedback without the fear of retribution from you or their colleagues.
Fostering that level of trust in and among your team happens 365 days a year. According to EY’s global survey of full-time workers in 8 countries, a culture of trust starts with mutual respect, a commitment to integrity, open communication, and a spirit of collaboration and cooperation.
Keeping peer reviews anonymous—and clearly explaining that anonymity is part of the process—also goes a long way in making your team members feel comfortable being open with their feedback.
When sharing peer feedback with a team member, it’s all about balance. Be as specific as you need to be without revealing who said what. “We’re not giving away anyone else’s identity, so you’ll feel comfortable that we’re not giving away yours,” TeamGantt co-founder John Correlli says.
An effective 360 performance review strikes a good balance between accountability and development. You want to recognize big achievements, acknowledge existing gaps, and inspire your team members to grow.
So where do you start? Research is always a great first step. What questions are other companies asking their team members? A little groundwork can spark a lot of ideas for you to build from.
For example, one question we include on our self-evaluation surveys was inspired by our own research: If you had a magic wand, what thing(s) would you improve about working here? This question has become a team favorite because it gives us the freedom to go big or go home in sharing our ideas.
Let’s dig deeper into the surveys that make up a 360 review and share some sample questions to kick your research off.
Most annual performance appraisals revolve around the self-evaluation. And it’s just as important in a 360-degree review.
“If we don’t let everyone talk about what they did, we might not remember it,” Nathan admits. “We want to make sure we get the full picture.”
At TeamGantt, we prefer open-ended questions over numbered ratings for self-evaluations.
You answer it more honestly when it’s words and not dots. There’s this feeling when you see 1-5 or 1-10 scales that somehow those numbers are going to be summed up to equal something. When it’s a text box, you can just be honest and write what you feel.
- John Correlli, TeamGantt cofounder
In my own experience, rating myself on a scale never felt especially accurate. I was always so worried about how my self-evaluation would be perceived that I went with the middle-of-the-road number all the way. Answering open-ended questions, on the other hand, forces me to pause and truly reflect on what I’ve accomplished, where I need to push myself, and how I’d like to grow.
Be sure to take your own company values into consideration as you craft your questions too. For example, work-life balance is part of who we are at TeamGantt, so our self-evaluation survey checks in to be sure our team members—and their families—feel like that’s going well.
Bringing peer feedback into the review process doesn’t have to be complicated.
When Netflix shifted their performance reviews to a 360-degree approach, Patty McCord, former chief talent officer, says they kept it simple: “People were asked to identify things that colleagues should stop, start, or continue.”
Those 3 questions form the basis of our peer surveys too. We also use this opportunity to evaluate how each team member reflects our company’s core values.
So how do you choose peer reviewers for each team member? At TeamGantt, each team member gets reviewed by 2 colleagues they work closely with every day and 1 peer outside of their core team that they interact with on occasion. Think of it as a “friends and neighbors” approach.
Opening yourself up to feedback as a leader isn’t always easy—especially if you’re new to management and still finding your way.
But it’s an excellent way to build trust with your team and identify opportunities to improve your leadership skills.
"I want to be the best I can be so everyone else can be the best they can be," John says. "If there’s something I can do better that’s going to help other people do better, I want to know that stuff."
At TeamGantt, every team member evaluates their leader using the peer feedback survey above. If you’re looking for additional sample questions to spark your ideas, check out Google's Manager Feedback Survey.
How often you conduct performances reviews really depends on what works best for your team and feels true to your company’s values.
But limiting coaching to a single conversation a year isn’t enough. Checking in with team members and supporting their growth can—and should—be a regular part of your leadership.
Here’s a quick look at different methods Netflix, Google, and TeamGantt use to structure their performance review and feedback process.
At Netflix, employee feedback happens on an ongoing and informal basis. They embrace “candid, helpful, timely feedback” as an inherent part of their company culture, rather than a formally scheduled event:
We work hard to get people to give each other professional, constructive feedback—up, down and across the organization—on a continual basis. . . .
We believe we will learn faster and be better if we can make giving and receiving feedback less stressful and a more normal part of work life.
Google managers are encouraged to sit down with team members quarterly to provide feedback, but the cadence can be tailored to the employee’s needs. What matters most is that the discussions take place regularly.
You can find a variety of handy tips and downloadable tools in Google’s career development conversation playbook.
At TeamGantt, we take a hybrid approach to coaching conversations by combining a formal annual review with weekly 1:1s or monthly check-ins.
“The 360 review is that one definite checkpoint we have every year,” Nathan explains. “Then we do lots of quick, informal chats throughout the year. That way you don’t get to the 360 and find out someone had no idea they were doing terrible. Hopefully, there should be no surprises.”
Of course, every team is different, and what works for one company might not work for you. Feel free to experiment with the process and talk to your team and managers to find a structure and rhythm that work best for you.
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