Deciding which performance review process to implement at your organization can often be a daunting task. There are so many elements to consider, and one assessment process will be perfect for one company and a complete disaster for another. At 4 Point Consulting, after careful consideration, we decided to implement the 360-degree review process for our team this year.
As an HR consulting organization, we approached the process with what some might call extremely tedious rigor, or as we call it “due diligence.” With all the potential pitfalls of 360s in mind, our team knew that in order to successfully implement the process, careful steps must be taken to ensure our whole team was on board, educated in the process, and fully participating. First, each member of the team was assigned reading “homework” to learn about the 360 process from all angles — the good, the bad, and the complicated. We then split into groups and assigned each role’s core competencies on which they’d be measured by their peers (competencies are employee behaviors, skills or attributes that contribute to the success of an organization). With all this due diligence and team involvement, we still weren’t ready to jump into the actual review process quite yet. To truly ensure that the whole team was near expert-level on the process (which, to be clear, is a step that isn’t necessary for any other type of organization), our groups wrote presentations on different aspects of the 360 review process and delivered them to the rest of the team to ensure a truly well-rounded and fully-involved and knowledgeable process once we began. We also had a separate team that was tasked solely with researching the myriad of options for implementing the process (we ultimately decided on a simple document designed in Google Forms).
360 reviews can “change lives,” according to the Harvard Business Review
Was our process a success? Overwhelmingly, it seems most of us agree that indeed, it was. We were each reviewed by several of our peers and project managers — truly receiving the “sideways and upwards” feedback intended with this process, and each of us walked away from our reviews with a thoroughly holistic idea of our performance.
I sat down with a few 4 Point Consulting team members, CEO and Principal Consultant Christy Hopkins, Associate Principal and Project Manager Kathryn Gongaware, and Associate Consultant Steve Discont, to get a holistic view of our process.
“I thought that utilizing different groups to cross reference everyone’s work and build off the competency creation was great. It was a very hands on approach and I think from the start helped cultivate that feeling that every person’s contributions and feedback is valuable.” – Heather Paterson, Talent Project Coordinator
In retrospect, is there something that was learned through the process that you think we should do differently next time?
CEO: I learned that I should’ve prepared the leadership/management team, who were all SUPER in support of implementing 360s, that they would be hardest hit by some of the feedback. I also learned that my entire team is BRILLIANT (I already knew this, but the presentations were AMAZING). I love the review process now and I’m genuinely excited for the next time we do this.
Project Manager: I think one missed opportunity was that we could’ve used the process as a chance to get feedback from the whole team on the company as a whole. In the future, we’ll have to make sure to include engagement or general company feedback questions to give employees the opportunity to share their thoughts on the company as a whole and embrace that opportunity for us as leaders to really learn what the whole team truly feels about the organization and how we can improve.
Associate Consultant: For us, I think extending the length of the time intended between inception, launch, and completion would have helped us, in hindsight. I think that the 360 feedback process is a very valuable tool for development and understanding an individual’s performance. Establishing a 360 process method, developing processes, training team members on the process, collecting feedback, and processing and disseminating results takes time, and I feel that although we did this about 1.5-2.0 months, I think we were extremely ambitious. I think this is especially true as I know that a number of us had challenges thinking about the areas of strength and the areas of development that our fellow peers might have, as we had not been proactively looking for them or keeping track of them over the previous 6 months. I think now as a team will be more prepared for the next set of performance evaluations now that we know the process and what is recommended for giving effective feedback.
What were some memorable moments from the 360 review process — either from creation, implementing, or writing your own reviews?
CEO: One thing that was really interesting to me was how challenging it was for me to stay hands off and just TRUST my team to get to where they needed to be. But as I mentioned, I learned that my team is brilliant and I can trust them to accomplish anything.
Project Manager: As someone who helped on the software research side of things, I will say — if an organization has the time and resources to conduct similar research, it’s worth it to figure out which software would work the best for your organization, based on company size and your budget. Another thing to note is that no one was shocked when they left their review. This is how it should be. Just because you’re implementing 360s, that doesn’t mean you should do away with giving your team regular, constructive feedback.
Associate Consultant: A particularly memorable moment was the experience of sitting there and actively working to write constructive feedback for the development for my colleagues and of management. I think that it can be easy to point out the chinks in other people’s armor, and point at how they trip and fall. It’s much more challenging to actively consider how to phrase things so a person can see the areas they need to improve in a non-judgmental way, and provide suggestions on how they can continue to grow. I found myself having to take my time and restructure and re-frame my thoughts for the betterment of my fellow 4Pointers. Heck, I think this applies for me too, since I was put in a position where I had to critically evaluate my own performance on the competencies established for my role, and think about how I could improve in each of the respective competencies.
Any final thoughts or words of wisdom?
CEO: As a company leader, it’s so important to create an open dialogue with your employees and really build trust both ways. We decided to have a feedback forum before we started the 360 process, and it was really helpful to hear everyone’s thoughts, concerns, and suggestions before we began. I recommend doing this early and often when a new system or process is implemented in the workplace. This way you can really take in the feedback and respond to it, make any minor changes necessary, and truly show your team that their input is valued and appreciated.
Associate Consultant: I think the 360 Feedback process is an extremely valuable one, but can be a potentially expensive one. For companies the size of ours, and with roles with such complexities as ours, the 360 process is worthwhile. There are some roles in companies where it may not be nearly as beneficial to the employee (e.g., maintenance staff, tier 1 customer service staff). It can also be a time-consuming process, depending on the number of reviews a person is asked to perform. This, added up across all the people performing ratings, can account for a notable number of work hours. It’s important for a company and its leadership to actively consider the benefits that they are looking to gain from implementing a 360 feedback system versus the potential drawbacks of doing so.
Project Manager: Whatever review process you choose for your organization, make sure you’re still giving consistent recognition and feedback. We like to use our internal “Shoutouts” Slack channel for peer recognition of a teammate’s performance or a job well done. The more positive you can make that, the better. Encourage your team to shine light on their peers that are performing well or that have done something worth mentioning to the rest of the company.
Need some assistance with your organization’s performance review process? Send us a message for help choosing a method, process design or implementation, or for an hourly-rate consultation with one of our friendly and trusted HR gurus.
4 Point Consulting is a boutique HR Consulting and Talent Acquisition firm, specializing in small business and high-growth startups, as well as VC and PE firms. Our services range from full-time talent acquisition and complete benefits systems creation to employer brand enhancement and HRIS implementation — and everything in between.