Using 360-Degree Reviews for Promotions? Please Don’t

Have you ever used a 360-degree review for a performance evaluation? While they may be valuable for you to obtain more holistic information about an employee, 360-degree reviews can damage morale or end a career if not well executed.

What is a 360-Degree Review?

If you’re new to performance evaluation tools, a 360-degree review is where you gather input about an employee from their manager and several people that work directly with the employee, such as coworkers, subordinates, customers, and even vendors. The employee also provides a self-assessment to complete the full-circle (360-degree) evaluation.

How are 360-Degree Reviews Executed Poorly?

Many employers jump into offering 360-degree reviews without thoughtfully considering the entire process. Questions they glaze over may include:

  • What is your objective of the review?
  • Have you clearly outlined the competencies and skills that should be reviewed?
  • How do you eliminate collaboration efforts among employees? (“I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine.”)
    • In contrast, how do you account for coworkers who intentionally sandbag a coworker due to a personality conflict?
  • How do you maintain anonymity if there are only a few people providing feedback?
  • Will your reviewers be able to provide effective feedback if they aren’t trained observers of human behavior?
  • How will your reviewers’ responses be measured?
    • Are you able to take into consideration that one rater may easily give 5/5 stars, whereas another may only give a 3/5 because “nobody is perfect”?
    • Will their responses be biased based on the recency effect?
  • How will your results be utilized?
    • Do you have a follow-up plan for accountability?
  • Are your managers able to communicate in a tactful way when reviews are sub-par?
    • Will they be able to focus on the mostly positive reviews even though human tendency keys in on the few negatives?
    • How will your managers handle an employee who becomes defensive and demotivated after hearing negative feedback?
360 Degree Reviews

While 360 reviews can give you insight about an employee, they should never be directly tied to promotions.

Because of their time and expense, 360-degree reviews aren’t typically administered more than once a year. But perhaps the biggest drawback of 360-degree reviews is the lack of metrics that define how an employee can achieve a specific outcome.

Scorecards: The Better Alternative to 360-Degree Reviews

Employees need objective data to clearly explain how to improve their performance. One effective way of doing this is through a method called “scorecards,” a concept described in the book, The Game of Work, by Chuck Coonradt.

With scorecards, employees set specific measurements with their manager (coach) and self-administer their performance on a regular basis. Because they have clearly defined goals and specific methods to update their own scorekeeping, employees are able to view their personal performance in real-time to know exactly where they stand at any given point during the year.

After implementing scorecards and using them for 2+ years, both managers and employees have raved of better transparency and accountability, clearer expectations, more timely feedback, less ambiguity about performance measurements, and improved visibility of performance. Here are several user testimonials:

The advantage of a scorecard is it takes out the guess work. If you are doing an annual or semi-annual review, as a manager, you are trying to remember the good, the bad, and the ugly for each employee that you manage. The scorecard allows for a monthly coaching session and the dialogue turns to how the individual is doing with their goals, what needs to be changed, what is working, and set up for the following month.

Manager

Every week when I put my number in for what I processed that week, I always look at what I did last week to improve and set goals for the next week.

Employee

Employees see EXACTLY where they are winning or falling short. It helps the employees know expectations, performance, evaluation, and it really puts it on them rather than waiting for an annual discussion or a meeting with their manager to give delayed feedback.

Manager

It’s much easier to make micro adjustments to performance if needed on a regular basis rather than a huge course correction or written warning once a year…My relationship with management has improved and creates a more productive and open/honest coaching session.

Employee

[Scorecards] force you to think outside of the box in order to find ways to improve your overall score/percentage, even if you are hitting the target each month.

Employee

For more information or to get your company set up with scorecards today, please talk with your Stratus.hr Representative or email HR@stratus.hr.

Laura Lancaster, PHR, SHRM-CP

Author Laura Lancaster, PHR, SHRM-CP

Along with being a Master of Human Resources, Laura is a master of communicating and provides her clients with world-class customer service. She can really cut some rug on the country swing dance floor and enjoys musical theater in between motorcycle rides.

More posts by Laura Lancaster, PHR, SHRM-CP