Preparing for the 360-Degree Feedback Review

Posted on September 12, 2015 by

It’s time for your annual employee performance review. As a motivated and forward-looking employee, you anticipate this engagement as an opportunity to accelerate your professional growth. Looking at it from a positive light, a performance review represents another milestone in which your cumulative accomplishments, efforts, and shortcomings for the past year are put to the spotlight and balanced against your current talents and future potential.

But this year’s review will be a little different. Your HR department tells you that the coming assessment will be based on a 360-degree feedback review. Let’s suppose that you are not familiar with this form of assessment. Perhaps this unfamiliarity adds to the normal level of anxiety that you might already feel being under the critical microscope.

There’s no need to worry. Gaining a bit more knowledge on how this multi source assessment works, and how its findings might align with both your personal career goals and your company’s strategic direction will help you navigate your review process more constructively and with confidence.

What is the 360-degree feedback method and how does it work?

In a nutshell, the 360-degree review collects direct feedback from people in your immediate work circle. Your reviewers will most likely consist of your peers, supervisors, subordinates, and in some cases external colleagues such as customers and suppliers. They will be evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of your performance from their unique perspectives and disciplines.

To balance their feedback, you will be asked to submit a self-evaluation. Your assessors (most likely your manager and an HR staff) will systematically compile and interpret the feedback and self-evaluation. They will look for notable patterns that will help inform them as to your areas of strength and potential, as well as areas needing improvement.

Why has my employer decided to implement the 360-degree feedback method?

The short answer is that your employer wants to get a balanced and well-rounded view of your overall work performance. It’s important to understand that the quality of your work is perceived and valued differently according to whom you are working with, their role or position in your project cycle, and the types of skills they require from you in a project setting. The assortment of skills you exhibit and the way you interact with people in different positions/roles may vary considerably. Therefore, to get a comprehensive view of your multiple actions and interactions, one that is both balanced and well-rounded, multiple feedback sources are necessary.

Your take-away from this process is equally valuable. Feedback from your work circle will provide a mirror through which you can view your performance filtered through the needs and experiences of others.

What role does it play in the overall employee evaluation process?

One major concern that some employees have about the 360-degree review is that the entire review process, including compensation decisions, might be based solely on the evaluation of their peers. You might ask yourself: what if my colleagues are not capable or qualified to give me a proper evaluation; how do I know that my assessors have the necessary training and experience to make a fair and balanced assessment; is it fair for my compensation to be based on how others perceive the value of my work?

As a diligent employee, you need to ask questions and do a little bit of research. Find out what the review process will consist of and, if possible, the kinds of evaluation procedures that will be used. Your employer should understand that as a proactive employee, you aim to be prepared as you would in managing your day-to-day tasks.

Information on the review process is critical, as performance reviews will vary from company to company. For instance, many companies will implement the 360-degree feedback in conjunction with a standard top-down employee appraisal. Some companies view the 360-degree feedback strictly as an individual performance development tool, not as a means of evaluating or negotiating compensation. Some companies will have an open face-to-face 360-degree review, while others will maintain anonymity among its participants.

You need to find out how your employer will be handling the evaluation so that you can be well prepared. Should you have any concerns about the process, asking questions early on will give you the chance to address your concerns well before the review date.

What kinds of feedback will be solicited from my colleagues?

The kinds of questions asked in a 360-degree feedback form will vary according to the preferences and needs of your company’s review staff. Nevertheless, the gist of the questioning is simple and similar throughout. Feedback participants will be asked to identify what they want their colleagues to stop, start, continue, do more of, and do less of. These questions will be contextualized to address an employee’s efficiency, work motivation, problem solving capabilities, interpersonal skills, and leadership potential.

How can I best prepare for my 360-degree feedback review?

As with any employee review, you will want to take note of your accomplishments, areas of strength, areas needing improvement, and resources needed to do a better job. You will want to discuss these items within the context of your job description and various objectives that you and your supervisor have set for the period in review. Remember to be comprehensive and specific when discussing your performance with your assessors.

These are basic but important preparatory steps. However, they’re not proactively geared toward addressing professional growth, which can be a critical topic during an employee review.  When it comes to addressing professional growth entailing changes or enhancements in responsibility, position, compensation, resources, or training, you will need to have already planned and implemented a strategy for your own professional growth. This is a huge topic that exceeds the scope of this blog post. Nevertheless, here are a few ideas to help you get started along this path:

1. Think beyond the scope of your current skills and position.

The scope of your knowledge, skills, and natural talents will change or evolve over time. How they can change or evolve does not necessarily follow a linear path (as they may be applied to various aspects within a given job function or translated to fit the needs of a different job function, possibly in a related or altogether separate industry). Because your knowledge, skills, and talents can be applied to different functions and work environments (within reason), you need to have a sense of your own personal and professional goals. And your goals will often stem from what you value (as a person and a professional), what you see as your intrinsic strengths, and how you envision your career in the years to come.

2. Strive to add value to your work in relation to your job description and work objectives.

As employees we should all strive to perform well beyond the standard expectations. After all, this is the only way we can truly achieve growth in knowledge and facility for the work we do. Whether you choose to create value by accomplishing more in terms of output, or to enhance the quality of the tasks that are expected of you, you should aim to perform beyond a ‘standard’ level by increasing the value you bring to your work and your company.

3. Align your capabilities and goals to your company’s strategic direction.

You supervisor asks you, “How do you see yourself growing within this company in the near future?” Another question: “where do you see yourself in five years?” These are questions that are typically asked during the interview process, but that are also brought up during the review process. If you aim to move ahead in your company, then it would be wise to know where your company is heading, how it is planning to get there, and what you can contribute beyond your current position to help your company achieve its strategic goals.

Preparation is everything when it comes to successfully navigating your annual employee performance review. So be prepared, be proactive, and take some time to think beyond your current situation. When it comes to assessment, where you have been and what you have done matters tremendously. But when it comes to growth, what matters most is where you are going and what you will do from here on.

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