Is the 360 Degree Employee Review Method a Good Idea?

360 degree employee reviewsAre 360 degree employee reviews particularly more or less fair to the employee? Let’s start with defining the 360 degree review process. 360 degree employee performance reviews encompass comments from the employee’s managers and peers, customer feedback, HR statistics such as patterns of absences and late/tardy occurrences, as well as actual performance measures.

Additionally, some companies monitor their employee’s social media sites, looking for more clues into their overall impact on the organization. Some reasonable weight is assigned to each of these processes in order to assess the total picture of the employee’s value and contribution to the business.

Seems fair and complete, right? Well they certainly can be, as long as the proper weight is applied to each component of the review, and subjectivity is minimized. For instance, an employee may have achieved 100% of his MBO’s, but for various reasons is not viewed favorably by his/her peers. Does that really matter in the long run? Another employee might have successfully completed all of his projects on time and within budget, but management was quietly expecting more cost cutting measures, though not openly mandated. Is that fair?

Traditional employee reviews focus primarily on performance compared directly to assigned objectives, with additional consideration given to other mitigating factors such as general employee attitude, leadership qualities, attendance, etc. But 360 degree employee reviews take a truly holistic approach and effectively become the “balanced scorecard” of employee reviews.

It can be suggested that Type A personalities may fare better using the 360 degree process because they are far more likely to be noticed within the organization, by peers, managers, and executives. And this awareness can sometimes be construed as a leadership trait, though it does not necessarily relate to actual employee performance.

Type B personalities may also unfairly benefit from the 360 degree employee review because they constantly strive for acceptance and recognition, sometimes at the expense of performing actual work.

The concern is that these personality types therefore may gain points in the review from other employees’ positive opinions, which could otherwise mask a lack of actual tangible performance.

And what about that potentially toxic information source, aka, social media? Is it legal, or even ethical, to formally consider the employee’s posts on public social media sites when conducting a performance review? Are personal (and off-hours) conduct, compromising photos, secret job search posts, politically incorrect comments etc., fair game for consideration in a review? The laws on this subject are relatively new, so you should check the regulations in your particular region to ensure no statute violations.  No doubt this kind of information could be a significant influencer, but mentioning it in the review? Not necessarily a good idea regardless of the law.

There are many sources of data that can potentially be mined for use in employee reviews, though as I have pointed out in this article some can create serious repercussions.  However, data gathered from traditional sources like the HR help desk, time and attendance system, talent management system, and other HR applications, should certainly be leveraged to ensure building a total picture of the employee’s personal performance, attitude, and overall value. Data gathered from other more potentially volatile sources (such as social media posts) should be carefully evaluated and weighed against the potential backlash.

In the end, the goal is to have that complete and total understanding of each member of your workforce through the conducting of performance reviews. How you get there and what research you leverage can make all the difference in employee attitudes during the post-review period. Whether a particular review is generally positive or negative, it should always generate a positive reaction from the employee. Sometimes, too much information is simply too much.

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