Choosing the Right Employee Evaluation: 360, 270, or 180

April 26, 2017

Have you had a 360 employee evaluation yet?

These employee evaluations are widely considered to be a more holistic view of someone’s behavior at work than traditional performance reviews, but they may not be right for every single person in your organization.

A recent survey of human resource professionals revealed that 80% of HR departments are either planning to switch to 360 employee evaluations or have already done so.

This means, even if you haven’t done a 360 yet, you’ll probably be involved in one soon.

That said, it’s important to carefully considering each employee’s unique situation you can choose between a 360 review or one of its slightly smaller counterparts: a 180 review or a 270 review.

Here’s how to make the right choice for you and your employees.

Distinctions Between 360, 270, and 180 Employee Evaluations

Imagine a clock with an employee standing in the center.

A 360 employee evaluation is like making a full rotation around the clock face and stopping to ask questions at the 12 o’clock, 3 o’clock, 6 o’clock, and 9 o’clock positions.


By the time a full circuit is done, the employee will have feedback from subordinates, peers and colleagues, supervisors, and themselves. Some firms even include insight from external sources, such as customers or suppliers, if an employee interacts with them regularly.

However, some employees may not benefit from stopping at every single point on our imaginary assessment clock.

If, for example, someone doesn’t directly supervise employees, there won’t be any subordinates to survey. You might also have executives that don’t have supervisors who need to contribute feedback.

Both of these employees would have a 270 employee evaluation; their assessment would skip one stop on the clock face.


Finally, a 180 review incorporates just two sources of feedback, or just two spots on the review circuit.

These two sources might be the employee and their direct supervisor, or in the case of a manager it might be their feedback combined with a collection of surveys from all of the employees they manage.

When a 360 Employee Evaluation May Not Be the Best Choice

There are enormous benefits to running a 360 employee evaluation with your employees. It’s hard to beat the complete spectrum of insights that these assessments provide, and they’ve been shown to improve professional development and employee satisfaction.

But there are times when a smaller range of feedback may actually be more beneficial, as well as situations when the a true 360 just isn’t possible.

New Employees and the Old Guard

In their article, “Patterns of Rater Accuracy in 360-Degree Feedback,” Robert Eichinger and Michael Lombardo indicate that people’s accuracy in rating other employees is directly related to how long they have known the person being rated.

Here’s the total breakdown of their findings, ranked from the most accurate to the least:

  1. Rater has known the subject one to three years.
  2. Rater has known the subject for less than one year.
  3. Rater has known the subject for three to five years.
  4. Rater has known the subject for more than five years.

Essentially, for someone to give really good feedback on a peer, colleague, subordinate, or manager’s performance, they need to have known them long enough to form a good impression, but not so long that they begin to generalize behavior.

Over time raters develop an expectation of how long-time co-workers behave, and their 360 survey responses become more likely to reflect that expectation rather than real performance.

For long-time employees and brand new hires, you might want to choose a 180 review instead of a true 360.

Employees Who Are Missing a 360 Feedback Group

As I mentioned before, some employees’ work situations don’t lend themselves to a full 360 assessment.

Those employees who don’t supervise others will only have three groups – supervisor, peers/colleagues, themselves – in their feedback loop. They’re getting a 270 review.

Similarly, entry-level workers or those in small teams may not have true peers or colleagues who can supply meaningful insight into their performance.

These employees may benefit from a 180 review, which will help the identify and rectify any discrepancies between their view of their performance and their manager’s view.

Ultimately, it’s managers of teams who tend to get the most of a full 360 assessment since they are able to collect feedback from each point on the circuit.

Choosing a Flexible 360 Employee Evaluation Tool

Some teams opt for 270 or 180 reviews not because they’re the right fit for their situation but because they’re a less expensive option.

Our hope is that you’ll choose the assessment style that works for your organization so you can drive employee improvement and retention. That’s why we’ve made our 360 Review Package so cost effective.

It’s also extremely flexible. You can easily run 180, 270, or full 360 reviews inside the software by adjusting your question set or the variety of respondents you contact for feedback.

Whether you choose our package or another one, be sure to find a tool that works for your organization.

Your employees – and your survey results – will thank you.

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