Jun 092005

What a View

What a View

We’ve done 360-degree reviews for five years now at Return Path.  Rather than the traditional one-way, manager-written performance review, we instituted 360s to give us a “full view” of an employee’s performance.  Reviews are contributed by the person being reviewed (a self assessment), the person’s manager, any of the person’s subordinates, and a handful of peers or other people in the company who work with the person.  They’re done anonymously, and they’re used to craft employees’ development plans for the next 12 months.

The results of 360 are a wonderful management tool.  Mine in particular have always been far more enlightening than the one-way reviews of the past.  The commonality in the feedback from different people is a little bit of what one former manager of mine used to say — when three doctors tell you you’re sick, go lie down.

I know a lot of companies do 360s, but we had two great learnings this year that I thought were worth noting.  First, we automated the process (used to manual in Excel and Word) by using an ASP solution called e360 Reviews from Halogen Software.  It was GREAT.  The tool must have saved us 75% of the administrative time in managing the process, and it made the process of doing the reviews much easier and more convenient as well.  I strongly recommend it.

Second, we started a new tradition of doing Live 360s for the senior staff here.  All people who filled out a review for a senior staff member were invited into an hour-long meeting that was moderated by a great organizational development consultancy we work with, Marc Maltz and Nancy Penner from Triad Consulting.  The purpose of each meeting was to resolve any conflicting comments in the reviews and prioritize strengths as well as development objectives.  We also did a very quick session where the senior staff did “speed reviews” in person of the rest of the company’s leadership team that tried to accomplish similar objectives in a much more compressed time frame and format.

So far (we’re in the middle of them — actually, the team is doing my review as I write this), the results are wonderful.  We’re going to end up producing MUCH crisper and more actionable development plans for our senior staff this year than we ever have in the past.  And the tone of the meetings has been incredibly supportive and constructive.  Having an outside moderator made a huge difference.

And yes, just in case you’re wondering, it is a little bit unnerving to know that a room full of 15 people is discussing you.  Especially when you can hear them all laughing through the wall.  🙂