Streamlining our 360 degree review module

We never stop improving our product. Usually, our changes are small and we roll out new features to everyone instantly. But now we’re now getting ready to release changes to the 360 degree module that are too large to apply to existing 360 degree
reviews, so they will only affect newly created 360 degree review cycles.

If you signed up in 2012, then the new model is active for you already. Nothing new here.
Any 360 degree reviews that are in progress will remain unchanged, so don’t worry. This is just about new 360 review cycles created after Wednesday.

You can now ask up to 5 separate questions

Originally the 360 reviews were based on the messaging system, meaning that you could in theory write as many separate answers as you wanted. But unfortunately many users got lost in the process. So we streamlined everything, HR can define up to 5 separate questions per review, and the reviewer writes all answers on the same page.

Indirect managers and HR can see the 360 degree feedback too

The original approach meant that the recipient could in theory open up the feedback she reveived to anyone, on a very fine-grained permissions basis. Unfortunately, this was too complicated for many people, and therefore rarely used. Also, there was no easy way to for a senior manager (e.g. the CEO) to see 360 degree feedback for one of her indirect reports. This is now possible. Also HR administrators get to see the feedback as well, so they can intervene if required, or take notes.

The order of your feedback gets randomized

Imagine there is a question like this : “What could the reviewed person improve on?”. Imagine you want to provide some constructive feedback about 5 topics to the reviewed person. One of them gives away your identity (e.g. you want to provide feedback about a project that only you and the reviewed person worked on). If the recipient gets all your feedback in one block, then your other 4 topics are not really anonymous anymore. That’s why we automatically shuffle all your paragraphs around, and mix them with other people’s feedback. Just leave two lines between your 5 topics, and the revealing paragraph ends up somewhere in between your and someone else’s feedback, and it becomes impossible to spot who wrote the other 4 paragraphs.

Anonymous feedback only

In our previous approach, we also tried to cover more general feedback, like “how can we improve the office environment?”. This was a nice idea, but rarely used. However, this flexibility came at a price, for instance we had to cater for a case where people didn’t want to be anonymous when writing feedback. Now what happened was that even in official 360 degree reviews, some reviewers decided to not be anonymous. While no problem for this reviewer, it also meant that the other reviewers suddenly got a bit less anonymous, even if they selected to remain anonymous. From now on, everything is anonymous, full stop.

Uncluttering the message stream

The previous approach was basing the 360 feedback on the message stream, so the non-360 messages written during 360 degree seasons got less attention than they deserved. Some of our clients got worried that there would simply be too much information to digest. By extracting 360s from the message-stream and making it a proper first-class feature, we’re making things simpler and more manageable again.

The downside: Less flexibility

By re-imagining the 360 Degree Feedback Requests into 360 Degree Reviews, we also lose some flexibility.

  • It’s not possible anymore for regular staff to simply
    set up a 360 survey like before. However, when we checked out logs, this happened really, really rarely anyway. The workaround for this is to simply write a regular message (“please provide me with some feedback about project X”, share it only with the people you want to, and let people respond anonymously. This is even simpler, and just as effective as the previous review request.
  • As describe above, you were able to open up your 360 degree feedback to random people inside the system. This option is now gone. However, nothing stops your from simply copy-pasting some of the feedback and showing it to the recipient (or sending a screenshot). Admittedly, it was a neat option for some rare cases, but “less is more”, especially if options really make things complicated for those 98% of users who don’t use an option anyway.
  • And lastly, you cannot reply to 360 degree feedback anymore. Again, a rarely used feature, which added complexity. If there is demand,
    we may add it back (in a different fashion), but right now it doesn’t seem like priority for anyone.

Some Q&A

When does it get rolled out?

All new evaluators as of January are automatically on the new model already.

Right now we’re testing the migration of existing customers with select beta testers, and we plan to activate it for everyone around the 10th January or so. If you’d like to testdrive
it before, let us know!

Where’s the documentation?

Over here. All our existing docs have been updated now.

Why didn’t we get it right in the first place?

In hindsight, all the new features seem just so obvious, we should have had them right from the start, and it feels odd now that we even tried to base the 360 degree reviews on the messaging system, instead of writing it from scratch. But there you go, we’re only human, and it seemed like a smart move back then in 2010…

Based on all the customer feedback we believe we got it right this time though! We’ll definitely continue fine-tuning the process and the screens, but overall we’re quite pleased with the new approach.

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