What’s the Difference Between 360 Degree Feedback and an Appraisal?

3 min readNov 22, 2016


The process of managing employee performance is something that usually varies slightly from company to company, but whatever the variations, the same principle applies — using feedback about an employee’s performance to help them grow and develop.

One question I’ve been asked a number of times is ‘what’s the difference between 360 degree feedback and an appraisal?’

A standard appraisal is, at its core, a process with only two participants — the employee and their manager. It usually looks at the employee’s performance over the last 6 or 12 months (or whatever time period is used), and through the manager’s observations on that performance, achievements and weaknesses are discussed, and targets or goals for the upcoming review period are set.

Depending on the company’s policy, the employee’s input might also be considered during a regular appraisal process.

The 360 degree survey is similar in that observations about an employee’s actions, strengths and weaknesses are used to evaluate their overall performance, but the difference is they normally involve more than just two participants. With a 360 degree survey it’s not only the employee’s direct manager who gives feedback, it involves other colleagues such as their own direct reports, peers, and anyone else who works with the reviewee on a professional basis. By using observations from different people, it means the employer gets a much more accurate (and fairer) picture of the reviewee’s overall behaviour and performance.

As you can see, the big difference between this and a two-person appraisal is that without 360 degree feedback the manager is left with his or her impression, plus that of the employee (if a self-evaluation is conducted). That’s it. There’s no more input from others who may well have a more rounded view of certain aspects of the reviewee’s performance, which means the review process may be missing important information that will help the employee to grow professionally (and, of course, help the organization).

We’re not saying that you should never use traditional appraisals, with only two participants, at your organization, because they can definitely be advantageous in certain circumstances. However, due to the limitations of a two person appraisal, we believe that both of these tools are better used in combination. While you may not necessarily want to use them at the same time during each review cycle, combining a manager’s appraisal with a more robust and accurate 360 degree survey makes for an employee performance management process that’s more successful and all around. Deciding not to incorporate 360 degree feedback into performance management, just because you’re already conducting traditional two person appraisals, isn’t usually a good idea. Instead, look at 360 degree surveys as an additional tool to complement the appraisal process, and vice versa.

Originally published at https://primalogik.com on November 22, 2016.