360 Reviews for a Team of One? You Bet.

In this corner, with a record of effectively improving career development and job performance —supported by detailed feedback from managers as well as colleagues — we have 360 degree performance reviews.
In the opposite corner, with a proven record of improving efficiency — supported through lean staffing and related Six Sigma models, downsizing as a result of the recent recession, and the rise of the mobile-technology-enabled workforce — we have the team of one.
The contradiction seems obvious. By definition, 360 degree performance assessments take into account feedback from co-workers, colleagues, and managers. Some 360 reviews even include customers. Regardless of the scope and level of detail they dive into, an effective 360 feedback solution is among the most important investments an organization can make in enhancing career development.

Yet more and more employees and managers are working as a team of one. They perform solo. They work remotely — at home or in offices — away from company headquarters or regional offices. They may have no structured group of peers, subordinates, or managers with whom they have routine contact or who regularly see them perform their jobs.

All of that said, to paraphrase the famous line of poetry, no person is an island. Everyone can benefit from the 360 review process, even those in your organization who don’t have a ready list of raters.

Here are some tips for effectively applying 360 performance reviews to a team of one, for both the “single worker” and the managers or executives responsible for their development:
Think about the relationships that the solo employee has, even though they may not be on the traditional organization chart, and build a team of raters that way. These might include business partners, suppliers and vendors, and customers.
Then cast a wider net to capture feedback from as many other sources as you can. Maybe there are indirect connections the employee has in your organization, people they rely upon for HR or administrative support, for example.

Set the stage early to invite this wider, nontraditional network of potential raters into the system. A fully featured 360 feedback solution like the one offered by Reviewsnap includes unlimited anonymous surveys, allowing for numerous reviews, with automatic notifications that act as reminders for upcoming or past-due surveys.

Understand how the nontraditional outside perspectives can have an impact on the employee’s development moving forward.
Be sure to stress the confidential nature of the 360 review process, especially for people who are new to the process or may be outside of the employee’s standard reporting line.
Regardless of who information comes from, avoid vague conclusions; use a proven statistical method to ensure the integrity of your assessments.
The bottom line is that unless yours is a sole-proprietor business with no employees and no managers or directors other than the owner, anyone can benefit from 360-degree feedback. It’s all a matter of how you get there.