360 Degree Feedback: Do We Want to Know

Performance appraisals generate mixed emotions in most employees.  For some, the appraisal offers a chance to be recognized and rewarded for a job well done.  However, the most common view equates the process as an unfair, misery that provides few tangible benefits.  In 1993, a Wyatt Watson survey found that only 10 percent of Fortune 500 employees felt that their evaluation process accomplished its stated goals and provided value.  Almost 20 years later, things remain the same.  A 2012 HCS survey reported that the level of support remained approximately 10 percent and employees held many of the same concerns.

In order to increase participation and satisfaction, organizations transformed their top-down approaches to 360-degree feedback evaluations over the last two decades.  The 360 degree approach is an evaluation method that combines feedback from the employee, peers, supervisors, and subordinates.  The results once collected provide a full circle of input to the employee that emphasizes performance from multiple perspectives.  By design, the multidimensional approach focuses on the employee’s contribution and improves the quality of the information available for developing professional growth plans.

The advantages of a 360-degree approach include:

  • improving employee confidence in the review process;
  • providing more information to the manager overseeing the review;
  • increasing team collegiality when employees are linked together;
  • identifying potential conflicts between employees that inhibit productivity;
  • creating a climate centered on individual growth;
  • increasing feedback to employees from managers;
  • enhancing linkage between organizational goals and values with individual employees; and
  • developing an environment accepting of feedback.

Some of the disadvantages relate to the opposite side of the advantages:

  • transforming the review process to a popularity contest or a simple tit-for-tat process;
  • removing the honest from the process as peers seek to spare each others feelings;
  • reducing the importance of the manager’s comments when he or she is responsible for performance;
  • creating resentment among employees over responses;
  • implementing unsuccessfully reduces motivation and commitment to organizational goals; and
  • demanding significant work and time, yet producing little valuable feedback to the employee.

Based on the advantages and disadvantages, system success clearly relates to the culture of the organization.  The more performance-focused, trusting, and engaged organizations stand to do better with 360-degree reviews.

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