360 Degree Feedback: An Ideal Performance Management Tool

To understand and evaluate each employee’s effectiveness and productivity in an organization, the organization should receive frequent feedback from its team. Feedback works as a mirror that reflects the employee’s level of productivity and overall organizational performance in their business success. One of the unique evaluation methods in the hands of Human Resource is 360-degree feedback. This method simultaneously receives opinions from each team member and evaluates their performance from others’ perspectives. According to literature, several other terms convey the concept of 360-degree feedback, such as full-circle appraisal, multi-rater feedback, multi-source feedback, upwards feedback, group performance review, all-round feedback, and peer appraisal.  

360-degree feedback definition and its data sources 

Lepsinger and Lucia defined the 360-degree feedback method in 1997. “The feedback process involves collecting perceptions about a person’s behavior and the impact of that behavior from the person’s boss or bosses, direct reports, colleagues, fellow members of the project teams, internal and external customers, and suppliers”. 360-degree feedback combines employee attitude surveys, performance appraisal, and personal development plans and assessment centers. Sources of data in 360-degree feedback include supervisors, peers, subordinates, customers, and self. Customer is a significant source in this network since they add value to the organization and increase its competitive advantage.

By collecting data from multiple sources, the 360-degree feedback can acknowledge the complexity of management. It allows managers to rate their performance in different domains and compare their self-assessment to other team members’ assessment through feedback. Subordinates have complete and accurate information about managers’ behavior to view and evaluate leadership behavior better than supervisors. To gather insight over employee performance, managers reach those peers who frequently interact with the employee to provide meaningful feedback. The selected peers are either faithful or have different relationships with the manager and tend to deliver constructive, not necessarily positive feedbacks.

360-degree feedback performance appraisal and employee development

Among HRM processes, performance management is the one that provides the foundation for performance improvement and development. Process management is a systematic approach toward organizational performance improvement by developing the performance of individuals and teams. The performance evaluation/appraisal process assesses employee’s performance and feedback is the channel of communicating the appraisal results to the person under evaluation. In 2004 Ward categorized feedback results into two main domains expected and unexpected results. He then divides expected into two subclasses—developmental areas and strength. Those attitudes that should necessarily improve place under developmental areas. On the other hand, he considers powerful sides of the appraisee evaluated by the rater as strength. Furthermore, if the appraisee gets surprised by the feedback results on his/her performance, the results are unexpected.
O’Reilly observed a significant difference in results when the 360-degree feedback was used for developmental purposes and used as a basis for formal performance evaluation purposes. He claims the scores from raters were remarkably similar when the input was for developmental purposes. Friends group up to amplify the results and make the rivals reluctant to share their opinions.
Managers believe subordinates are in the best position to evaluate overall job performance. It is essential to notice that this belief is valid only when managers and employees are well engaged, and managers have built a trustful and transparent relationship with their team.

360 Degree Feedback Applications

From organizational perspective

We can scrutinize 360-degree feedback applications from two perspectives: the organizational and the individual perspective. According to the literature, from an organizational perspective, HR can use it in the following six ways: 

  • Looking for subordinates’ feedback gives them a voice, an opportunity to express their perception of managers’ behavior and skills. In this way, initiating changing strategies would become much more manageable. 
  •  Collecting feedback could create a communication channel to evaluate the overall net effect of training and developmental programs on organizational performance. 
  • Collected data through feedback could help organizations in succession planning. Where they need to match individuals approved skills with each position’s requirements. 
  • Executives prefer personal and in-depth performance feedback directly from their bosses or developmental coaching from them. multi-rater feedback provides such developmental input to executives. 
  • Through feedback, individuals will recognize the organization’s desired core values and business strategies and progressively align their skills and behaviors. So the employee could concentrate all his/her effort to develop further those areas. 
  • Collected data are the inputs to the performance appraisal system. 

From individual’s perspective

One the other hand, from an individual’s perspective, HR can use 360-degree feedback in the following four areas:

  • Feedback highlights the strengths and weaknesses of every employee. It helps individuals to improve their unsatisfactory performance. 
  •  Awareness toward weaknesses would decrease the employee’s defensiveness and motivate them to work in the follow-through process. 
  • Larson claimed that usually, colleagues avoid giving negative feedback verbally. So conducting multi-rater feedback would provide them with a chance to express their negative opinions. Through processing, an individual would not receive adverse comments verbally, and the spirit would change. 
  • Foundings showed individuals are not aware of their potentials and their abilities. Hearing feedback from their colleagues would help them enhance their comprehension of their skills.

Why companies need 360-degree feedback more than other assessment methods?

360-degree feedback suggests itself as an ideal measurement tool. It may seem that it has a complex structure, but producing complex evaluations rather than upward and downward feedback can reduce biases. The opportunity to rate the managers would give employees feel empowered and have the right to speak. In this way, the contact between the rater and the appraisee would strengthen. Moreover, by collecting data from multiple sources, this method would provide more reliable information about an individual’s performance. So the results are beneficial in performance coaching. Multi-rater feedback reveals the ‘blind spots’ of employers’ and employees’ performance; in other words, it encourages managers to draw an exact frame of employee strengths and weaknesses. Such a comprehensive understanding of performance would improve the perceived competencies of employees and enhance their intrinsic motivations.

The interactive evaluation of team members would enhance internal relationships within an organization. And above all, 360-degree feedback is free from biases and decreases gender, race, and age discrimination. All in all, although conducting 360-degree feedback may seem costly for an organization, the advantages of collecting data through such a tool is way beyond other methods.

Gathering the Feedback

A formal and possible way of gathering feedback is dispersing online questionnaires among the team members. Questionnaires’ design is to collect information about measurable aspects of an employee’s work by Likert scale (from strongly agree to disagree strongly)or different scoring methods. Undoubtedly, online questionnaires are the most practical and accessible format. Raters could complete the questionnaire and send it electronically at a glance. Selecting a short set of questions based on the feedback collection’s objective is a challenge that managers may face. Finding the right time to disperse the questionnaires and convince the staff to respond truthfully and accurately is another critical factor. So definitely, managers need an HR consult before taking any actions. On the other hand, reading the collected data and documenting the reports in a reasonable arrangement requires expert intrusion.

ComeMit’s 360 Degree Feedback Package

ComeMit provides a reliable platform for employees and employers to perform a formal feedback gathering method. Electronically dispersing questionnaires could accelerate the process, especially during the last days of the year that companies are busy with their projects. They need to assess their overall performance over the past year to enhance their productivity and take new strategies for the upcoming year. Hence they need to analyze the results in a short time and document them. Thanks to text analysis and NLP algorithms, questionnaires’ outputs would be ready promptly and appropriately formatted for annual reports. ComeMit’s specialists have developed a system to perform the relatable AI algorithms and prepare the documentation quickly. Our consultants are always available to enhance the working culture’s mood and motivation.

1. Kanaslan, Ece Kuzulu, and Cemal Iyem. “Is 360 Degree Feedback Appraisal an Effective Way of Performance Evaluation?.” International Journal of Academic Research in Business and Social Sciences 6.5 (2016): 172-182.
2. Garavan, Thomas N., Michael Morley, and Mary Flynn. “360 degree feedback: its role in employee development.” The Journal of Management Development 16.2 (1997): 134-147.

By: Yassaman Djafari, November 2020