360 Degree Appraisals

360 heirarchyHow 360 degree feedback appraisals are counter productive if completed in the wrong way.

360-degree appraisal refers to taking feedback on an employee from all those who are acquainted with him and the kind of job that he does. Typically, performance feedback was considered to be strictly a process involving interaction between the employee and his supervisor, but now in present times, where the focus of business has changed to customer service, teamwork and employee’s development, it is considered a better option to take the feedback of employee from the sources all around him, in a full circle.

Thus in a 360-degree appraisal, feedback on an employee may be either taken from his colleagues, his subordinates or whoever in the office is related to the employee’s job and may sometimes even be taken from his client, customer or whoever knows him and is well aware of the nature of his job. Even employee’s own feedback regarding his performance is taken in consideration for his appraisal. Its nature is just opposite to that of upward feedback and performance feedback.

In the present scenario, 360-degree appraisal is considered to be an in-thing in an organisation which goes a long way in not just improving the general working standards of the employees, but also the company’s relationship with its customers. It is an effective tool in making the employee aware of what his colleagues and people around him think about him, which leads to making him more self-aware.

Organisations, where receiving and taking feedback is considered an accepted norm, become more transparent. This form of appraisal improves communication in the organisation. The feedback is focused on the employee’s skills and behaviour which are valued by the organisation. In that manner, it can help organisations reach their goal of orienting a particular skill-set and behaviour pattern among their employees. The real motto behind this is to help the employee understand his strengths and weaknesses and further work upon them for self-development, which in turn will improve the efficiency of the organisation.

360-degree appraisal undoubtedly works in a positive way in achieving the goals of the company, but if done in a wrong way its negative effects are much more visible than its advantages. So the most important thing is how to do it. If it is implemented in a wrong way and proper guidelines are not followed, then its negative impact can be seen both at the level of the employee and the organisation.

Peer feedback proves to be effective for developmental purposes, but if used for the purposes of promotion, pay and record rating of employees, this tool does not generally prove to be effective. It creates tension and breakdown among the team members. Further, in order to give an accurate assessment it is essential for the peers to be well acquainted with the nature of employee’s job and his responsibilities, but this knowledge requirement may be a problem in cross-functional teams.

It has been proved by research that the correlation between self-assessment and other sources of assessment, especially supervisor’s assessment, is low. Self-assessment generally tends to be higher, hence organisations should use a proper feedback mechanism to avoid fallacies in assessment.

Customer’s feedback is beneficial only in a few of the appraisals and is helpful only in team or organisational evaluation, which can be further used for evaluating team members. It is not beneficial for assessing individual employee’s performance. If it can be of any help in assessing individual performances, it should be used for evaluating senior officials who are directly accountable for the satisfaction of customer. Customer’s evaluation is better in evaluation of the final output of the organisation, rather than processes and work relationships.

Proper care must be exercised when relying on subordinates’ evaluation. Only those who know an employee for a considerable period of time should be made a part of the process, otherwise it will defeat the entire process of objective evaluation. It is also important to design the process in such a way that the subordinate gets to evaluate only those aspects of an employee’s work, of which he has relevant knowledge, and is not allowed to make general comments about the employee. An organisation going for restructuring or reorganisation should be careful in implementing such evaluation initiatives as it has the potential to fuel discontent, distress among employees already going through a tough phase due to restructuring process.

To infuse the element of honesty in the appraisal, the feedback taken from various spheres is kept anonymous. This sometimes is counter-productive because if the name of the person giving the feedback is unknown, it is not possible for an employee to get continuing feedback from him who has, for example, reported any weakness in the employee.

This kind of appraisal has proved to be a valid and reliable tool for improving behaviour pattern and manner of performance. However, for rating outcomes, where supervisor perspective should be considered, this tool is of minimum help. In receiving and giving feedback, there are a number of ways in which the rating may go wrong. People giving the feedback, may either inflate or deflate the rating for employee to look good or bad. So to avoid this, proper checks and balances must be maintained. It is also a time taking process, as performance-rating data is collected several times in a year, and is included in the result of progress review.

Thanks again

Sean McPheat

Managing Director

MTD Training   | Image courtesy by Stuart Miles of FreeDigitalPhotos.Net

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Updated on: 2 October, 2007

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