360-Degree Feedback Pros and Cons

360-degree feedback is being used by more organizations as part of their performance appraisal process. While there are many advantages to the 360-degree process, there are also certain disadvantages.

SEE ALSO: Why HR Is Obsessed With Employee Performance Check-Ins

The Pros

One of the biggest appeals to 360-degree feedback is that the employee gets more accurate, well-rounded feedback from a group than from their manager alone. The manager does not spend all day with the employee and therefore has a limited view of the employee’s capabilities. By including feedback from a supervisor, peers, subordinates and customers, the employee benefits from a better overview of their work as perceived by others.

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In an article published in The International Journal of Human Resource Management, in 2010, Rainer Hensel of the Hague University of Professional Development, the Netherlands, wrote: “Ten raters are needed to reach a satisfying reliability level of 0.7 for the rating of the capacity to develop personal qualities, while six raters are needed for a reliability level of 0.7 with regard to the rating of motivation to develop these qualities.”

Opening up the feedback process to more individuals can reduce the chances of discrimination or personal bias that might come from an individual rater. Human resources strives to create an objective performance appraisal process. But subjectivity inevitably creeps in as managers deal with blind spots and their own standards for success. Some managers naturally tend to rate individuals higher, while other managers may be more conservative in their ratings.

360-degree feedback can increase respect for others, underscore empathy, and enhance rapport among team members.

360-degree feedback can strengthen a team. Employees will feel more accountable to the team. 360-degree feedback can also open up lines of communication within a team. Everyone on the team can speak to share standards and expectations. 360-degree feedback can also increase respect for others, underscore empathy, and enhance rapport among team members.

After receiving the feedback, each individual will create an action plan or development plan. This places the responsibility for development on the employee—not the manager. HR can collect data and populate it into performance appraisals. Both of these things can decrease the time a manager spends on writing performance appraisals.

The feedback received should enhance the skills and effectiveness of the employee. Productivity should increase and customer service should improve. This will help the organization achieve their yearly goals.

The Cons

The 360-degree feedback process can be expensive. When HR recommends the process, the surveys may not be implemented throughout the organization. Therefore, HR should incorporate 360-degree feedback into the performance management process.

Another pitfall involves the possibility that raters might band together and agree to artificially inflate or deflate another employee’s rating. Similarly, one rater might use the tool to get back at another employee. In the latter example, the rater may stand out as a lone wolf, so the rating could be thrown out. The first example may be harder to identify and prevent. It is the responsibility of human resources to ensure feedback is based on observed behaviors and does not reflect personal biases.

It is the responsibility of human resources to ensure that feedback is based on observed behaviors and does not reflect personal biases.

With 360-degree feedback, there is no mechanism to clarify or further elucidate the provided feedback when raters are anonymous. When raters are non-anonymous, they may censor their true opinions. Some companies feel 360-degree feedback can focus too much on the negative and not enough on the positive. Questions asked in the survey should be thoughtfully written to uncover positive and negative behaviors.

Many organizations make the mistake of not connecting the 360-degree feedback to their vision and goals. For feedback to be meaningful, the questions asked in the survey should be connected back to the strategic goals of the organizations. One way to do this is to ensure questions evaluate the competencies described in the job description.

Role of Human Resources

Human resources should make 360-degree feedback part of the overall performance management process. The questions asked in the survey should be relevant to their specific organization. Many vendors sell 360-degree feedback programs. The program chosen should relate back to the organization’s strategic goals, job descriptions and competencies.

Human resources should provide training on the 360-degree process to each and every employee. This training should include a timeline to ensure that employees receive their feedback in a timely fashion. The training should teach individuals how to interpret their results and how to create an action plan for their personal development.