It seems 360-degree feedback performance evaluations are on the rise, according to a survey sponsored by Personnel Decisions International and the Society for Human Resource Management. HR managers polled in the recent survey said they would emphasize 360-degree feedback more than any other part of their performance management systems this year.
"Three hundred sixty-degree feedback is the only HR process that I know of that consistently gets rave reviews from the people who participate in it," says Susan H. Gebelein, pdi's executive vice president. "It's the most highly rated in enjoyment and in results."
Since the mid-'90s, according to Gebelein, the use of 360-degree feedback has moved from individual intervention to being a tool to stimulate and support organizational change. "One of its advantages is that it's based on a competency model," Gebelein explains. "It identifies what's needed."
The keys to an effective 360-degree feedback process include six characteristics, says Gebelein. The objectives are clearly defined as the roles and expectations of the participant, manager and coach; the competency model and instrumentation are well researched, reliable and valid; the feedback reports are easy to use and interpret; and clarification of the feedback results are built into the process. Finally, the feedback must be linked to development tools and processes.
Ineffective 360-degree feedback programs often occur when they are not well implemented. "When the purposes are unclear," Gebelein says, "360-degree feedback results are seen as not unlike an astrological chart." The answers are scattered and often difficult to interpret.
In addition to evaluating performance, 360-degree reviews aid in employee retention, according to Gebelein. Employees tend to stay at a company for a longer period of time because they feel valued, their development is nurtured and they see that the company cares about them and their co-workers.
"Three hundred sixty-degree feedback is so common now that many organizations are taking implementation for granted," Gebelein says. "A questionnaire through the mail just isn't equal."