Chapter 9 – Project Closure and Evaluation

9.9. In-Depth Look: 360-Degree Review

In-depth Look

The model of 360º Feedback has murky origins, with some research dating back to the 1920s (Hedge et al., 2001). The version we know today originated during the time of World War II through the German military (Fleenor & Prince, 1997). The 360º Feedback system began to gain traction in the 1980s, and by the 1990s it was beginning to be more frequently used by businesses of all kinds. However, the first trademarked publication originates from the book 360º Feedback: The Powerful New Model for Employee Assessment & Performance Improvement, written and published by Mark Edwards and Ann Ewen in 1996. In this book, Edwards and Ewen detail the creation and coining of the term in the mid-1980s, as well as the subsequent trademark battle that ensued from 1993 to 1996. Together, Edwards and Ewen developed and utilized the 360º Feedback model in their work for their consulting firm, TEAMS, Inc. in a variety of ways. Throughout their book, they recommended that the model was utilized in assessments, appraisals, and in supervisor evaluations as well with large amounts of data to support these recommendations (Bracken et al., 2016).

The 360º Feedback model seeks to create unity in the workplace through multi-source assessments. The model achieves this through offering different perspectives on a person’s skills, behaviours, abilities, and performance, as well as alleviating the biases often found with single-source assessments. The model also provides the opportunity for individuals to rate themselves as well as others Through all of this, the 360º Feedback model seeks to reinforce the visions, values, and goals of the organization it is being utilized by (Fleenor & Prince, 1997).

No research supports the idea that the 360º Feedback model was a descendant of another theory. The 360º Feedback model was developed out of desire to improve upon single-source assessment and evaluations.

The 360º Feedback model has evolved significantly over the years, as employment trends and standards have changed. Empowerment in the workforce, a desire to offer employees evaluations beyond annual reporting, and an increasingly competitive job market have forced the 360º Feedback model to evolve to become even more frequently adapted by companies seeking to improve their assessment and Human Resources systems (Fleenor & Prince, 1997).

While the 360º Feedback model is a relatively malleable theory and can therefore be changed to suit each business’s needs, there may be more changes in the future. Digital workforces, where all assessments and feedback would be provided virtually, would need to be implemented most likely via specific software built to support the 360º Feedback model.

The 360º Feedback model is based on the principle that feedback on a situation is different depending on people’s specific perspectives. All perspectives must be evaluated to have a well-rounded assessment. It is a form of multi-rater feedback where feedback is collected from multiple sources to understand how people within an organization are functioning (Tee & Ahmed, 2014).

This feedback model is also based on data and data-based feedback principles. Specifically, David Nadler wrote a book about data-based methods of feedback and how it contributed to the development of the organization, and the concept of using data to conduct assessments in the workplace emerged (Hedge et al., 2001).

There are several benefits that this model provides to both workers and employers.

  1. It demonstrates the differences between how workers see themselves and how others see them, which increases workers’ self-awareness and allows them to make improvements to their performance (McCarthy & Garavan, 2001).
  2. It helps motivate employees as an appraisal tool. Workers and employers can meet to discuss the goals or objectives that are being evaluated. Workers may become more motivated to increase their productivity and performance as they are not only being evaluated by their employers, but also by themselves and their peers (McCarthy & Garavan, 2001).
  3. It focuses on methods over outcomes, which allows workers to focus on improving the quality of their work rather than the result.
  4. The 360º Feedback model offers insights to the productivity and the methods that workers use to conduct their work.
  5. It gives managers insights into how the employee views themselves and their work.

The 360º model makes contributions in all sectors when running results to generate information. For example, when running a report building on workplace sustainability, the results can contribute to facilitating organizational culture and generate outstanding feedback to excel company needs.

The contribution also assists in other ways, such as allowing insight into the “what and how” of execution measures and connections within industries. Altering workforce demographics, identifying generational and work technique discrepancies among various affiliates, and the increasing significance of factors such as employee attention, integrity and leader quality have contributed significantly to this trend (Bracken & Church, 2013).

Using the 360º model has generated some criticism, such as discomfort around the overall process and truth that the report relies on. Some biases can be disproportionate as individuals can be ingenuine throughout the process. Business owners or some decision-makers are concerned that a 360º feedback process will make everyone disconcerting, constructing separations in the functionality of professional relationships. Ultimately this will negatively affect productivity. (Lepsinger et al, 2009.)  “Results show that cultural values indeed predict self–observer rating discrepancies. Thus, systemic and contextual influences such as culture need to be considered when interpreting the importance and meaning of self–observer rating discrepancies in 360º instruments” (Eckert et al., 2010)

The 360º feedback model can produce constraints and gaps within the expectations of outcomes while also developing indecisiveness. Alternatively, it may establish a concern that the process could lead to unrealistic administrative or personal transformation anticipations. The 360º model can be very long and intricate. Digesting details while organizing data can create limitations for “human information-processing capabilities.” Other restrictions contain self-image concerns as associations may acquire objections over results, employee discontentment and distorted views based on results (Lepsinger et al., 2009)

The Critical Incident Method is a great alternative to the 360º feedback theory. It mainly focuses on keeping a report of all the critical incidents that are related to the employee that occur at the workplace. This method is equal to if not better than, the 360º theory when it comes to improving understanding of the issue, especially because it highlights very specific examples, but the 360º theory only provides feedback to the employee in a general form which may lead to lack of evidence (Balle, n.d.).

The implications of the Critical Incident Method are the following (Balle, n.d.):

  • Reveals an employee’s mental and physical capabilities, as well as the skills that they have to see if they are really qualified for their job.
  • Saves time and effort if only using this method to evaluate employees.
  • Specific analysis of the employee and their behaviour at work would be provided.
  • Determines whether the employee is deserving of the job is made easier.

Class of 2022 Contribution: Brianne Desmarais, Emily Savoi, Haily Mercier, Suheir Moudawarie