Talent Management

Why 360° Reviews Are No Better Than Regular Performance Appraisals

Copyright (c) http://www.123rf.com'>123RF Stock Photos

Regular readers will know that I am not a fan of the traditional annual performance appraisal, for many reasons, not least of which are:

  1. They’re annual, which is far too infrequent to change behaviors or redirect efforts for best results.
  2. They usually reflect the opinion, perception and feedback of just one person.
  3. They engender fear and trepidation among both the manager giving the appraisal and the employee receiving it.

Traditional 360° reviews not the answer

For at least two or three decades, a solution many HR pros have turned to is the 360° review – a formal process to solicit feedback from multiple people. On the surface, this solves the problem, but dig a bit deeper and these challenges still remain with traditional 360° reviews:

  • Feedback is given by a pre-selected group who have been asked (or required) to provide their comments and is often anonymous, which leads to any number of problems such as those Seth Godin mentioned recently in his blog.
  • People don’t know how to interpret the feedback they are given from these multiple sources, which are often wildly divergent, as explained in this Envisia blog post.
  • They’re still annual, disconnecting the feedback from the events.

If annual reviews from the boss don’t work and 360° reviews still have their problems as well, then what’s the answer?

Crowdsourcing through strategic, social recognition

Instead, empower all employees through strategic, social recognition to give their positive feedback on what matters to you – how well your employees demonstrate your company values while achieving your strategic objectives. The benefits of this approach:

  • It’s frequent, timely and very specific positive feedback that clearly associates the reason for recognition in the employees’ minds so they will want to repeat those behaviors/actions again and again.
  • It’s from multiple sources across the organization, alleviating the burden of one point of feedback and the associated fear.
  • There are vastly increased data points on recognition given also reveals areas of weakness or potential opportunity for growth in areas yet to be recognized. Easy integration with other forms of appraisal and feedback provide a more full and complete picture for real-time and long-term talent management.

What is your preferred form of employee appraisal and feedback?

You can find more from Derek Irvine on his Recognize This! blog.

The VP of Client Strategy and Consulting at Globoforce (www.globoforce.com), Derek Irvine is one of the world’s foremost experts on employee recognition and engagement, helping business leaders set a higher vision and ambition for their organizations. As a renowned speaker and co-author of Winning with a Culture of Recognition, he teaches companies how to use recognition to proactively manage company culture. Contact him at irvine@globoforce.com.
  • Steve Hunt

    Many of the points made here are valid, but many of the problems called out about 360s also apply to crowd sourcing, multi-rater feedback and any other methods used where peers or customers  provide information used directly or indirectly to evaluate employee performance.  

    While there is value in unstructured assessment methods like crowdsourcing there is also value in more structured assessments like 360s.  And in many ways the two complement each other.  What one does well the other does poorly and vice verse.    For example, there are times when you want to have clear and consistent sets of raters who are given clear performance rating guidelines (i.e. 360s) rather than relying on self-nominated raters who choose to comment on what others are doing based on highly subjective definitions of what they believe constitutes effective performance  (i.e., crowdsourcing).    But there are also times when less structure methods like crowdsourcing add a lot of value. 

    There is quite a lot of research on 360 surveys that provides considerable insight into what makes them more or less effective.  For an older but very comprehensive overview check out Alma M. McCarthy, Thomas N. Garavan, (2001),”360° feedback process: performance, improvement and employee career development”, Journal of European Industrial Training, Vol. 25 Iss: 1 pp. 5 – 32. The basic message from this research is that 360s can be very useful if they are used well.  This is true for most talent management methods.  One method isn’t universally better than another – its all about how its designed and used.  
    Alma M. McCarthy, Thomas N. Garavan, (2001),”360° feedback process: performance, improvement and employee career development”, Journal of European Industrial Training, Vol. 25 Iss: 1 pp. 5 – 32. The basic message from this research is that 360s can be very useful if they are used well.  This is true for most talent management methods.  One method isn’t universally better than another – its all about how its designed and used.  

    Unfotunately we don’t yet have an equally good body of research on crowdsourcing.   But I suspect we will in a few years.  But until then, I’d caution against making categorical statements that assume that one method is inherently better than another.

    Steve