360 Feedback (also known as multi-assessor feedback, multi-source feedback, or multi-source assessment) is a process through which feedback from subordinates, colleagues, and supervisors, as well as self-evaluation by employees themselves is collected. Such feedback can also include, if relevant, feedback from external sources that interact with employees, such as customers and suppliers or other interested stakeholders. 360 Feedback is so named because this feedback collects feedback about employee behavior from various perspectives (subordinate, lateral, and supervision). Therefore it can be contrasted with “downward feedback” (traditional feedback on work behavior and performance delivered to subordinates only by management employees or supervisors; see traditional performance appraisal), or “upward feedback” delivered to supervisors or management employees only by subordinates.
Organizations most often use 360 Feedback for development purposes, giving it to employees to help them develop skills and work behavior. However, organizations increasingly use 360 Feedback in performance evaluations and employment decisions (eg, Salaries; promotions). When 360 Feedback is used for performance evaluation purposes, it is sometimes called a “360 degree review”.
There is a lot of debate about whether 360 Feedback should be used exclusively for development purposes or for evaluation purposes as well. This is mainly due to the subjectivity and motivation of providers of feedback, variations between assessors, and whether the feedback provider has the ability to fairly evaluate the achievement of work goals and organization. While these problems exist when 360 Feedback is used for development, they are more prominent when entrepreneurs use them for performance evaluation purposes, because they can unfairly influence staffing decisions, and even lead to legal accountability.
One of the earliest uses recorded from the survey to gather information about employees occurred in the 1950s at the Esso Research and Engineering Company. From there, the idea of 360 Feedback gained momentum, and in the 1990s most human resources and professional development organizations understood the concept. The problem is that collecting and compiling feedback demands paper-based efforts including complicated manual calculations or long delays. The first caused discouragement on the part of practitioners; the second to gradual commitment erosion by the recipient.
However, due to the advent of the Internet and the ability to conduct online evaluations with surveys, the use of multi-assessor feedback is increasing in popularity. Outsourcing the human resource function has also created a strong market for 360 Feedback products from consultants. This has led to a proliferation of 360 Feedback tools on the market.
At present, research shows that more than a third of U.S. companies use several types of multi-source feedback. Others claim that this estimate is closer to 90% of all Fortune 500 companies. In recent years, this has become driven as Internet-based services have become a standard in enterprise development, with a growing menu of features (for example, multilingual, comparative reporting, and aggregate reporting). However, many problems regarding the validity of the system and reliability, especially when used in performance appraisal.
Many 360 Feedback tools are not tailored to the needs of the organization in which they are used. 360 Feedback is not as useful in all types of organizations and with all types of work. In addition, using the 360 Feedback tool for assessment purposes has been increasingly criticized because performance criteria may be invalid and work-based, employees may not be adequately trained to evaluate the performance of coworkers, and feedback providers can manipulate this system. Feedback ranking manipulation has been reported in several companies that have utilized 360 Feedback for performance evaluations including GE (Welch 2001), IBM (Linman 2011), and Amazon (Office and Streitfeld 2015).