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The extended version of this article was published in Compensation and Benefits Review. We’re excited to announce that since publication, the article has become the SAGE Publishing most downloaded article of 2009 and 2010. The full version of the article, as published, is available for free download, here.

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Originally used almost exclusively for developmental purposes, using 360-degree feedback for purposes other than employee development increased significantly over the past decade. One application increasing in popularity is the use of multirater feedback for performance appraisal. Whether one agrees with it or not, economic reality has caused an increasing number of organizations to begin using 360-degree feedback for appraisal rather than exclusively for development.

10 Tips for Using 360 Degree Feedback for Performance Appraisal

A number of organizations have successfully used 360-degree feedback for their performance appraisals and have noted great benefit from this. These organizations appear to share a common process that helps them succeed where others fail. Companies can use the following tips to smooth the way:

  1. Recognize the differences in use and purpose of 360s for performance vs. 360s for appraisal: Understanding that scores will differ depending on the purpose will help in determining how best to use and interpret the scores.
  2. Communicate the purpose and process: Let employees know the intended purpose before administering the assessments as well as how the results will be used. Communicate the process and hold to it.
  3. Use a pilot group: Using a pilot group before rolling the survey out to the full organization allows for refinement of the process and of the instruments used.
  4. Do not use the organization’s first 360 process as an appraisal process. Start with using 360s for development: Although some organizations successfully use 360s for appraisal on the first 360 roll-out, most have waited 12-18 months before tying 360s to compensation and administrative action. This allows people to become more comfortable giving feedback before the feedback has consequences.
  5. Select the appropriate raters: It is critical to ensure that selected raters have regular interaction with the employee being rated and can provide accurate feedback as to performance.
  6. Use small but relevant rater groups: Multirater appraisals involve much of the organization in terms of providing feedback. Limit the number of raters to minimize the time spent on survey completion across the organization.
  7. Consider and communicate the rating scale: A 7-point Likert-type scale is generally more effective than a 5-point scale.
  8. Keep the survey short: Design a survey that is short enough that it can be completed in 15 minutes or less.
  9. Use a customized survey: Multirater assessment for development should include questions geared at behavior (the how), whereas appraisal assessments can focus more on operational performance (the what).
  10. Provide a score for each question, not just each section: Rather than providing scores for each survey item, many appraisals solicit one overall score for the category. When this is the case, it is often difficult or an employee to know which area of a category is being addressed. Be specific in scoring.

Maylett, T. M. (2009). 360-Degree Feedback Revisited: The transition from development to appraisal. Compensation and Benefits Review, September/October 41(5), 52-59.

Related Post: 6 Things to Consider Before Using 360 Feedback for Performance Appraisal

Related Post: My Experience Using 360-Degree Feedback for Performance Appraisals

Related Post: 360 Degree Feedback: From Development Tool to Performance Appraisal

Related Webinar: 360-Degree Feedback for Development vs. Appraisal

About Tracy Maylett

Tracy is the Chief Executive Officer and President of DecisionWise, and is responsible for guiding the overall strategy of DecisionWise, as well as leading large-scale change efforts for clients throughout the globe. View Bio

4 comments — View
  • Using 360 degree feedback for appraisal runs a slippery slope. First and foremost the feedback must be valid and defensible if one’s employment and compensation are to be effected by the ratings of co-workers. It is well-documented that those who are judged to be attractive (physically and socially) will receive higher ratings than less attractive colleagues. Ideally objective measures of performance will be used when it comes to performance appraisal. An example, a client of mine was recently rated in the bottom 10% of speed at preforming his duties by his rating group, objective measures place the client was dead average. How do you explain the discrepancy? How would you justify a diminished bonus?

  • This very discrepancy is exactly why 360s are so important. Typical performance appraisals measure the “what”– those operational metrics held in high regard by the supervisor typically conducting the top-down appraisal. However, it is quite possible for an employee to meet all operational objectives (to be average at achieving the key performance indicators, as in your example), yet leave a wake of personal destruction in his/her path. The second part of this equation– the “how” he/she went about it– would be brought out in the 360.

  • I have found that regardless of original purposing, the 360 will often take turn for appraisal. Our objective becomes how best to guarantee this appraisal road is not detrimental. Rather than wasting all effort on fighting it, show them how to use it the right way.

  • Excellent article. This is a perfect example of why it’s important 360s be considered a process, not a technology.

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