Organizational Consultation XXIII: Multi-Source Assessment (360-Degree Feedback)
Though it is plagued with as many problems as the IFA model of performance appraisal, the multi-source method for appraising the performance of employees is currently receiving extensive attention in corporate life. By 1996, at least one quarter of the business organizations in the United States reported using a multi-source feedback process. Furthermore, “more than ninety percent of the Fortune 1000 companies [by 1996 used] some form of multi-source assessment system for at least developmental feedback.” The percentage has probably grown much larger. This enthusiasm is accompanied by an equally impressive controversy concerning the appropriate use and potential costs and benefits associated with this process. Often labeled 360-Degree feedback, multi-source assessment requires that several different people within (and sometimes outside) the organization assess an employee’s performance. Typically, the employee does a self-assessment, and this assessment is compared with assessments completed by other people who are familiar with this employee’s work.
An Expanded Perspective on Assessment
Multi-source assessment is about expanding the perspective of an employee regarding her own performance. It is also about broadening the base of an assessment and hopefully improving the validity of data gathered about an employee’s performance. This performance appraisal process begins with the self-assessment by the employee, along with the assessment by this employee’s supervisor. This is called 1-Degree feedback. Then the expansion begins. The most common types of expansion are up, down and sideways in the organization. The assessment by a colleague (sideways) is called 90-Degree feedback, while upward assessment by subordinates is labeled 180-Degree feedback.