Organizational Consultation XXVIII: Multi-Source Assessment (360-Degree Feedback)
At a more adventurous level, the scope of this assessment might be expanded to include other people inside and outside the organization. These are the so-called 360-Degree feedback processes. 360-Degree feedback programs may include other employees in the organization who have been impacted by the employee’s performance. These are often identified as internal customers of the employee who is being assessed. A 360-Degree feedback assessment might also include people outside the organization who are directly served by the employee or who benefit indirectly from his work. These are the external customers.
Frequently, customers are brought in not only to provide feedback but also help design the process:
Involving the customer in the design and feedback phases of a 360-Degree process can increase the strategic value of the feedback by (1) ensuring that the customer’s needs, expectations, and priorities are used to shape performance expectations and feedback criteria, (2) reinforcing with employees the important link between meeting customer requirements and ultimate competitive success, (3) focusing attention on building the skills and capabilities necessary to achieve competitive advantage in the eyes of the customer, (4) facilitating organizational learning about the customer and what it takes to meet customer needs, and (5) allowing for regular adjustments to performance expectations and development priorities base on changing customer requirements.
Typically, customers in the 360-Degree feedback process complete a rating scale that parallels the scale being filled out by employees. Customers might also be interviewed regarding the employee’s performance, or several customer focus groups might be convened to generate data about the employee’s performance. In some instances, members of the organization serve as surrogate customers and provide an assessment of their own experiences of being served by the employee who is being assessed.
The true 360-Degree feedback process involves all of these sources, though in a few cases, a multi-source assessment may be even more extensive, involving the solicitation of appraisals from members of the employee’s family, friends or former employers. This extensive review is typically oriented toward employee development (Function Two) rather than being used for personnel decisions (Function One). It is usually only available to the highest-level employees in an organization and is rarely mandatory. In yet other cases, the 360-Degree feedback process is conducted with a team rather than an individual employee. Data are gathered not only from the team members themselves, but also from customers, independent observers and raters, other teams in the organization, and the supervisor to whom the team reports. In many instances an entire organization has conducting a 360-Degree feedback process regarding its own operations.