Individual performance appraisal is a way of evaluating the level of an employee’s performance in workplace. In healthcare, the 360-degree feedback is the commonly used individual performance appraisal tool; also known as multisource assessment or multi-rater feedback because it can involve external organizations in some cases.
Any appraisal system should be “relevant and applicable to everyday work, acceptable and fair, and a mutual collaboration between workers and employers” (Duraisingam & Skinner, 2005, p. 2), and 360-degree feedback is not different; it meets all these requirements.
As the name suggests, 360-degree is an all-round system that encircles an employee with feedback coming from supervisors, peers, or subordinates. In some cases, individuals carry self-assessment while in other instances outside sources like customers are involved in the evaluation process. After getting the feedback from the involved parties, the evaluator uses this information to plan training, make administrative decisions, or make developments among others functions.
The 360-degree feedback tool operates in a simple manner. An organization is required to form small groups of workers within different departments to fill in essay questionnaires, a task that takes less than 20 minutes. After carrying out the survey, the results are sent to an external organization, which conducts an analysis of the information provided, and gives a feedback.
The external organization/company then sends the analyzed information back to the evaluating company after which it calls for employee meetings to discourse the report and come up with ways of improvement by either designing training programs or any other improvement strategies. This is relatively cheap method; nevertheless, it has both merits and demerits.
Merits and Demerits of this Tool
This method has several advantages. The 360-degree appraisal method provides a wider view of worker’s performance as compared to the other appraisal tools (Atkins & Wood, 2002, p. 875). This is true given the nature of its evaluation; there are many people involved in the assessment and this may run from top management to peers thus allowing all-rounded assessment “It is more comprehensive than other appraisal methods since they may only need the manager to do the evaluation” (Seifert, Yukl, & McDonald, 2003, p. 565).
This appraisal method increases the believability of the appraisal result. The many people used in this assessment reduce chances of unfair assessment. Biases are minimized for not all people can be biased towards an individual hence making it a credible tool. Therefore, some administration decisions like promotion are done on merit.
Given the fact that this tool involves one’s peers, the individual under evaluation can enhance his/her personal self-development. This factor emanates from the fact that an employee spends more time with his/her peers than his/her manager; therefore, any form of appraisal will be positively taken without the notion of bias.
In such situation, the employee under evaluation will most likely embark on a self-development program for he/she will know the results are true. Finally, through 360-degree feedback, employees get the chance to air their views and complain without following the normal bureaucratic complaint chain (Seifert, Yukl, & McDonald, 2003, p. 565). Employees can indicate their complaints when filling in the questionnaires and this eliminates normal and long procedures of airing complaints.
On the other side, there are also few demerits of this system. This is a time consuming exercise. The element of including numerous people in the process implies more time consumption thus eliminating the possibility of frequent appraisal exercises.
This system may yield cynicism and suspicion in workplace (Smither, London & Reilly 2005, p. 39). Management may fail to cooperate in the appraisal process hence undermining their authority. Staff members may become de-motivated if they do not get positive appraisals from their workmates.
This calls for an honest environment, which may be lacking in many institutions. This system poses the risk of revealing confidential information to other companies (Pfau & Kay, 2002, p. 56). This factor comes because of outsourcing the analysis stage of the evaluation process. The external company receives all the information about a given company and this is dangerous in confidential matters.
Effects on Employees
This personal performance management system draws mixed reactions from employees. These reactions are tied in the merits and demerits of the same. If well implemented, employees serve customers well and become gratified by their work.
Employees are able to know their performance quite well if they take 360-degree feedback results positively. If employees choose to focus on the positive side of the results then they can develop themselves quickly by working on their weak points as indicated in the results. Areas where an employee scores poorly are areas that call for attention and improvement and by so doing, personal performance improves significantly. Nevertheless, some employees will fail to admit the results and resort to complaining citing sabotage.
In this case, the effects will be debilitating and personal performance may drop significantly due to loss of focus and self-confidence among other issues associated with negativity. Therefore, the effects of this system on employee depend on how the employee in question views and responds to the results.
Effects on Departmental Performance
The effects of this appraisal method on departmental performance are similar to that of individual performance. This is true given the fact that individuals make departments and the outcome of any appraisal depends on how people in those departments view the results of the same.
However, these appraisal effects falls on the departmental heads feel they are responsible of running departmental matters. Therefore, any effect at departmental level will be determined by the perception of departmental heads towards the 360-degree appraisal system.
According to Full Circle Feedback, (2004), the entire department will then ‘react’ to the head’s perception; if it is positive, it will build the department but if it is negative it will call for drastic measures causing tension within the involved department in most cases.
Improvement Suggestions/ Conclusion
Taking into consideration the challenges facing this system, people may consider using technology to avoid the issue of time wastage. Designers of questionnaires may decide to do it online.
Moreover, institutions should consider encouraging individuals not to personalize appraisal results but to work on them for they are honest. However, this calls for honesty and openness in the whole process. The 360-degree feedback system is an all-round appraisal system involving several individuals who fill questionnaires concerning different issues.
After filling in the questionnaires, they are sent to an external company for analysis before coming back to the evaluating company for discussion. This system has both merits and demerits; like offering wider view of employees performance and time consumption respectively; nevertheless, incorporating technology and promoting honesty could solve some shortcomings of this system.
Atkins, P., & Wood, R. (2002). Self-Versus Others’ Ratings as Predictors Of Assessment Center Ratings: Validation Evidence for 360-Degree Feedback Programs. Personnel Psychology, 55(4), 871–904
Duraisingam, V. & Skinner, N. (2005). Performance Appraisal. In N. Skinner, A.M. Roche, J. O’connor, Y. Pollard, & C. Todd (Eds.), Workforce Development Tips (Theory into Practice Strategies): A Resource Kit for the Alcohol and Other Drugs Field. National Centre for Education and Training on Addiction (Nceta), Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia
Full Circle Feedback. (2004). 360 Degree Feedback. Retrieved June 8, 2010. From,
Pfau, B. & Kay, I. (2002). Does 360-Degree Feedback Negatively Affect Company Performance? Studies Show That 360-Degree Feedback May Do More Harm Than Good. What is The Problem? Hrmagazine, Jun 2002. 47, 6; 54–60.
Seifert, C., Yukl, G., & McDonald, R. (2003). Effects of Multisource Feedback And A Feedback Facilitator on the Influence of Behavior of Managers Toward Subordinates. Journal of Applied Psychology, 88(3), 561–569.
Smither, J.W., London, M., And Reilly, R.R. (2005). Does Performance Improve Following Multisource Feedback? A Theoretical Model, Meta-Analysis And Review of Empirical Findings. Personnel Psychology, 58, 33–66