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Is Crowdsourcing the new 360 Degree Feedback?

27th Jan 2013
Senior Consultant & CEO Track Surveys
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In this article from HBR online, the writer suggests replacing traditional performance appraisal with 'crowdsourced' feedback.

Crowdsource your performance reviews

Crowdsourcing is about using the 'wisdom of crowds' to make decisions, the idea being that a larger population will provide better data, create better products and produce better results that a small group or an individual.  So crowdsourced feedback is open, unstructured feedback from many, rather than a few, colleagues.

By its very nature, crowdsourced feedback is more immediate and frequent than the more familiar 360 degree feedback process used in most organisations.

In crowdsourced feedback, colleagues are able, at any time, and using an online tool, to provide immediate feedback to their colleague on something they have seen them doing or saying. It can be anonymous, although in keeping with the 'social networking' concept, it often does identify the feedback provider. 

Because of its immediacy, crowdsourced feedback can be  a more accurate feedback record than 360, which can sometimes suffer from people's tendency to remember only recent activities and behaviours.

On the minus side, its lack of structure means that it's difficult to analyse the feedback in a way that provides a clear set of themes to the appraisee: colleagues may comment randomly on many different behaviours and activities, and it may be difficult to connect the feedback together in any meaningful way.    And just because lots of people have contributed, it doesn't mean that the feedback is necessarily more valid - that's more a factor of whether those giving feedback are able to give really constructive and useful feedback, not just general encouragement.

And of course there is the issues of negative feedback being instantly available to the appraisee without the 'safety net' that a managed 360 process usually provides.

Therefore it seemsthat crowdsourced feedback is a brilliant tool for sharing knowledge and ideas between teams, for giving people credit for their actions, and for creating a culture of open feedback in the organisation. 

It's probably less useful than 360 feedback when you need a more robust assessment of competencies or behaviours, for instance when you're developing specific leadership or management capabilities in the organisation.  Structured 360 would also seem to be more appropriate when you want to consistently measure and compare skills and behaviours across groups or teams. And individual development coaching needs a more in depth and thoughtful feedback process than crowdsourcing can potentially provide.

Would you ever consider using crowdsourced feedback in your organisation?


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Dave Evans, Managing Director at accessplanit
By Dave Evans
01st Feb 2013 17:51

You raise some very interesting points in this piece. Thanks for sharing. Although some may say it requires leaders to have less of a decision making role, democracy in professional environments is always welcomed by most. 

Dave Evans, commercial director at accessplanit, specialising in learning management system and training administration software

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Jo Ayoubi of Track Surveys: Building Feedback Culture for a Better Workplace
By Jo Ayoubi
19th Feb 2013 15:16


Thanks David, it's a great idea and brilliant for increasing communication but organisations will have difficulty giving more control to employees. They will also worry about any potential legal issues that might arise from using this type of open feedback approach as part of the performance appraisal system.

These things normally involve some kind of compromise, but in theory getting feedback from everyone you work with - on a regular basis - has got to be a good thing.


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