Is 360 degree feedback objective or subjective?

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There is a debate running on the HRZone linkedIn Group at the moment sparked by a contributor looking to see if people have been able to use 360 feedback for recruitment.  I won't rehearse the whole discussion but there is an excellent contribution within it where a Jennifer Marsden of HR Experts says "Assessment splits down into four types, formative OR summative plus subjective OR objective. 360* reviewing is a formative assessment tool that is subjective."

The initial contributor to the discussion argues that 360 feedback is more objective than a c.v. 

Now that HR Zone debate is and should run on a basis of what delivers effective recruitment.  But, for me, the interesting point is that 360 feedback is often seen by others as delivering objective feedback whereas I see it as very subjective feedback.  Indeed it is the subjective nature of the feedback that makes it useful.  What 360 feedback does for me is it gives a range of subjective feedback rather than just one instance of subjective feedback from a line manager.  It is the breadth of feedback that is useful not that it somehow provides one objective truth.

When working with a recipient of 360 feedback this perspective is helpful as it helps them see why the report is often contradictory with different people proferring different feedback.  Where many people give congruent feedback then that carries some added strength and is likely to be worthy of attention. but it is no more objective.

I don't want to take this debate into too technical a point – but there is a critical underlying decision here of what 360 is and what it is not.  Discussing this at the start of a 360 degree feedback project is essential as reports, project communication, and debrief sessions will all be influenced by this belief debate.

Oh, for what its worth – I wouldn't use 360 feedback in recruitment!



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