The researcher has highlighted the research question, aim and objectives, before the specific introduction to give a clear picture of the dissertation.
1.1 Research Question
To ascertain whether 360 degree feedback could prove to be a promising appraisal mechanism for the staff motivation and development in the current economic crisis and funding cuts?
1.2 Aims and Objectives
The research sets out to explore the relevance of 360 degree feedback appraisal system in contrast to the traditional appraisal process currently functional in the library and technical services department of the University.
- What is 360 degree feedback and in what ways it could prove to be an efficient tool for continuous improvement, development?
- What is the current functional appraisal technique in the universities library/technical services department and the benefits of introducing 360 degree feedback as an appraisal tool?
- To analyse the functions/pitfalls of introducing 360 degree feedback within the library/technical services department of the University, with an emphasis on its use for the continuous improvement, development and motivation of the staff.
1.3 Specific Introduction
“University staffs tend to report high levels of stress at the best of times, and academic staffs usually rate their experience of stress as higher than other staff groups in the higher education setting,”
(Easton and Laar, 2010).
The current funding cuts by the government and the global financial crisis demands a major change in the way various processes function across universities in United Kingdom (UK). The current study is an endeavour to address the numerous limitations in between the traditional appraisal system and the 360 degree tool. The researcher aims to expand the literature that previously exists on the 360 degree appraisal system and to analyse why the gap exists in between both the processes.
The researcher’s primary focus is on the staff motivation and personal development as the key factors that need consideration within the University of Huddersfield. The researcher has given a thorough critical analysis of the 360 degree feedback appraisal system through the review of the academic literature and has focussed on identifying whether or not there are any benefits of using 360 degree feedback over the traditional appraisal systems.
As stated by Mason, et.al, (2009), multi-rater feedback is by far the best tool for staff development and monitoring effective continuous development in any organisation. Borman, (1997); Javitch and Burke, (1995); Yammarino and Atwater, (1997) state that one of the elementary assumptions of the 360 degree feedback approach is about the employees specific workplace behaviour and when compared to an individual’s perception, can act like a catalyst and prove extremely beneficial for enhancing the employees self awareness, self development, motivation and subsequent behavioural change (Church, 2000).
Concurrently, Cardy, et.al., (2011), critic that although the evaluation from 360 degree feedback includes feedback from all directions – managers, colleagues, customer’s and the responses from all the point of views propose immense probability for improvement, insight and learning, the feedback from these multiple source seldom agree. On the rating scale, colleagues may rate some characteristics higher while managers may rate those very characteristics lower and likewise.
The whole prototype of 360 degree feedback interpretation and evaluations can draw a perplexing image of the feedback which will hardly be of any significance to the individual in improving their performance. The underlying rationale of this study has been to evaluate the pros and cons of the traditional appraisal system currently functional in the university, and to analyse by what extent the human resource department, can benefit by introducing 360 degree feedback as their employee appraisal mechanism, especially in relation to the motivation and development of staff.
1.4 Research Plan
The below figure (Figure.1) gives a diagrammatic representation of the research plan. The researcher has used the mind mapping technique to construct the research plan (Buzan and Buzan, 2007), which gives a clear picture of how the research task is carried forward as per the time line set by the researcher. The research plan has helped the researcher to carefully pre-plan the actions that needed to be taken during the research.
In the following chapters the researcher has critically analysed the 360 degree feedback tool. The literature review covers the latest developments in the 360 degree feedback mechanism along with a thorough comparison with the traditional appraisal system currently functional in the library and technical services department of the University of Huddersfield. The research methodology chapter gives a thorough account of the research design chosen by the researcher, the various techniques used for the research, discussions about the semi structured interviews and questionnaires, followed by the analysis of data, research findings and conclusion.
2. Literature Review
General Literature Review
“The way 360 degree feedback is done seems to be critical to success…feedback interventions depend for their effectiveness on the extent to which they augment task motivation and encourage learning, although there are moderating variables such as the nature of the task,” (Kluger and De Nisi, 1996; Tyson and Ward, 2004).
360 degree feedback is an appraisal system used in strategic Human Resource management (HRM) as an intervention and an evaluation technique for personal development of the employees (Cardy, et.al, 2011; Fleenor, 2008; Tyson and Ward, 2004). It has also been referred as the ‘‘vital sign of the modern organization” (Fortunato and Smith, 2008; Church and Waclawski, 1998). In this process the employees receive confidential, anonymous response from colleagues, managers, customer’s, family members etc (Figure 2).
About three to five people fill out an anonymous online feedback form that asks questions covering a broad range of workplace competencies. The feedback forms include questions that are measured on a rating scale and also ask raters to provide written comments. The person receiving feedback also fills out a self-rating survey that includes the same survey questions that others receive in their forms. Various authors have outlined that 360 degree feedback is quite effective as it is a non bias process which makes performance management a more objective and fair process (CIPD, 2009), in contrast to the traditional appraisal processes where in a lot depends upon how the appraiser perceives the individual, which can be bias and less transparent. The 360 degree feedback has been used in many organisations for the development of staff members, and the gap in the two appraisal systems is due to the bias nature of the traditional appraisal mechanisms over the transparency of the 360 degree feedback process. While traditional measures of appraisal systems date back to decades, current literature highlights the multiple developments in the field of appraisal techniques (Dalton, 1996). One among the later developments in the field is the 360 degree feedback appraisal mechanism. This research has explored the relevance of 360 degree feedback appraisal system in contrast to the traditional appraisal process currently functional in the University. Specifically, the author has examined how employee motivation and personal development are affected by 360 degree feedback. The aim throughout the research has been on comparing the traditional appraisal system functional in the University of Huddersfield (UOH) with the 360 degree feedback methodology by exploring how it could contribute in the personal development and motivation of the staff members within the University of Huddersfield.
Meyer, (1991); and Folger and Cropanzano, (1998), disagree that evaluations of traditional appraisals are often positively inflated as usually the appraisers are not trained to give negative feedback, and if this is the manner in which the appraisals are conducted then the effectiveness of the performance management process will significantly be undermined (Guangrong, 2010; McCarthy and Garavan, 2001). Therefore one could state that if the tool if used accurately it can provide a non bias and more transparent appraisal system, which may decrease the possibilities of employee dissatisfaction in contrast to the traditional appraisal mechanism, and can emerge as an excellent motivational factor for the employees. As a matter of fact ‘360 degree feedback can significantly enhance the performance management process’ (Staff360, 2011; CIPD, 2009). However Fleenor, (2008) and Vinson, M.N. (1996) disregards the facts about the effectiveness of 360 degree feedback as people may use their role as a feedback provider as an opportunity to criticize others behaviour at work. According to Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, (2009) if the 360 degree tool is perceived to be in any way threatening, it can seriously damage both commitment and performance.
“It is important that people receive regular honest feedback on their performance. They should understand how their role contributes to overall organisational aims and objectives and how they are performing against agreed criteria. 360 degree feedback can enhance this process by widening the scope for information from the line manager relationship to embrace a wider range of opinion. However, it is important that this is carried out sensitively and fairly,” (Staff360, 2011).
Lepsinger and Lucia, (2009); Fleenor, (2008); Tyson and Ward, (2004) comprehend that there are direct evidences of employees performance improvements from 360 degree feedback appraisal mechanism. Various authors’ research prove that 360 degree feedback also results in improved customer satisfaction, improved management skills and these improvements motivate the employees to work on their identified strengths and use them for advancement in their carrier (Edwards and Ewens, 1996; Hazucha et al. 1993). Hence, the current study is an attempt to deal with the several limitations, and develop the literature that previously exists on the 360 degree appraisal system and to analyse why does the gap exist in between the traditional appraisal system and the 360 degree tool.
“The University of Huddersfield has charitable status as an exempt charity under Schedule 2 to the Charities Act 1993 (amended by the Charities Act 2006). It is therefore subject to charity legislation but is not required to register with the Charity Commission and is not regulated by it. As an exempt charity, the University does not have a registered charity number. In 2010, the Higher Education Funding Council for England took over as the ‘Principal Regulator’ for the institutions it funds and now has a general duty to promote compliance with charity legislation. This does not affect the University’s status as an exempt charity,” (hud.ac.uk, 2011).
The UK government’s educational funding slice and the recession hit economy demands a drastic alteration in the way various processes function across the Universities in UK. However, since the 360 degree feedback is a tool primarily developed and used mainly in the private sector organisations, there is a challenge in its implementation in a public sector or a third sector organisation and as in this case, the University of Huddersfield which is a registered for charity organisation. Brutus et al., (1998) support that the reactions to performance measurements may vary between public and private sector organizations—public sector managers underestimate their achievements compared with private sector managers, for example. Hence, based on these findings one could ascertain that there is a greater need for motivation and development of employees in the public/third sector organisations, and the 360 degree performance appraisal system is an HR’s ideal response to combat such issues. As suggested and supported by Lepsinger and Lucia, (2009); Borman, W.C. (1997); Javitch, M.J. and Burke, W.W., (1995); Yammarino, F.J. and Atwater, L.E. (1997), one of the elementary assumptions of the 360 degree feedback approach is about the employees specific workplace behaviour and when compared to an individual’s perceptions, can act like a catalyst and prove extremely beneficial for enhancing the employees self awareness, self development, motivation and subsequent behavioural change (Church, 1995, 2000).
The researcher has explored the 360 degree appraisals methodology that has become popular in human resource circles over the last few years, wherein the employee’s performance is assessed by their colleagues, managers and others and has analysed its benefits over the traditional appraisal processes. Brown, (2006) criticizes that while the 360 degree process seems like an interesting idea; it involves more meetings and many forms to be filled out in comparison to the traditional appraisal systems. However Maylett, (2009) and Wiley, (1993) supports that 360 degree feedback can prove to be a good instrument for the staff development as this process gives an individual in-depth performance feedback and hence based on the findings the employee can work on their personal development, by getting trained in the area where there weakness lies and the time lost in filling the extra forms are worth the effort. Arguments from different authors suggest that the feedback systems have always been into existence in the organisations in some form or the other, but of-late has been developed and given a name ‘360 degree feedback’ and according to Garavan, et al., (1997) 360 degree feedback process is like an ‘old wine in new a bottle’. It is also known as multi-rater feedback and is an appraisal process in which the individual is assessed by themselves, colleagues, managers, stakeholders, customers, etc. The 360 degree instrument can be used to achieve various goals and one aspect of it is the need of continuous measurement of improvement efforts, development of staff and their motivation. Ward, (1997) defined 360 degree feedback as ‘the systematic collection and feedback of performance data on an individual or group derived from a number of the stakeholders in their performance’.
”Because of their shorter expected tenure, women are less likely to be as motivated by the deferred rewards of career ladders. As a consequence, she argues that employers with large shares of women have historically used shorter-term rewards and undertaken more routine and extensive monitoring,” (Brown and Heywood, 2005; Goldin, 1986).
Various authors criticize that traditional appraisal techniques are not that effective in case of female employees and there are many incidences of gender bias in appraisals. Renowned authors, Brown and Heywood, (2005) support that ‘a major and recurrent criticism of the traditional appraisal process is its openness to subjective and discriminatory outcome’. The primary goal of this research has been to expand beyond the current literature by analysing the data and results to create suggested policies for the University of Huddersfield, to implement pertaining to the improvement of staff morale and productivity. Furthermore, on reviewing the growing body of literature and the research on 360 degree feedback, the researcher was able to identify the usefulness of having 360 degree feedback over the traditional appraisal processes in the University of Huddersfield; the study has also given ample scope to the researcher in developing more insightful questions. The author has identified the various factors on which the success of 360 degree feedback mechanism depends; the literature supports that more effectively the 360 degree instrument is implemented the better are the results. Newbold, (2008) highlights that that if the tool is implemented accurately, with the proper training and the correct resources, a 360-degree appraisal could prove to be a powerful and positive addition to any performance-management system. The 360 degree feedback has been used in many organisations for the development of staff members, and the gap in the two appraisal systems is due to the bias nature of the traditional appraisal mechanisms over the transparency of the 360 degree feedback process. Various authors have outlined that 360 degree feedback is quite effective as it is a non bias process which makes performance management a more objective and fair process (CIPD, 2009), in contrast to the traditional appraisal processes where in a lot depends upon how the appraiser perceives the individual, which can be bias and less transparent. Maylett, (2009); Meyer, (1991); Folger and Cropanzano, (1998), argue that evaluations of traditional appraisals are often positively inflated as usually the appraisers are not trained to give negative feedback, and if this is the manner in which the appraisals are conducted then the effectiveness of the performance management process will significantly be undermined (McCarthy and Garavan, 2001). Therefore one could state that if the tool if used accurately it can provide a non-bias and more transparent appraisal system, which may decrease the possibilities of employee dissatisfaction in contrast with the traditional appraisal mechanism, and can emerge as an excellent motivational factor for the employees. However Vinson, (1996) disregards the facts about the effectiveness of 360 degree feedback as people may use their role as a feedback provider as an opportunity to criticize others behaviour at work.
“Multirater feedback has several significant advantages over single-rater assessment. Rather than relying on the perceptions of one individual, multirater feedback takes into account multiple perspectives. Those working with the employee, along with the supervisor, are generally able to provide a more comprehensive picture of an employee’s behaviour or performance. This is especially critical when the supervisor does not have the opportunity to observe all areas of an employee’s performance,” (Maylett, 2009).
Maylett, (2009); DeNisi and Kluger, (2000) support that ‘360-degree feedback for decision making affects the actual ratings given to the individual being appraised and these systems should be primarily, if not exclusively for developmental purposes (Figure 3).’ Furthermore, the conditions in which 360 degree feedback work in an organisation largely depends upon the perception of 360 degree feedback’s potential to enhance human resource management system of the organisation.
As suggested by Lepsinger and Lucia, (2009) factors like culture (that supports openness and honest feedback) and systems (that minimise irrational responses and have built in ways to identify people whose ratings are untrustworthy) assess if the organisation is ready to implement the 360 degree feedback process, and the researcher has explored the possibilities of its implication in the University of Huddersfield, based on these grounds.
Specific Literature Review
This section of the dissertation takes a specific critical standpoint on whether 360° feedback as strategic Human Resource tool have a profound strategic justification in the University of Huddersfield (UOH) which is a registered for charity organisation (hud.ac.uk, 2011) . The researcher has given a critical account of the 360-degree feedback tool, as an option for performance development appraisals and for motivating the staff in performing better, in the registered for charity organisations. Currently, the 360 degree tool is not very common in the third sector, registered for charity organisations and the investigation could be a scope for a research elsewhere. According to Berk, (2009); and Fortunato and Smith, (2008) 360 degree feedback is an appraisal tool used by approximately 90% of the Fortune 1000 organisations (Fortunato and Smith, 2008; Bracken et al., 2001; Tornow and Tornow, 2001; Edwards and Ewen, 1996, 2001). Cardy, Leonard and Newman, (2011) believe that the increased popularity of the 360 degree feedback is unquestionable and that organisations have spent innumerable amount of funds in implementing the feedback system. However, Cardy et.al, (2011) argue that many Fortune 1000 companies have implemented the 360 degree feedback without having considered the purpose, which is not very advisable, as 360 degree feedback is at its best for staff development, motivation, and for administrative use such as in determining performance related salary. The utility of 360 degree feedback, mainly upward feedback, may be constricted when appraisers provide erroneous ratings (Bernardin and Tyler, 2001; Bracken and Timmreck, 2001). Kuvas, (2006) highlighted that the relationship between the performance appraisal and work is interrelated to the employee’s inherent motivation at work. For an employee to perform in an organisation, job satisfaction and motivation to execute an activity for itself, in order to experience the pleasure and satisfaction inherent in the activity (Kuvas, 2006; Deci et al., 1989; Vallerand, 1997). Cardy et.al. (2011) highlight that when feedback received from too many sources are used for the estimation of an employee’s performance the diverse sources of feedback seldom agree in their evaluation, although a broader understanding can be attained.
Analysis and criticism of traditional appraisal system in contrast with 360 degree feedback
The primary principle of appraisals is to put forward an opinion or feedback on how the employee performs in their current job role and to discuss further what could be done to facilitate the employee to perform the expected job, if they are not performing as per the objectives. Prowse and Prowse, (2009); and Randell, (1994) argue that appraisals are the systematic evaluation of an individual’s performance linked to the organisations culture and behaviour. The various departments in the University of Huddersfield (UOH) use different appraisal mechanisms. The computing and library services, technical services and other administration departments of the University use a competencies framework for the staff appraisals.
The appraisals are conducted half yearly (every 6 months) to follow up on the employees personal development plan. There are three documents that are usually taken in a one on one appraisal, the filled employee preparation form, the filled up competencies framework and the competency framework – Role Profiling document which provides a brief idea of which level each role is at (Figure. 4). After the discussion the appraising line manager fills up the appraisal record which both the appraiser and the ‘appraisee’ sign and get a copy. This process is followed up every 6 months (Please refer to appendix 1 for appraisal documents). The purpose of the process is to facilitate the employees to develop in a systematic way so that university as an organisation functions in the best possible way utilising the optimum talent identified. Various authors support that the appraisal system also offers an opportunity to put across and discuss the employee’s achievements over the past year with their managers to confer their performance in general and make plans for the year ahead. The performance appraisals are potentially a solution for the organisations to get the most out of their employees (Prowse and Prowse, 2009; Armstrong and Baron, 2005). The scheme currently functional in the university is highly participative, with a huge emphasis on appraisal ‘self’ and making sure that the staffs have a key responsibility in determining their own improvement and personal development (UOH, 2011).
“In order for an appraisal system to be absolutely flawless and effective a number of elements have to be in place, as in the understanding and agreement on performance goals, a process for collecting ongoing performance data and a framework of productive periodic review and formal appraisal discussions,” (Lepsinger and Lucia, 2009).
Although the current appraisals seemed to have worked fine till date, the literature provides evidence of the flaws in the traditional appraisal processes. Lepsinger and Lucia, (2009); and Lee, (2006) highlight that disagreement on set performance criterion, the line manager’s inability as an appraiser to process the bulk of information received and the employee’s need, while being appraised to defend their self image, are the key factors which act as a barrier in the smooth functioning of the traditional appraisals. It could be argued that the two parties involved in a traditional appraisal usually do not agree with the performance criteria set and it is highly likely that a difference of opinion may crop up between the appraisers and appraisee on what it takes to perform the job effectively. Prowse and Prowse, (2009); and Lee, (2006) argue that that the appraisal practice cannot be executed successfully unless the appraiser has the right interpersonal skills to provide the feedback to the appraisee. If the appraiser and appraisee do not come to a conclusion on what can mutually be agreed as a requirement for excellent performance, then it is quite evident that both may end up with diverse conclusions about the staff’s effectiveness in meeting the set performance criteria. Furthermore, rather than reassessing the actions necessary for a thriving performance at work, if the traditional appraisal attempts to achieve a specific target or result, it hardly does anything to seize the gap in perception or help the appraisee in comprehending what amendments are vital for their advancement and development in performing the job (Lepsinger and Lucia, 2009).
“Traditional performance appraisal systems are flawed in their design, implementation and use. Supervisors seldom are effective in using such systems because the assumptions that guide how we use performance appraisals are unsubstantiated,” (Lee, 2006).
Lepsinger and Lucia, (2009); and Lee, (2006) solicit to discontinue the use of the traditional performance appraisal methods and state that the traditional appraisal processes that rely upon ratings should be discontinued and advanced performance management mechanisms should be adopted which are designed to produce ample quantitative and qualitative information. The line manager’s inability as an appraiser to process the mass information received is another major issue in the traditional appraisal processes. The though process behind an effective appraisal is very complex. Experts break down the intricate process for collecting and processing information used in the appraisal process (Lepsinger and Lucia, 2009).
Merits of introducing 360 degree feedback as an appraisal tool in the University of Huddersfield
“Critiques of appraisal have continued as appraisals have increased in use and scope across sectors and occupations. The dominant critique is the management framework using appraisal as an “orthodox” technique that seeks to remedy the weakness and propose of appraisals as a system to develop performance,” (Bach, 2005).
As discussed previously The University of Huddersfield uses competencies framework for the staff appraisals. The competencies framework is a description of the relevant behaviours needed to be competent in the job roles and support the organisation in remaining an exceptional University. The competencies appraisal framework boasts to benefit the employees by providing precision of performance expectations, uniformity and fairness throughout the appraisal, allowing superior identification of individual development requirements and giving a clearer picture of required skills to progress in the career path. In turn the university benefits by a lucid method of continuous development and performance management, enabling the identification and prioritisation of improvement needs to facilitate the improved stipulation of the learning and development courses or other areas of development (Source: HR, 2011).
“360 degree feedback can make a positive contribution to the appraisal system. It can help to gain agreement on expectations, by using a broader range of information, and by facilitating open discussion,” (Lepsinger and Lucia, 2009).
There are numerous benefits of introducing 360 degree feedback in the University of Huddersfield. As per the discussions with the human resource staff and the appraising managers it can be argued that the current appraisal system functional in the university is not flawless. The bias nature of the one on one performance appraisals is prone to disputes among the appraising manager and the employees, and although the university has a procedure in place to resolve such conflicts it could still benefit by introducing 360 degree feedback along with the traditional appraisal mechanism to rule out any such possibilities of conflicts.
Summary of the Literature Review
To sum it could be concluded that the 360 degree feedback has a proven record as an excellent tool for staff development and motivation. The researcher has observed that the tool has become increasingly accepted in the organisations worldwide ever since the masses have discovered its value. Since the academic literature supports the research question proposed by the researchers.
3. Research Methodology
In this section of the research paper the researcher has explained the various types of research methods and techniques available, and used by the researcher, followed by a justification of why these methods have been considered appropriate for this dissertation and why the other methods have not been considered. The process of data collection and data analysis has also been described in this chapter.
3.1 Research Design
The researcher throws light on the research design and gives a general idea of how the researcher has gone about addressing the research question and description of its approach with rationality, followed by an account of the objectives derived from this research, gives an account of the sources which has been used in this research to collect data, and a description of the ethical considerations (Creswell, et.al. 2011; Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill, 2009). To quote Saunders, et.al, (2009):
“Combining both quantitative and qualitative analysis ‘the researcher may possibly use the quantitative data and ‘qualitize’ it that is converting it into narrative that can be analysed qualitatively. Alternately, the researcher may ‘quantitise’ the qualitative data, converting it into numerical codes so that it could be analysed statistically,” (Saunders et.al, 2009).
The author has carried out the research by conducting semi-structured interviews followed by a brief experimental introduction of 360 degree feedback process, and the analysis of the results were done by the careful examination of combination of the mixed methods. Various authors justify that there are diverse rationales for research; however practitioner researchers are faced with queries that demand versatile responses (Creswell, 2003)
Hence, a mixed methods approach that uses qualitative and quantitative research can be considered as appropriate for several practitioner researchers as both the diverse methods can complement each other (Fox, et.al, 2007). It was interesting and useful to look at this topic as in the present economic climate where a major chunk of the universities funds have been cut and where there are rumours about redundancies and reduction in the management cost, the staff members motivational levels are undeniably at the lowest. The need for constant motivation and retention of the staff within the university, with the help of staff development opportunities, better performance management tools and a change in the way the university has been functioning so far, was definitely an important requirement for the Human Resources Department of the university and hence an interesting and useful area of study for the researcher. The basic questions that this research has set out to explore is the relevance of 360 degree feedback appraisal system in contrast to the traditional appraisal process currently functional in the library and technical services department of the University. With a thorough critical analysis of the functions/pitfalls of 360 degree feedback mechanism with an emphasis on how it could prove to be an efficient tool for continuous improvement, development and motivation of the staff members within the library/technical services department of the University of Huddersfield. The findings of the literature review have determined that using one method of data collection would not be sufficient to address the research question hence the researcher has used semi structured interviews and the responses from questionnaires have been used to accolade the findings of the interview.
“Mixed model research is the name given to a category of quantitative statistical techniques that take into account both fixed and random effects during quantitative data analysis and parameter estimation,” (Creswell, et.al., 2011; Cobb, 1998).
Mixed-model research technique has been used by the researcher in this research. This research technique amalgamates the results received from conducting interviews (qualitative) and the questionnaires (quantitative) (Figure .6).
Furthermore, the study has been based on an analysis of the literature and gathered data through a series of interviews and questionnaires with the university staff members. It sought the perceptions and experiences of management and participants in relation to the implementation process and the outcomes of the scheme. Noted authors Tashakkori and Teddlie, (2003) state that pragmatism is the most critical element of the epistemology, ontology and axiology and it is the way the researcher chooses his research questions i.e. one question may be more suitable to answer than the other. ‘Epistemology concerns what constitute acceptable knowledge in the field of study' (Saunders et al., 2009, pp. 112). Besides, if the research questions are not stated clearly then either a positivistic or interpretivistic philosophy could be accepted (Bryman and Bell, 2007), this agrees the pragmatist view that it is rightly possible to work with variations in researcher's epistemology, ontology and axiology. Thus, mixed methods both quantitative and qualitative were chosen by the researcher, and are possibly highly appropriate (Saunders et al., 2009). The qualitative research has provided a thorough understanding of the literature and interpretation of a new paradigm, for analysing the application of the 360 degree appraisal process (Antonius, 2003), a paradigm is a way of analyzing social phenomenon from which specific perceptive of the phenomena can be achieved with the help of explanations (Saunders et al., 2009), where as the quantitative research approach has helped to analyse the truth as it is about the factual reasons of success or failure of 360 degree appraisal systems after the brief experimental implementation of the tool in the university. The purpose of collecting and analysing the data through semi structured interviews was to study the various responses received from the staff members interviewed. The use of 360 degree feedback questionnaires and the brief experimental implementation were to compliment the finding of the research and to address the proposed research question of exploring whether 360 degree feedback could prove to be a promising appraisal mechanism for the staff motivation and development in the current economic crisis and funding cuts?
3.2 Research Strategy
The researcher is a part-time staff in the technical services department of the university and hence the strategy of the research is that of a practitioner-researcher (Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill, 2009) and mixed method of research is adopted for addressing the research question. The main purpose of this exploratory research is the construction of an inductively driven overview of the research situation (Stebbins, 2001). While largely in this exploratory study qualitative data collected via semi-structured interview is used, quantitative data extracted from questionnaires has also been used to support the findings of the qualitative data (Stebbins, 2001). To quote Fox, et.al, (2007) and Morgan, (1998) outlined the significance of using both qualitative and quantitative methods in a research:
“Quantitative and qualitative methods are combined as a way to cross-validate or ‘triangulate' results on the same research question by using multiple methods. Combining qualitative and quantitative research is seen as a complementary process,” (Fox, et.al, 2007; Morgan, 1998).
The researcher has used deductive research methodology for the study (Figure.7). The researcher's interview with the human resource staff and few employees, were the rationale behind the chosen topic and further in-depth unstructured interviews with the senior HR professionals in the University of Huddersfield and the review of the sample appraisal documentation has given the researcher a more illustrative aspects of the design and the current process functional (refer to appendices for detail). The purpose of the unstructured interview was to get some initial issues to the exterior so that the researcher could find out what variables needed further in-depth analysis (Sekaran, 2003).
The deductive research is a theoretical consideration related to the domain and by deducing it an assumption is generated which is subject to empirical scrutiny. The assumption is a specific expectation deducted from the more general theory (Engel and Schutt, 2005). After deducting the theory and assumptions the researcher has prepared a process of gathering data which has lead to the findings of the research. The researcher cannot adopt an inductive research strategy as its movement involves exactly the opposite where a proposition is first developed and then a theory aspect is taken into consideration.
3.3 Review of Research Data Collection Methods
The data collection methods chosen by the researcher are best suited for the research as various authors support that using mix methods for collecting data is an effective mechanism to be chosen for exploratory research (Saunders et.al. 2009; Creswell, et.al, 2011). The reason why the researcher has opted for mixed-model method of research is because it promotes standardisation of both the asking of questions and the recording of answers (Bryman and Bell, 2007). The researcher has carried out the research by carefully preparing 360 degree questionnaires, conducting semi-structured and unstructured interviews and by examination of the combination of primary and secondary data. The objective of semi-structured interview was to concentrate on factors that are surfaced during the unstructured interview which is relevant to the problem.
3.3.1. Semi-Structured Interviews - Qualitative Data
Saunders, et.al, (2009) support the use of qualitative interviews, as it is a highly used data collection technique for business research, to quote:
“With business and management research secondary data are used most frequently as part of a case study or survey research strategies, including archival research, action research and experimental research... Qualitative Data is used predominantly as a synonym for any data collection technique (such as an interview) or data analysis procedure (such as categorising data) that generates or uses non-numeric data,” (Saunders et.al., 2009).
For qualitative data collection the researcher has emphasised on semi-structured interviews which is a prominent part of the quantitative research methodology. Furthermore, the use of semi-structured interview along with the open ended questions was used as the chief methods of data collection in this research.
3.3.2.Questionnaires - Quantitative Data
The researcher has collected the primary data from the 360 degree feedback questionnaires and the data from it has been used specifically to address the research question, which was to ascertain whether 360 degree feedback could prove to be a promising appraisal mechanism for the staff motivation and development in the current economic crisis and funding cuts.
“Quantitative is predominantly used as a synonym for any data collection technique, such as questionnaire or data analysis procedure such as graphs or statistics that generates or uses numerical data,” (Saunders et.al, 2009).
A detailed description of the research conducted and design of the questionnaire is given in the following section. After the general unstructured interviews with the staff members from various departments of the university and noting down the observation, the researcher carried out a series of pilot tests of the specifically prepared 360 degree questionnaires which was adapted from the continuous improvement questionnaires by Peter Honey, (1997). The participants of the 360 degree feedback experimental implementation were the staff members from library and technical services departments, holding assorted responsibilities. The researcher initially tested the questionnaires by requesting his colleagues to participate in the pilot test and then based on the responses and flaws the questionnaires were tweaked and modified and rolled out. Honey and Mumford's, (1997) 360 degree feedback continuous improvement questionnaires were adopted and used by the researcher considering the effectiveness of the questions and the guided key provided for the ease of data interpretation. The researcher has used the Honey and Mumford's questionnaire as it is, with three additional fields for the name of employee, what motivates them at work and what their talent is, to improve the effectiveness of the 360 degree appraisal report. The questionnaires were fed on to the free survey tool builder at ‘www.kwiksurveys.com', as the website was easy to use over its competitors and having an online questionnaire was considered more easily manageable than the paper questionnaire. The drawback of paper questionnaire is that it is a hassle to store them and confidentiality may hamper if the questionnaires were lost (Sekaran, 2003). The data collected from both the filled questionnaires have been used to analyse the effectiveness of the 360 degree tool by the researcher. The continuous improvement questionnaires has been used by across many organisations and has been used for this research to ascertain the competencies and expectations of the staff members in the University of Huddersfield, the differences in specific behaviours and requirements across all levels of staff in the university, identification of position-specific competencies (Bryman and Bell, 2007). The latter part of both the questionnaires consist of questions that are to be manually fed in by the staff about what motivates or does not motivate them at work and what is their talent. The questionnaire selected by the researcher contains simple questions with no controversial questions in it and the factors that have been considered before selecting the right questionnaire were factors like; the organizational needs, management philosophy, and the goals that the researcher needs to achieve (Lepsinger and Lucia, 2009). The questionnaire also contains the key questions that the staff members need to answer in view of self development and motivation. The questionnaires have congregated the feedback from the staff members in the form of numerical or quantitative ratings on specific behaviours and personal characteristics.
The staff members of various departments i.e. the technical services and the computing and library services are the subjective research population. The individuals chosen were from the two department of the university and this is also in order to collect a variety of feedback from the staff performing assorted tasks within the organisation. The members have been carefully chosen keeping into consideration that the other members know each other either directly or indirectly. Lepsinger and Lucia, (2009) suggest that choosing the different individuals from different functions or unit of the business provides the individual feedback from different perspectives and the quality of feedback is unique.
3.4 Pilot Test
The pilot tests were performed in order to test the effectiveness of the questionnaire adopted by the researcher. The significance of pilot testing the questionnaire before selecting the final one for collecting the data was to eliminate any errors for instance, clear instructions to fill the questionnaire accurately, a brief overview of what the 360 degree feedback process is, and to test the effectiveness of the questions in the questionnaire for deriving the right kind of data required to address the research question (Schwab, 2005).
3.4.1 Questionnaire Pilot Test 1
Initially the researcher consulted the CIPD website for questions to tailor the 360 degree questionnaire to get the best answers from the staff in order to assess their motivational level and identify the areas for personal development and the questionnaire was put on pilot test. However, researcher noticed that the interpretation of the data was becoming a major issue. Furthermore, upon suggestions from the supervisor and staff members the researcher adopted the 360 degree feedback questionnaires by Honey and Mumford. The researcher observed that the questionnaires covered all aspects like, continuous improvements and self awareness etc. However, there were not many questions that could assist in the assessing the motivation level of the employee. Hence by tweaking the questionnaire and adding few additional questions to it, the researcher managed to get the desired output.
3.4.2 Questionnaire Pilot Test 2
From the malfunction of the first pilot test the researcher learnt that it would be much easier to follow up on the appraisals if the questionnaires were made available online. Hence an online version of the questionnaire was developed using the kwiksurveys.com free questionnaire tool. A major change after the first pilot test was the inclusion of another questionnaire. The first questionnaire was for the ‘appraisee' to self appraise themselves and the second questionnaire was for the colleagues and managers to rate. The researcher realised that it was necessary to twist the same questions and use them more than once to get an honest answer from the staff members. The second pilot test was a success and since the questionnaires were online it was easier for the researcher to download the results on to spreadsheets for data analysis.
3.5 Alternate Research Methods considered but not used
The alternate research option considered by the researcher for carrying out this research was the mono research method. As stated by various authors there are two major research choices available to the researchers, mixed research methods and mono research methods (Tashakkori and Teddlie, 2003; Saunders et.al., 2009). The Mono research method uses a single data collection technique and corresponding data analysis procedure whereas, mixed methods of research uses more than one data collection technique and is highly advocated by eminent authors as a research method for the business and management students (Curran and Blackburn, 2001). The mono research method has not been considered for the research by the researcher as the choice of data collection is limited to either quantitative or qualitative. As discussed earlier the researcher cannot adopt an inductive research method as its movement involves exactly the opposite of deductive method where a proposition is first developed and then a theory aspect is taken into consideration.
Hence the researcher has chosen to use deductive research strategy along with the mixed method approach to carry out the research and has not considered the use of mono method. The researcher has preferred the use of semi-structured interviews over the unstructured interviews as an appropriate method for data collection as the semi-structured interviews allowed the researcher to concentrate on specific details that are necessary to be asked by the interviewer to the interviewee in order to explore the existing assumptions, at the same time the focus has been on avoiding any excess of data (Rienhuber, 2011). However, unstructured interviews were conducted by the researcher to develop the research question and gain more knowledge on the current appraisal process functional in the university.
3.6 Ethical Considerations
Herbst and Coldwell, (2004) state that ethical considerations are an important aspect of a business research to quote:
“Ethics is made up of norms or standards of behaviour that guide moral choices about our behaviour and our relationship with others. The goal of ethics in research is to ensure no one is harmed or suffers adverse consequences from research activities,” (Cooper and Schindler, 2001; Herbst and Coldwell, 2004).
Considering all the limitations on the ethical grounds the researcher can confirm that since there are people involved in the research process, adherence to core ethical practices has been the primary focus all throughout the research. The data collected in the form of questionnaires have been carefully collected and stored by the researcher where there is no unauthorised access to it. The researcher has also been considerate by not sharing the feedback data with the other staff members to avoid any possible rivalry among the colleagues, as the aim of the research throughout has been to provide a process that gets the best out of people and at the same time keep them motivated. As per the discussion and agreement with the supervisor, after the completion of data analysis and receiving the final draft back from the supervisors with feedback and conformity that the research could be submitted, the researcher has carefully shredded all the filled appraisal questionnaires and responses received from the staff members of Huddersfield University. Furthermore, as mentioned earlier names of the staff members interviewed or who participated in the experimental implementation by filling up the questionnaire has not been mentioned anywhere in the research or appendices, instead abbreviations like Staff A, B, C and D are used to denote them. The researcher confirms that the data are factual and objective and the results have not been distorted to support the dissertations research question (Herbst and Coldwell, 2004).
3.7 Methods of Data Analysis
The researcher has analysed the raw data collected from the semi-structured interviews & questionnaires, and tabulated it into a structured format using the Microsoft Excel 2007 software installed and free to use in the University of Huddersfield library and staff computers. The data received from the interviews have been represented in a pie chart showing the percentage of people who agreed/disagreed to the questions asked by the researcher, followed by the scoring of 360 degree questionnaires using the scoring key provided by Peter Honey along with the ready to use questionnaires. After scoring the questionnaires the researcher has represented the data using a bar chart to present a clear picture of the responses received. The researcher has concluded the data analysis with an account of amalgamation of both quantitative and qualitative research findings.
3.8 Summary of the methodology
To sum up the researcher has carefully used the research methods after a thorough study of the literature available on business research and social science research. Both quantitative and qualitative data collection techniques have been used to gather data and compliment the findings of each. In the following data analysis section the researcher has given a thorough account of how the data has been collected and analysed in details.
4. Analysis of Data
As discussed in the previous chapter the researcher has used mixed methods approach to maximise the accuracy of the research. Both qualitative and quantitative methods have been used by the researcher and have been discussed in detail in this section.
4.1 Analysis of Qualitative Data
The researcher has used un-structured interviews to conduct the qualitative research. Seale et.al., (2004) suggest that in order to analyse the data quantitatively one needs to go through the responses gathered from the semi-structured interviews, and count the number of times the interviewees have said the same statement or a similar statement. The researcher has chosen to collect the data through interviews as he was interested in exploring the participants ‘frameworks of meaning,' (Seale et.al., 2004).
4.1.1 Observation and Interpretation of Interviews
Before sending out the two electronic links for the self and others questionnaires (for sample questionnaires please refer to appendix 2) to the ‘appraisee' and the ‘appraiser' the researcher conducted some unstructured interviews with some of the staff members within the university. Researcher asked various questions to ascertain the current motivational level of the staff, starting from the staff working at the lower levels to the staff working in higher positions within the university. In this section the researcher has discussed in detail few of the most important questions asked during the unstructured interviews, the rationale behind choosing these questions and the statistical analysis of the response to the questions received from the staff members. The observations from the interviews are discussed in details in the next section.
1) Can you elucidate the current performance appraisal system functional within your department? And are you happy with the way you are currently appraised, if not could you highlight the aspects that makes you dislike the process?
The researcher asked this common question to each of the thirty staff members he interviewed across different departments within the university and across different levels. Researcher's introduction to the interview would start with brief information about the 360 degree feedback process and the purpose of this question was to learn more about the appraisal process, to understand the expectations of the employees from the appraisal system, to ascertain the staff member's awareness of the current appraisal system functional in the university and to ascertain if they are happy with the current appraisal process or not, if not happy then what are the reasons for disliking the process. The interviewees responses were quite similar to each other for this question, all the 30 members of the staff were well aware of the significance of the appraisals, 25 members were happy with the current appraisal system and all of them agreed that 360 degree feedback would benefit them overall for identification of their areas of development and could highly benefit from others perspective about their performance at work. 5 members of the staff agreed that they do not like the way they are appraised and believed that the process was biased.
Conclusion from this question: The responses received from the managers especially, were very informative about the functional competencies framework in the library and technical services department. Based on the responses received in this question the researcher could conclude that majority of the staff members agreed that 360 degree feedback is good tool for staff appraisals and that they could benefit by the feedback received from their colleagues not only related to the job but all round.
2) Are you familiar with the 360 degree feedback appraisal system and if so you think it could add value to the current appraisal system functional within the university? Also inform when and how many times do the appraisals take place in a year?
The researcher asked this question to 30 staff members including the member of the staff who heads the academic staff appraisals and various other human resource members in the university, to understand what their current knowledge is about the 360 degree feedback process and to discuss with them the merits and demerits of introducing 360 appraisal process in the University. The researcher's discussion in this regard with the head of academic services helped the researcher to get a clear idea about how the human resource department follows up on the personal development plan of the employees. From the responses received the researcher learned that different performance appraisals are followed across different departments in the university. The academic services follow a highly developed staff development process in which each academic staff is expected to undergo training at the very beginning of their employment and they are encouraged to enhance their qualification by taking up higher qualifications and certifications like masters and PhD. The appraisal system in the library and technical services department follows the competencies framework for performance appraisals followed by personal development reviews, in which the employee's development plan is followed up with the line manager and improvements are suggested and discussed. The researcher has only focussed and based the research on the appraisals process functional in the technical services and library services department of the University.
The researcher also learnt interesting facts about how the performance is rated in the library and technical services department and what measures are taken to nurture the employee's potential and their overall personal development. It was learnt that for the staff below and above the managerial level, there are two appraisals conducted by their managers half-yearly and then yearly. The first appraisal one is to discuss and follow up on the ‘personal development plan of the staff member' and the second one is the performance appraisal, where in the staff member has a ‘one on one' discussion with their respective line managers, regarding how their performance has been in the last year according to their individual job objectives that have been set. Once the improvement opportunities are discussed by the staff or their line manager and upon agreeing to it mutually, the line manager nominates the staff for staff development opportunities that are regularly run across the university by the learning and development department for continuous improvement of the employees.
Conclusion from this question: The rationale behind asking this open ended question in the semi-structured interview was to find out if the staff members were familiar with the 360 appraisal process and did they feel that 360 degree feedback could add value to the current performance appraisal system and that it may establish transparency in the current one on one appraisal system? The responses were straightforward, out of the thirty staff members interviewed and explained what the 360 feedback is, 15 replied that the current staff development framework is flawless and that having 360 degree appraisals is just an extra hassle. 10 staff members agreed that 360 could be a good tool for motivation and staff development and 5 members of the staff stated that they were familiar with the 360 degree feedback system but couldn't comment or suggest whether it could be a good tool for continuous staff development, improvement and motivation. From this response to this open ended question the researcher could conclude that the identification of the areas of development is absolutely based on the employee's performance as perceived by the appraising line manager and agreed by the ‘appraisee'. However, in case of 360 degree appraisals the criteria set for appraising a staff is not completely based on the employees performance in their specific job role but their overall performance at the work place noticed by their colleagues, manager and customer's, and it includes how the employees attitude is towards work, whether they are happy and motivated to perform the job they are assigned and various other parameters and this finding is complemented by the finding of the 360 degree feedback questionnaire. The researcher also observed that the staff members expressed their interest in 360 degree feedback and believed that they could benefit from introducing the 360 tool along with the one on one appraisal mechanism to rule out any possibilities of ‘favourism', gender bias or any other sort of victimization. It was also observed that a majority of the staff had little or no expectations from their performance appraisals; however, their focus remains on personal development plan and continuous development. The researcher learned that the lateral growth opportunities in the university are very limited as on an average the attrition rate in the university is very low and this could be related to the job security of the employees.
3) Have you ever faced a scenario when the ‘appraisee' is not happy with their appraisals or with the way they have been appraised by their appraising manager, if so could you explain the scenario and the measures taken by the HR department to resolve such conflicts?
The researcher's intention was to understand how are the conflicts addressed / resolved in the current system functional. During the interview the researcher discussed 7 managers across various departments of the university, whether the appraising managers felt that 360 degree feedback could prove to be an effective tool to rule out the possibilities of such scenarios. In response to the question it was discussed by one of the line managers, commenting on how equipped are they in resolving conflicts, such as in cases when a staff is given a poor performance rating and they claim that the line manager has been bias and that they have been ‘victimised'. In response the author was informed that there have rarely been such instances and the ones which cropped up have been resolved by the ‘appraisee' by skipping the level and discussing the issue with their senior managers.
Conclusions from this question:From this question the researcher could identify the flaw in the performance appraisal system currently functional in the university. Based on the responses received it was quite evidentthat the Universities Human Resource department could benefit by having a non-bias appraisal process like the multisource feedback where in the employees is not solely rated by their line managers but also by the other managers and their colleagues across the organisation chosen by the senior management or the human resource department.
4) What is the motivational factor for you behind working for the university?
The researcher asked this question to 23 people interviewed across all the departments within the university. The rationale behind the question was to ascertain what according to them motivates them at work. The question was important to be asked in this context as salary and promotions are related to human resource functions and through the answers received it would be easy to ascertain if the staff are motivated because of the factors relating to human resource and appraisals or other factors like job security or benefits like paid holidays etc. Out of the 30 staff members interviewed 25 rated ‘job security' as their motivational factor behind working for the university and they all have been working in this organisation for a considerable number of years and wish to retire from the organisation. 3 employees replied that they are motivated with the nature of work they do, which utilises their talent and they love what they do and 2 employees expressed that they are not happy about their job and are not motivated and refused to discuss the reasons further.
Conclusion from this question: From the answers received to this question the researcher observed that the motivation for the employees of the university was not merely vertical growth within the organisation, higher salary package, hike in pay each year, or annual performance bonus but it is something more than that. It was observed that all the employees from top to the lower level had one thing common to treasure, that in the current financial crisis where the redundancies across the public sector organisations are at peak, they appreciate that at least they have a job which pays them a fixed monthly income. One could obviously state that the motivation behind working for the university is ‘job security'. It could be argued that the reason for the staff member's reply being ‘job security' as the biggest motivation for them could be situational, based on the factors like current economic conditions and the university funding cuts by the government. In contrast during one of team meetings, the researcher came across a scenario where in the restructuring of the computing and library services was shared with the team by the head of the department, and it was stated that in view of the current funding cuts by the government, the universities decision on functioning in a leaner fashion is almost obvious, than how it has been functioning till date. The employees were henceforth expected to be highly flexible and work up to their respective levels of pay. For example if a member of staff is at level 6 and just performs the duties that has been mentioned in their job objectives, going forward that would not be enough. Rather the employee will be expected to take up additional duties and work at par with the pay they are receiving. Thereafter there were further discussions among the team members about their insecurity at work and how they feel let down despite performing their jobs at an acme. The researcher hence could draw a conclusion that the levels of motivation among the members of the staff were remarkably low. A scenario of pressure to perform has been cropping up and at no extra monetary benefit or growth opportunities, although the staff members did not express this fact in the unstructured interviews with the researcher.
4.2 Analysis of Quantitative Data
The researcher has used Microsoft Excel software to interpret the questionnaire data, since the quantity of the data collected was not huge and easily manageable using Microsoft Excel software. SPSS software is helpful for analysing massive pieces of data and the options of charts, flexibility, ease of data importing functions and availability of unlimited rows and columns are few benefits of the dedicated statistical software. SPSS was considered as an alternative option however was not used as it was not required for such a small sample of the data collected.
4.2.1 Observation and Interpretation of Questionnaires
Four staff members participated in a brief experimental implementation of the 360 degree feedback process to explore whether it is an effective tool suited for the library and technical services department of the university. Firstly the researcher requested the four members to fill up the self appraisal questionnaire, followed by the second questionnaire which was filled by their appraisers to rate them. The researcher has kept the names of the members of the staff confidential; instead alphabets have been used to indicate them. ‘Staff A' refers to the first ‘appraisee', ‘Staff B' refers to the second member of the staff, ‘Staff C' denotes the third ‘appraisee' and ‘Staff D' stands for the fourth employee appraised. Furthermore, the staff who rated the four ‘appraisees' have been indicated by alphabets as well; to observe strict confidentiality. The three appraisers who rated Staff A have been indicated in the chart as, Staff A-1, Staff A-2 and Staff A-3. One employee rated Staff B and has been indicated in the above charts as Staff B-1. Staff C was rated by 3 ‘appraisers' and have been indicated with the alphabets Staff C-1, Staff C-2 and Staff C-3. Similarly two appraisers who rated Staff D are indicated in the charts as Staff D-1 and Staff D-2. In the following section a graphical representation of the analysed data will follow along with the 360 degree feedback report for the personal development, continuous improvement and motivation of the staff members.
4.2.2 Explanation of the Parameters of Scoring used in theQuestionnaire
As highlighted by the researcher that the reason for choosing Peter Honey's questionnaires were there proven accuracy and ease of data interpretation. The scoring key for the questionnaire and norms are adopted by the questionnaire scoring section of Peter Honey's book as well. The aspects explored by the questionnaire are ‘dissatisfaction with the status quo', ‘Experimental mind-set', ‘Dedication to continuous improvement', ‘process orientation' and ‘measurement orientation'. It was important to use these parameters for scoring the questionnaire as it draws out the essence of the research question and gives a clear understanding of the appraised individual's strengths, areas of development, talent and current motivational state from not only the manager's point of view, but from their colleagues perspectives as well. This was to prove the non-bias nature and effectiveness of the 360 degree feedback performance appraisals over the traditional performance appraisal system where individual is rated based on the single perspective of their appraising line managers (Honey, 1997).
The dissatisfaction with status quo exhibits the ‘appraisees' preparedness to question and challenge in order to bring about improvements in the specific departments they work; and it includes the parameters that ascertain if the staff member is constantly aware of the problems and whether they are satisfied with the solution for long or not. This aspect also explores whether the staffs are hesitant/non-hesitant in the interests of bringing about improvements in their work place and whether they discuss with others to share their ideas (Honey, 1997). The focus of this aspect of the scoring key is to ascertain whether the employee shares the best practices at work or not.
The experimentation mind-set aspect was the second aspect explored by the questionnaire. This aspect focuses on discovering the preparedness of the staff member to experiment and learn how to improve things at work. This parameter tests the individual's readiness to learn and cope with problems through trial and error, by determining whether or not the individual questions the things those are already functioning fine in his department, and does the employee put efforts to do things differently and test the possible outcomes of it (Honey, 1997). Employee's dedication to improve on a continuous basis was the third parameter in the questionnaire used by the researcher. This aspect focuses on ascertaining how the staff member insists that the current work they perform can be done in a better way by comparing their methods with their colleagues (Honey, 1997). Testing the employee's orientation to the work as a series of process was the objective of the fourth parameter in the questionnaire. The last parameter was for measuring the orientation to the extent to which the ‘appraisee' used the measures before, during and after the improvements, by comparing the methods with their appraisers (Honey, 1997). For a detailed synopsis refer to the summary section at the end of this chapter.
4.2.3 The norms for assessing continuous improvement and development of the staff members
The researcher has used the scoring key provided by peter honey along with the questionnaire to interpret the results of the self and others appraising questionnaire of the brief experimental implementation of 360 degree feedback. The lowest score that could be obtained in the questionnaires is 0 for choosing ‘I don't understand this' and the highest score possible is 30, for choosing the option ‘I often do or He/She often does'.
0 to 15
16 to 19
20 to 24 (Mean 22)
25 to 27
28 to 30
0 to 14
15 to 17
18 to 22 (Mean 20)
23 to 26
27 to 30
0 to 16
17 to 20
21 to 23 (Mean 22)
24 to 26
27 to 30
0 to 13
14 to 16
17 to 21 (Mean 19)
22 to 25
26 to 30
0 to 9
10 to 13
14 to 19 (Mean 16)
20 to 22
23 to 30
Figure: Questionnaire Scoring Key
The questions used in the questionnaire had 5 options to be chosen from and the ‘appraisee' and the appraiser was expected to choose the most appropriate option for each compulsory question. The options were to select one of the following for each question:
(?) I don't understand this
(0) I (Self) never do it, He/She (Others) never does it
(1) I (Self) rarely do this, He/She (Others) rarely does this
(2) I (Self) sometimes do it, He/She (Others) sometimes does it
(3) I (Self) often do it, He/She (Others) often does it.
The symbols and numbers used (?, 1, 2 & 3) were for the researchers convenience to identify the responses selected by the individuals and raters. Once the self questionnaire were filled up by the ‘appraisees' (Staff A, B, C & D) the appraisors were approached to rate each individual appraisee. Staff A was appraised by Staff A1, A2 and A3, Staff B was appraised by Staff B1, Staff C was appraised by Staff C1, C2 & C3 and Staff D was appraised by Staff D1, D2 & D3. From the sample data received after all the individuals completed the questionnaires, the researcher plotted the respective numbers and symbols against the respective questions in the scoring sheet for each the ‘appraisee', followed by plotting the details on a chart. The data collected is attached in the below and on subsequent pages followed by the chart of each of the four members who self apprised themselves.
4.2.4 Findings from the Self Appraisal Questionnaire
From the interpretation of results and the derived charts, of the self appraisal it is evident that Staff A, B and C have high dedication to improve at work whereas Staff D exhibits, dissatisfaction with the statues quo. This experimental implementation so far has proved its effectiveness by providing accurate results based on the norms of the scoring key. In the following section the researcher has described the interpretation of the ‘others' questionnaire that was used to rate the ‘appraisee's' by multiple-raters (appraisers).
4.2.5 Interpretation of the ‘Others' Questionnaire
In this section the researcher has plotted and tabulated the answers submitted by the ‘appraiser's' to rate the ‘appraisees' based on the preset parameters and scoring key previously discussed by the researcher.
Comparison of Staff A's Self Appraisal against Staff A-1, A-2 & A-3
From the comparison of the appraisers feedback received for Staff A it could be concluded that Staff A, who scored 26 and the highest in the dedication to improve parameter was complimented by his/her ‘raters' with the rating of 25 by Staff A-1, 26 by Staff A-2 and 24 by Staff A-3 in the same parameter. This report shows that Staff A's dedication to improve at workplace has been supported by their appraisers and also proves the non-bias yet all-round development feedback for Staff A.
Comparison of Staff B's Self Appraisal against Staff B-1
Similarly from comparison of the results of self appraisal of Staff B with their rates it is evident that Staff B's score of 28 in the dedication to improve parameter has been supported by their appraiser Staff B-1, who gave a score of 26 to the employee proving that it has been noticed by him/her that the employee is dedicated to improve at work.
Comparison of Staff C's Self Appraisal against Staff C-1, C-2 & C-3
The results of analysis of the self appraisal of Staff C who scored 24 in the highest in the dedication to improve parameter has been only partially supported by the feedback providers with the ratings of 22, 23 and 22 by appraising staff C-1, C-2 and C-3 respectively. This report shows that although Staff C is dedicated to improve at his work place, this behaviour is not noticed by their colleagues at the work place and could be considered as an area of development by Staff C.
Comparison of Staff D's Self Appraisal against Staff D-1, D-2
Staff D scored the highest in ‘dissatisfaction with the status quo' parameter where as his/her appraisers highest scores (Staff D1 rated 26, Staff D-2 rated 25) in the same parameter supports the staff exhibits ‘dissatisfaction with status quo'. As previously discussed this parameter of the questionnaire tests the ‘appraisees' preparedness to question and challenge in order to bring about improvements in the specific departments they work; and it includes the parameters that ascertain if the staff member is constantly aware of the problems and whether they are satisfied with the solution for long or not. This aspect has clearly depicted that Staff D is hesitant in the interests of bringing about improvements in their work place and that he/she does not share their best practices with others.
4.2 Summary of Date Analysis
To sum up the parameters to score the questionnaire were pretty straightforward. The 5 aspects ‘dissatisfaction with the status quo', ‘Experimental mind-set', ‘Dedication to continuous improvement', ‘process orientation' and ‘measurement orientation' were the essence of the 50 questions asked in the questionnaire and appropriate to draw the conclusion whether or not 360 degree feedback prove could prove to be an effective tool for development, improvement and motivation of staff.
Combination of Quantitative and Qualitative data
From the amalgamation of both qualitative and qualitative data collection methods the author could conclude that the findings from the interviews and questionnaires support each other. The use of mix methods has been useful to confirm that 360 degree feedback could prove to be a promising appraisal mechanism for the development and motivation of the staff in the current economic conditions. The interview responses from the staff members and from the findings of the questionnaire it is evident that 360 degree feedback has proved to be an effective tool to identify the areas of development of the staff and also for their continuous improvement. It is almost certain that the staff's improvement in the areas of development identified (by the experimental implementation of 360 degree feedback), will improve the overall motivation of the employee at work.
5. Research Findings
The researcher identified a possible flaw in the current appraisal process functional in the library and technical services department of the university. During the interview conducted few members of the staff expressed that promotions and vertical growth were the motivational factors for them and that the growth opportunities are very limited in the organisation. It was observed by the researcher that in various scenarios, the employees are highly ambitious and career oriented and it may lead to disagreements during the one on one staff appraisals. It is highly likely that the employees may develop a personal rift with their appraising line manager and disagree with the performance criteria's set by the appraising manager. Secondly, the insecurity of the team member performing better than the appraising manager could make the manager bias while appraising the staff and this may hamper the growth prospects of the aggressive staff member. Currently there is no process to check this issue in the current appraisal process functional in the library and technical services department where the researcher conducted the research. Furthermore, based on the observation from the interviews conducted by the researcher it could be concluded that the majority of the staff in the university has been working there for a while and wish to retire from this organisation. On an average the biggest motivational factor behind the people working in the organisation has been the sense of ‘job security'. During the interviews the managers agreed that they are motivated to work as the university has an excellent pay package and the overall benefits, like the number of paid holidays, sickness pay etc are remarkable; and it leaves them overall satisfied with their job. The observations from the interviews conducted across all levels of the university and the experimental implementation of 360 degree feedback, revealed that the staff achieved quite a lot from the 360 degree tool overall, and there is no doubt that the universities Human Resource Management department is practically and effectively involved for the development and motivation of its staff members but this research proved that multisource feedback is a more efficient tool, considering the non bias way it is conducted. However, across all the levels in the university the use of 360 degree feedback, as a tool for staff development and motivation, failed to develop the anticipated understanding. However, this study proves that it could be associated with the erstwhile improvement plans or the universities current appraisal and competencies framework.
5.1 Conclusion and Recommendation
From the analysis of the interviews and the data received from the brief experimental implementation of 360 degree feedback the researcher was able to ascertain that 360 degree feedback could prove to be a promising appraisal mechanism for the staff motivation and development in the University of Huddersfield. However, replacing the current appraisal process functional in the library and technical service department with the 360 degree feedback is not recommended. The 360 degree feedback tool proved to be an added advantage to the currently functional appraisal mechanism and the benefits of using 360 degree feedback along with the current appraisal system are huge. The researcher could conclude from the research findings that in numerous ways 360 degree feedback proved to be an excellent tool for identification of talent, continuous development and improvement of an employee and that there is a huge significance of multi-rater feedback process as an addition to the traditional appraisal process currently functional in the library and technical services department of the University.
As also discussed in the research finding that the bias way in which the current process are done could at times lead to unsatisfied individuals, which may result in de-motivation of the staff and increase in the attrition level. The research identified that a possible solution to this scenario is the addition of the 360 degree feedback framework to the present appraisal process, where in the staff along with the manager, would be rated on their overall performance at work by their colleagues, supervisors, customer's and also their overall individual personal performance statistics could be checked against the overall statistics of the appraising manager to rule out any possibilities of rifts, and generate an absolutely clear and non-bias report. However, discussions in this regard, with the staff and managers demonstrate enough evidence that the university has been able to retain employees successfully with very less instances of dissatisfaction and escalated skip level issues.
5.2 Research Limitations
The researcher has identified few of the limitations and barriers while carrying out the research within the university. One of the main limitations to the research has been the access to the human resources database, for details on the traditional appraisal process. The willingness of the staff, managers etc., in participating in the 360 degree feedback process has also cropped up as a barrier in carrying out the research on time, considering the fact that the researcher had a short duration for this research. The manager's availability, allotment of time periods for interviews/ discussions and the difficulties in getting the staff involved in filling up the questionnaire and responding to interviews, were few of the major limitations that the researcher has come across. To quote Lindlof and Taylor, (2011) highlighted the significance of interviews in a research:
“Researcher often views this as a need for obtaining the right kind of data that will help address the projects research question. The other competing demand arises from the interviews itself. Here the researcher must respond rapidly and with sensitivity to “a here-and-now interactional event in which these data are collected in and through talk-in-interaction,” (Lindlof and Taylor, 2011).
Although the unstructured interviews conducted initially did provide a good amount of information that was required by the researcher in conducting the research, but the information received was not enough to drive any conclusions or interpretations. Hence, the researcher had to construct specific questions for another round of semi-structured interviews with the staff members of the university. The researcher agrees that formulating the right questions to gather the exact information required for the research was one of the biggest challenges faced during the study (Lindlof and Taylor, 2011), however with constant brainstorming the researcher did manage to construct the appropriate questions for the semi-structured interviews. Furthermore, requesting the members of the staff to involve in the second round of semi-structured interviews and then participating in the 360 degree feedback experimental implementation was another limitation to the research. The participation rate expected by the researcher was 40 staff members for semi-structured interviews, 6 members for volunteering as the ‘appraisee's' and 10 staff members for rating the 8 volunteered ‘appraisees'. However, the researchers could only gather 30 staff members to spare their time for an hour of semi-structured interview with them, and 4 staff members to volunteer as ‘apraisees' while 9 staff members to rate the 4 staff members. Hence, the researcher can highlight that the biggest limitation in the research was to get the stipulated participation rate. The researcher realised that the length of the questionnaires was one of the reasons for having low number of volunteers for the experimental implementation of the 360 degree feedback process and has discussed the issue in detail, in the following section of things that the researcher would do differently if they were given a chance to start the research process all over again.
5.3 Things to be done differently if starting the research once again
As discussed in the previous section the researcher faced numerous issues during the research journey. If given a chance to start the research all over again, the researcher would want to consider the size of the 360 degree feedback questionnaire. Currently the researcher has used two questionnaires for the research each consist of 50 questions. As mentioned earlier in the data collection methods used, the researcher adopted the questionnaire from Honey and Mumford's (1997) continuous improvement 360 degree feedback questionnaires, which were affirmed to be free to used and distributed by the author and publisher. Considering this research was an exploratory study to ascertain whether or not the 360 degree feedback could prove to be a good tool for staff development, improvement and motivation, and acknowledging the fact that the researchers knowledge about the 360 degree feedback was at its infancy when he started the research process; using these questionnaires with a proven effectiveness and ease of data analysis seemed almost perfect. However, if the research was to be started all over again the researcher would consider carefully constructing a short questionnaire with powerful short questions that would derive the same objectives out of the responses as it would do with the Honey and Mumford's questionnaire. From this study the researcher found that having a short questionnaire improves the participation and response rate.
The researcher would consider setting up a realistic time line for conducting the research. In this research the researcher noticed that he did not considered the Easter holidays while setting up the time line in the research proposal submitted. As a result of which he only could interview some of the staff members after the Easter vacations and also the researcher received some of the questionnaires back in the last week of April 2011, which delayed the overall data analysis, interpretation, findings and conclusion of the research. However, the researcher did manage to complete the data analysis and positively answered the research question covering the objectives set by the researcher on time. But the researcher accepts that the whole research process could have been much smoother and superior with better time management and a realistic time framework set while starting off the research. The findings from this research have given way for further areas of research which the researcher has discussed in the following section.
5.4 Areas of Further Research
As already discussed in the findings section, the researcher found out that the job security was the biggest motivational factor for the staff members working in the University of Huddersfield. It was also clear from the multiple responses supporting the University as an overall excellent employer, considering the monetary benefits, holiday pay, sickness pay and numerous other benefits. The staff development and personal development plans are also followed up on a regular basis by the respective line managers.
As discussed in the conclusion section of the research backed up with academic literature and empirical analysis, it is almost evident that the university could enhance the whole employee personal development, continuous improvement and motivational process by using multi-source feedback for development purpose, along with the currently functional competencies framework. This finding gives way for further research on exploration of the migration process from traditional appraisal system functional in the University, to the 360 degree feedback appraisals (Figure .21). It is almost certain that having a single complete and effective appraisal system is easier to maintain and follow up than having multiple methods.
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