I am often asked to help companies implement multi-rater (aka 360-degree) feedback. This is a process where a person rates him/herself on a set of competencies along with his/her direct reports, boss, peers, and sometimes customers. Theoretically, seeing information from each of these perspectives provides the person with the insights required to improve. Before implementing a multi-rater feedback process (MRFP), you should consider these four issues.
1. Insight, while necessary, is not sufficient to bring about change. You can’t have a successful MRFP without post-feedback development opportunities available and a way to measure changes in behavior.
2. There are two serious methodological flaws with most MRFPs that you need to address. Among them are:
- Do You Really Know What You Are Measuring? No matter how well thought out your competency model is, or how behavioral your items are, most MRFPs can be boiled down into 2-3 elements of performance: Halo, Management/Leadership, and Technical Skills. Halo is when a person who is well liked get high ratings in a lot of areas because s/he is well liked (the opposite can also occur). What’s the best way to avoid halo and measure more distinct competencies? Ironically, use fewer items. This reduces rater fatigue and allows them to focus more on key elements of a person’s behavior.
- What Do You Get When You Mix All Of the Colors Of the Rainbow? Gray. Since we love bottom line numbers so much we like to give an overall score on MRFP dimensions (usually an average of the different rating groups). However, by doing so you are killing the best part of your data. For example, by averaging Bob’s delegation scores, you get a meaningless number that masks the most important ratings from his direct reports who know best whether or not he delegates effectively. Be sure to provide feedback based on rater group, at least for key items where one group will have more insight than another.
3. Be clear on the goals for your process. For example, is it to develop your top talent or increase the skill level of poorer performers? The ugly secret of doing assessment for training and development purposes is that it tends to benefit those who need it the least. Top performers get better while the lower performers view the process as a reminder of their flaws. For poorer performers you should consider a more objective process that does not rely on sources of data that have existing prejudices (real or perceived), such as an assessment center.
4. Whatever you do, don’t make an MRFP part of your performance management system. It ruins the objectivity of the ratings and focuses people on the process rather than using the results.
For more information on 360 Feedback, leadership, skills assessment, and talent management, please contact Warren at 310 670-4175 or firstname.lastname@example.org.