Multi-rater or 360 reviews gather feedback from multiple sources. Those sources include the employee, manager, co-workers, staff members, and sometimes customers. The idea being that these individuals will provide insights and their collective comments will provide greater feedback for the recipient. Some examples include:
In a traditional performance review from the manager, that’s one person’s point of view. Sometimes an employee will reject the feedback because it comes from just one person. If the same feedback comes from 4 or 5 people, the employee might be more inclined to address it.
Employees can develop reputations for keeping the boss happy but they wreak havoc on their colleagues and team. Same with customers. I’ve worked with managers that the customers adored and the employees abhorred.
The key to using a multi-rater review process is understanding what it can and can’t do. There are some clear advantages and disadvantages.
Advantages of Multi-Rater Reviews
Encourages professional development for the employee and the raters. When I think of multi-rater reviews, I think professional development. This is an opportunity to use feedback at every level of the organization to help an individual develop their talents. It does mean that training should be conducted so the feedback being provided is constructive.
Provides self-awareness from every level of the organization. One of the best things about a multi-rater review is that you receive feedback on several levels – not just your boss. It makes you very aware that being successful isn’t just about making the boss happy. Success is about working with your team, colleagues, and even customers.
Offers anonymous feedback. The fact that the feedback is confidential can be a good thing. It’s possible that something will be revealed that might not surface in a face-to-face setting. It’s also possible that one comment from a single person wouldn’t receive the same consideration. A 360 might surface something that is noticed by several people.
Disadvantages of Multi-Rater Reviews
Use it for the right reasons. One of the biggest mistakes I see with any type of profile or assessment is when it’s used for the wrong purpose – not for which it was designed. I assume the thought process is that “We love ABC profile for this. So let’s use it for that (or everything).” And that would be a mistake.
Understand global laws and nuances. This isn’t really a disadvantage as much as it is a word of caution. Multi-rater reviews are subject to different country laws and best cultural practices. So it would clearly be a disadvantage to the company and the individual if the multi-rater review process was not designed and delivered with a proper global mindset.
Create a culture that makes it comfortable. In most cases, the multi-rater review supplies anonymous feedback. The recipient doesn’t know who said what. This type of arrangement cannot become a mechanism for biting comments. While anonymity can be a good thing, it’s not an excuse for delivering bad feedback.
Multi-rater reviews offer individuals and organizations a unique opportunity for enhanced feedback. To capitalize on the opportunity, the organization must clearly define the objectives, train the raters, and design a process that encourages open discussion.
Image courtesy of Sharlyn Lauby when speaking at the Global HR Change and Transformation Conference in London