The Power of Multi-rater Assessments in Professional Development

Multi-rater assessments are commonly referred to as “360’s” because they typically survey an individual’s colleagues in the workplace who hold lower, lateral and higher levels of positions to generate a “360” perspective of an individual’s performance. These assessments provide powerful advantages as organizations seek to amplify the development experience for their leaders and other key individuals. They collect broad feedback from the individual’s work relationships as well as other constituents to provide comprehensive and anonymous development feedback to help an individual optimize his/her perceived strengths and gain insight into perceived areas for development and improvement.

Performance assessments can be biased when involving interviewsFrequently, the feedback will not align with the leader’s personal view, providing a new lens for self-awareness and growth. For example, a coaching client who recently received 360 feedback admitted the feedback completely surprised her and she had no idea how others perceived her. It was a true learning moment, demonstrating blind-spots she would not otherwise have seen. It provided a solid foundation for her coaching journey and professional development.

Although 360 feedback can be collected through structured interviews or through an online, quantitative method, there are several advantages to using the later:

  • The quantitative 360 process helps align the boss’ expectations with the leader’s understanding of those expectations, allowing the leader to concentrate on improving specific competencies that are a priority for his/her boss. 
  • Quantitative 360s compare the individuals to normative data over a large number of comparable leaders. This allows the individual to establish personal goals as well as see how they compare with other leaders, providing a broad context for the developmental needs.
  • Finally, if the organization is administering multiple, quantitative 360s to a group, group reports can be produced, providing the organization input for training needs as well as letting participants see how well they stack up against their peers.

Online assessments can be more effective due to a quantitative basis.An important feature of 360 feedback is anonymity and confidentiality for all raters -- other than the identified direct or indirect manager(s) of participants. In order to preserve anonymity, individual responses are always combined with responses from other people in the same assessor category (e.g., peer or direct report). The anonymous nature of the feedback creates a forum for honest feedback that individuals might otherwise be uncomfortable to give in person.  In addition to the quantitative responses, raters are able to provide free form feedback to the leader.

While some coaches prefer a structured interview 360 (also known as a “walk around” 360) to assess and gather perceptions about a leader’s workplace behavior, the quantitative, online method of gathering feedback has other very distinct advantages.  The results of feedback from a “walk around” 360 are seen through the eyes and ears of the interviewer.  This feedback could reflect a subjective, possibly skewed view of a leader’s workplace behavior.  Due to the extra time necessary for scheduling and conducting the individual feedback interviews, the “walk around” 360 is more time consuming and therefore more expensive.

When organizations choose to utilize a “walk around” 360 there is no objective way to measure a leader’s behavioral change except for anecdotal evidence fraught with common performance ratings errors.  On the other hand, quantitative 360’s have built in mechanisms for measuring and assessing future behavioral change that make them more reliable.

Online assessments provide quantitative and unbiased analysis of leader behaviors.Most quantitative 360’s are also accompanied by a handbook for the leader that provides in-depth explanations of behaviors, examples of productive and ineffective behaviors, and a guide to improving that behavior.   

In addition to addressing the concern of subjectivity in the “walk-around” 360, we find that the online tool improves receptivity and acceptance of the feedback by participants.  The emphasis in the online approach is to present the 360 data and allow the leader to draw his/her own conclusions and insights, rather than providing insights and comments that could be perceived as judgments.  For example, Bob, a coaching client of mine, admitted to having many discussions with his boss about his poor listening skills, but he did not feel compelled to learn different listening strategies as a result of these discussions.  When presented with the specific findings of his quantitative 360, which found low ratings on “Listens attentively to concerns expressed by others” across all rating groups, Bob embraced the feedback and was open and willing to make a behavioral change.  A follow-up 360 a year later showed that his behavior had changed in a positive way, impacting his personal effectiveness, workplace relationships, and business results.

Leaders receiving quantitative 360 feedback gain insights into how others perceive them, creating an opportunity to adjust behaviors and develop skills that will enable them to excel in their work and improve how that work gets done.  If development is the goal, leaders and organizations should consider the objective, unbiased, normalized feedback an online, quantitative multi-rater 360 provides over the subjective and potentially biased feedback of structured interview 360s. Regardless of which methodology is chosen, the benefits provided by 360 assessments will help increase the effectiveness of organizational leaders and their development.

Career Partners International provides top quality talent management services to organizations of all sizes. Their offices around the world help assessengagedevelop, and transition talent in any industry. To find out more about Career Partners International and how you can maximize your organizational performance, reach out to an office near you or contact us today!

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  1. Melinda Brown's avatar
    Melinda Brown
    | Permalink
    Yes, agree that when used correctly, the 360 feedback is invaluable to a manager/leader's development. I've had feedback on how it's changed people's leadership styles, the way they communicate and how they relate to staff and peers.

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