Multi-rater (also known as 360 reviews) are tools designed to gather performance feedback from multiple sources. Those sources could include the employee, manager, co-workers, staff members, and sometimes even customers. The idea being that these individuals provide insights, and their collective comments will provide greater performance feedback for the recipient.
The reason that multi-rater reviews are so popular is because in a traditional annual performance review, the employee receives feedback from one person – their 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.
Another reason organizations implement multi-rater reviews is when they know employees can develop reputations for keeping the boss happy but later wreak havoc on their colleagues and team. Same with customers. An example is the sales manager that senior leadership loves because they always make their goal and customers adore them, but co-workers don’t have a good working relationship.
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.
Encourages professional development for the employee and the raters. Multi-rater reviews are a form of 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 employees 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 review might surface something that is noticed by several people.
Use it for the right reasons. One of the biggest mistakes organizations make with any type of profile or assessment is using it for the wrong purpose (i.e. a purpose for which it was designed.) For instance, a company might say, “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.
Originally posted on the HR Bartender blog.