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HR professional—has to address the shift in purpose of the data and also a shift in role from “evaluator” to “coach.”
Coaching can be a critical step if the organization wants to get the most value from the feedback process. It is the job of the coach to help the employee confront the information provided by the raters. Together the coach and the client can work on converting the feedback into an action plan useful as a framework for personal development. Coaching can be a single event or it can be extended over a period of time. The goal is to make the client accountable for using the feedback as a guide for performance improvement. Coaching puts 360-degree feedback in context, makes it pertinent to what has to be achieved, and generates creative, practical development plans.
What Should an HR Person Know About Multi-Rater Feedback?
Here are several important points that should make using 360-degree feedback a success, especially in combination with coaching:
• Don’t force it on a client. Sometimes, of course, these assessments are used company-wide for all managers.
When that is not the case, then the use should be voluntary.
• It may be best to ask the client to identify most or maybe even all of the raters. Most people will be reasonable about who they choose. It is important that the client not “stack the deck” by including only raters who have a highly favorable opinion of the client!
Using a broad variety of raters results in more credible data.
• Not everyone knows what is involved in a 360-degree feedback process. If there is any doubt, take the time to explain to the client and to the rater what it is, what it does, how it is used, and its benefits to all concerned.
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• Provide information on the purpose and process to assessors when giving out the questionnaires.
• If the data is to be kept confidential, make that point clearly. If others will have access to it, those people should be identified.
• Even if a professional coach facilitates the feedback, it is important for the client’s manager and HR representative to be familiar with the rating instrument and how it is used.
Advantages of Multi-Rater Feedback
• Feedback based on 360-degree data tends to be more balanced than the single opinion of a manager, no matter how objective the manager tries to be.
• A systematic 360-degree report will bring out viewpoints that might not otherwise be heard.
• Because it is so broadly based, it is almost impossible to dismiss negative elements.
Some Cautions About Multi-Rater Feedback
• Responses to the rating scales may be somewhat different when peers or direct reports believe the results will have career or compensation implications for someone, as opposed to knowing that the data will be used only for developmental purposes. There may be a tendency toward more favorable responses when it is used for appraisal or compensation purposes.
• If the multi-rater instrument was custom-developed by your organization, your coach may need to acquire some familiarity with it. Don’t assume that your coach will immediately understand all of the language used in
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the instrument. You may need to provide some explanations for the dimensions of behavior that are rated so that the coach can understand why they were chosen to be measured and how they fit in the organizational culture.
• This method of data collection does take time from many people—at least six or seven respondents, and sometimes as many as twelve or more. If there are a number of coaching clients in the same organization, they may be using an overlapping set of raters. At times there may be a bit of groaning about the additional workload.
Need for Reflection Following Feedback
Once the data have been integrated and summarized, the coach will feed back the information to the client, usually over more than one session. Because there is usually much information to reflect on, it is better if the client absorbs only some at a time. Sometimes the client is surprised by certain aspects of the data and needs time to reflect and think it all through.
After the data from assessments and other sources has been reviewed, it makes sense to go back to the goals that were created earlier to see if any new ones should be added and to reprioritize those that have been retained.
4. Implementation and Action Planning
The coaching process can move into an implementation and action-planning phase when:
• The initial goal of the coaching has been determined
• The coaching agreement has set expectations for how the coaching engagement will proceed
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• The coach has had the opportunity to become familiar with different aspects of the client’s behavior from the assessment results
In helping a client explore and learn new concepts and skills, coaches may employ a variety of coaching methods and techniques. Which methods a coach may choose will depend on the background and training of the coach, the unique interaction between the client and the coach, and the coach’s views on which approaches would be most effective within a given organization. Fundamentally, a coaching process allows a client to take the time to reflect on and explore issues that affect the client’s and the organization’s effectiveness. Although every interaction between a coach and a client is unique, some of the common elements that could occur during implementation are: