6 Common Mistakes with 360 (Multi-rater) Feedback

An HR Director recently told a story about how multi-rater feedback had been used in her previous organization.  “A manager would ask a whole bunch of people to provide input on other employees.  Employees got way too many requests, and the manager wanted feedback on too many things, so the feedback took too long to give.  Multi-raters were exhausted and their subsequent feedback become a series of clicks with little thought.” Bummer.

Multi-rater feedback can be really valuable when some easy guidelines are put in place.

360 Feedback Best Practices

Read below for the six most common mistakes made around Multi-rater Feedback, then read the solution! This list may help you and your organization create best practices guidelines to make 360 (Multi-Rater) feedback work for you!

Mistake #1: Inviting too many people

Asking a lot of multi-raters to provide feedback on an employee isn’t a good thing to do.  Remember, you’re probably not the only manager asking someone to be a Multi-rater, which means the multi-rater may have A LOT of requests to provide feedback in his/her inbox.  If every manager asks too many people, you’d be hoping your requests are the first ones before the multi-raters tire out!

Solution: As an organization, decide how many multi-raters is a reasonable amount and share that number with your managers.  Share the reasons why it’s important to stick to that number if possible (rater fatigue! read about it here!) and ask for their compliance. Most organizations say that 1-3 multi-raters is sufficient.  A reasonable quantity means that no individual will be overwhelmed with requests, and the feedback provided is likely to be meaningful, because the multi-raters have enough energy to do it!

Mistake #2: Asking too many questions

An HR Director mentioned that at a previous organization, an individual’s appraisal form had about 50 elements to rate, and each manager invited about 10 people to provide feedback on each of his/her employees.  Doing the math, this meant each employee had about 500+ things to rate when performance Appraisal time came around. Imagine, five hundred ratings to give (and these were just the employees!)  The feedback given by the raters got less and less meaningful with every passing question.

Solution: Have a special section in your Appraisals intended for Multi-raters.  Keep the section short, asking for feedback on just a few things (we recommend no more than 5 competencies, or three narrative responses, or a blend) Anyone asked to provide multi-rater feedback should be able to complete the request in about 15 minutes time. You’ll get meaningful responses and employee’s opinions hold value.

Mistake #3: Using Multi-rater feedback as a substitute for management

Gathering 360 feedback from others is good, but without simultaneous management direction, the feedback isn’t as valuable.  An employee in a department recently shared that a certain employee in the office was having issues. Each employee had provided feedback to the manager about the issues which affected them all, but no apparent action or intervention had been taken by the manager.

Solution: Provide managers with good management tools and training. Offer a session for managers at the beginning of the appraisal cycle on setting expectations, effective goal setting, or a lunch talk about difficult performance conversations (and offer some strategies!) Set cultural expectations in your organization about performance management behaviors from managers that align with your online Appraisal tool, such as:

  • Meet with each employee to discuss his/her performance review
  • Keep a journal on employee accomplishments to make Appraisals easier
  • How to manager rater bias

Mistake #4: Asking Multi-raters to opine on things they shouldn’t

Some things, like personal goals, might best if they are NOT shared with others.  Some customers use appraisals to track personal and professional goals.  If an employee has a personal goal to “Run a 10K this year” or a professional goal of “Improving Management Skills,” the employee may want to keep such goals between himself/herself and his/her manager.

Solution: Be sure to disable multi-rater feedback on goals or appraisal elements that may be personal, especially when such elements may connect to an individuals goals or dreams that he or she may not wish to reveal. Stick to requesting feedback on common, basic elements, like “Communication”, “Teamwork” or “Strengths.”

Mistake #5: Being unclear about confidentiality

Nothing like being at the water cooler and hearing what you thought were your confidential comments being repeated out loud!

Solution:  Establish cultural expectations for managers about how to gather an use multi-rater feedback. Some organizations are open, and everyone knows that in providing 360 feedback, it will be shared.  Some organizations ask for multi-rater feedback and share it (giving attribution to the multi-rater), others collect feedback and share it (with anonymous attribution it to the multi-rater), and yet others collect it anonymously and do not share it with employees. Whatever your situation, be certain that your organizational expectations have been shared with both managers and with employees who may find themselves providing multi-rater feedback. This gives multi-raters the opportunity to phrase their feedback in the best way.

Mistake #6: Not having guidelines for selecting raters

Selecting multi-raters can be like a Las Vegas buffet, fun and plentiful. Some managers pick a lot of people to provide feedback, without a strategy.  This can lead to too many requests, or receiving feedback that may be less relevant.

Solution: As an organization, provide guidance to managers about how to select a multi-rater.  Here are some great ideas we’ve heard:

  • Pick a maximum of three Multi-raters.
  • Pick a colleague (an equal) of the employee, an (up) from the employee—perhaps a manager of another department that may work with the employee in some capacity, and an outsider (a customer, perhaps)
  • Pick up to three customers to review the employee
  • Pick only colleagues of the employee

Good luck! With a few guidelines, you’ll find Multi-rater feedback can provide holistic perspectives and be a valuable management tool.