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We'd like to use multi-raters, but ...

AnonymousHR Focus. New York: Jan 1996. Vol. 73, Iss. 1;  pg. 4, 2 pgs

Abstract (Article Summary)

Questions relating to the effectiveness of multi-rater feedback are addressed.

Full Text (681   words)

Copyright American Management Association Jan 1996

Does the process provide useful, or just "nice to know," information?

The relevance of the feedback depends on the competency model that underlies it. If an executive creates the model by penciling a list of skills on an airplane trip, the feedback will have questionable value. If, on the other hand, you carefully develop the model to reflect the skills, competencies and behaviors needed to achieve results now and in the future, then it has a lot of value.

You can test the validity of the competency model in several ways: Ask line managers if they really believe that performing the listed skills well will improve the company's performance. Determine whether the stars in your company score high on the profile. And, finally, check to see if the model only calls for "nice person" skills, such as being pleasant to work with. While the model may contain some interpersonal skills, the emphasis must be on the strategic competencies needed to achieve business objectives.

Will managers support this use of multi-raters?

Yes, if you take care to gain their support early on and educate them about the importance of employee development. Some suggestions:

* Involve them in the creation of the strategic competency model.

* Explain why continuous employee development is vital to the company's survival.

* Provide managers with multi-rater feedback first to familiarize them with the benefits of the process.

* Hold them accountable for the development of their people; this accountability should have a serious impact on their compensation.

* Require that they include a section on development progress in their monthly or quarterly business reports.

Should we use the feedback in performance appraisals?

This is one of the most important decisions you will make about the multi-rater process. While the results of developmental profiles are confidential--and thus, "safe"--many legal departments are uncomfortable with the idea of using multi-rater results to conduct appraisals, make promotion decisions and do succession planning.

Consequently, you must proceed with caution when using multi-raters in the appraisal process. At the very least, your company should meet these readiness criteria:

* Top management supports and participates in the process.

* The company has used multi-raters to create development plans for at least 10 to 15 percent of its people for at least one year. It has clear performance plans and job expectations.

* It has created job-relevant competency model(s).

* Employees and managers have a reasonable amount of trust. For example, your employee surveys do not show a lack of trust as a major organizational problem.

* Employees and managers support the idea of moving to a multi-rater performance appraisal process.

* Employees and managers can understand ambiguity in the appraisal process and perceptual feedback.

Who should know the feedback results?

If your primary purpose is development, each employee will decide who sees the report. At a minimum, however, they should summarize what they have learned with those who provided feedback, especially their managers and direct reports. Otherwise, these people may conclude that the person did not take the process seriously or is angry about the results. The person being rated also should ask for the raters' input on his or her development plan.

If you use the feedback in your performance appraisals, the employee and his or her manager will see the results. Typically, this means the rating will be somewhat more elevated than if only those profiled receive the reports.

Should the results be tied to our compensation systems?

The results should be linked to pay only if the company has met all the readiness criteria for a performance appraisal process, has used multi-rater appraisals for at least two years and knows how to synthesize the feedback results with other appraisal information.

The two-year period will allow you to test the legal soundness of the process. The primary concerns are that your star performers rate as expected on the multi-rater form, that the instrument can indeed discriminate between various levels of performance and that the process does not have an adverse impact on protected classes or people who differ from the dominant culture.