360 feedback: from insight to improvement.

Author:Nowack, Kenneth M.

With increasing frequency, 360-degree feedback is being used for diverse purposes in the public sector, including executive coaching, performance evaluation, talent management, and succession planning. Under the right circumstances, this sort of multi-rater feedback can foster successful behavioral change in the workforce.

The fundamental goal of multi-rater feedback is actual behavior change on the job. However, implementing new behaviors and sustaining them over time is particularly challenging for most individuals. And many managers, coaches, and consultants trying to initiate change can ignore some potentially problematic issues.

Indeed, the likelihood that an employee will--or will not--engage in a specific behavior is influenced heavily by their personal expectations about the consequences that behavior will have on their professional goals. In fact, studies have shown that many feedback efforts create no measurable change, or may even result in negative effects on engagement and productivity.

The lesson: Organizations must prepare the workforce to give and receive feedback effectively--and be ready to initiate the change that feedback identifies.

Implementing Feedback Best Practices

Feedback is a necessary condition for initiating and sustaining change, but organizations have to get it right. Fortunately, other talent management professionals have already paved the way, developing multi-rater best practices that any organization can follow:

* Ensure that an adequate number and type of raters are invited to provide feedback to the individual, and that the composition of the final rater pool is discussed and agreed on with the manager or coach. (Research suggests there should be eight to 10 people in a rater group, in addition to one's manager.)

* Have someone who is knowledgeable about assessment and multi-rater feedback tools interpret the compiled data to minimize any negative reactions that might occur.

* Hold managers accountable for meeting with participants to discuss the feedback and mutually agree on professional development action plans, as well as for tracking and monitoring progress over time with periodic follow-up discussions.

* Create and implement individual development plans that involve meaningful and measurable behaviors and activities that enhance learning and deliberate practice, such as special assignments or on-the-job experiences.

* Balance feedback. Despite the recent popularity of focusing on "strengths," keep...

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