Should individuals choose their own raters (Part 2 of 10)

2. Should individuals choose their own raters?

The debate here should take into account the purpose of the 360° feedback. If it is to be used for development purposes only then receiving feedback from those you choose shows clear benefits; however if being used for performance management (link to pay and advancement) the risks associated only receiving feedback from those you select become clearer. The below also highlights key examples of why the purpose of the 360° feedback should be made clear from the on-set: the ideal way forward for development and performance management can vary and in some cases be directly opposing.

a. Using ratings for Development only

Opinion in this area is united in the view that individuals should choose their own raters. This helps individuals to feel ownership over the 360 feedback process and helps set up a foundation of trust and candour which is seen as extremely important for the success of the 360 process. More practically, it is often the individual themselves who will be able to best judge who they have worked most closely with and also importantly for the feedback to be taken on board the individual needs to want to hear the opinion of the feedback provider. Individuals tend to have a certain view about themselves and they need to trust the opinion of a rater if they are going to challenge that view.

“Individuals are only going to take on board feedback from those they are open to feedback from, those whose opinions they respect, and those whose opinions they are interested in. Therefore in some cases raters suggested by a manager may not fit this criteria and thus may not benefit an individual‟s development”

At Talent Innovations we agree with this view. Almost all of our clients allow the focus to choose their own raters. On rare occasions a client may ask for manager‟s approval to be built into the rater selection process, and it is even more rare for clients to have complete control over rater choice. We recognise that there is an argument that suggests a focus could skew their own results by selecting those they know will rate them well, but in our experience this is rarely an issue. We also agree with the view that the common themes should hold focus over outliers i.e. what are the consistent messages here.

b. Using ratings for performance management

The key debate here is about rater accuracy: given the potential consequences (e.g. pay increase/ promotion) of feedback, how fair is rater selection by the focus likely to be, and how accurate and reliable are ratings provided by these selected raters likely to be?
When selecting raters who will ultimately influence pay or promotion there is a lot more „at stake‟ for the focus. Therefore there may be a higher risk that an individual may skew their rater selection towards those that will give positive feedback. A way to avoid this could involve individuals selecting their own raters but then needing to seek management approval. A Manager could then ensure there is a fair mix and broad spread. An alternative method to avoid skewed results could be to provide training to individuals in selecting their raters. This training could also include how to select raters to gain a broad viewpoint, how to understand the feedback report and how to develop a personal development plan.

An alternative view point is that management should have complete control over selecting raters. In most cases a direct line manager should know who an individual has worked with most frequently. If there is any uncertainty the survey could be sent out to a wider group of raters with a note explaining that they should only complete the questionnaire if they have worked with the individual closely in the last 6 (possibly 12) months – this may also result in more raters so better quality output. This may also result in frustration and wasted time as individuals receive requests to complete feedback for those they are do not have a sufficiently close working relationship with.

The benefit of this method may be that the manager will be more likely to choose raters who the individual does not get on well with; in addition to those they do get on with, thus offering a wider perspective.
Our view at Talent Innovations is that when being used for performance management, there should always be management input into rater selection. We also advise that for line managers all direct reports should be included as raters.

Next post in this series will be on the topic of whether feedback should be attributable to an individual or not….

For the full paper, download it for free here.


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