Understanding and managing the employee experience (EX) is challenging for many reasons. Maybe the most significant challenge is that no one has a one-size-fits-all tool that allows us to understand and measure the employee experience at the organizational, team, and individual levels in a simultaneous fashion. For example, org-wide surveys are helpful when researching themes across departments and functions, but they fall short when trying to understand what it’s like working for a particular manager who oversees a small development team.
This article will focus on ways we can understand and improve the employee experience at the team and individual level by using multi-rater feedback (i.e., 360 degree feedback) instead of relying on traditional org-level surveys. In addition, I highlight how the multi-rater experience is significantly enhanced by making trained/certified 360 coaches part of your multi-rater talent programs.
As a brief primer, a multi-rater assessment solicits feedback and evaluative information about a leader or employee from various raters that surround this person (the “participant”). Except for one’s immediate supervisor, feedback data is aggregated and presented as coming from a rater group, such as “direct reports” or “peers” to maintain confidentiality and foster candid feedback. Because multi-rater feedback is omni-directional, it is often called “360 degree feedback,” which refers to the number of degrees in a circle.
The genera idea is to uncover what it is like to work for a particular leader and to give the leader a chance to understand how people experience their personality, their leadership style, and their management decisions. This information is essential to any leader seeking greater awareness and who is wanting to improve their individual and team’s performance. In fact, many who have received 360-degree feedback describe the process as “career-changing.”
Benefits from a multi-rater program accrue both to the individual, as noted above, but also to the organization. When, assessments are organized and conducted in cohorts and across functions, group analytics can be gathered and analyzed to see how manager-level experiences are being received, what differences exist, and what is working well within discrete teams to create exceptional experiences.
While 360-degree feedback can be career-changing, this level of transformation doesn’t typically occur without the guidance of a trained mentor/coach. Trained 360 coaches are professionals who have been qualified/certified to guide a participant through the multi-rater feedback process. We strongly recommend that individuals be certified prior to conducting 360 debriefs.
Some organizations choose to train and certify internal professionals to meet their debriefing needs, while others use outside professionals. Internally trained professionals are typically cheaper to implement, and they are more readily available, but they may lack experience. And, being internal means they may be viewed as being too close to the situation to be considered an impartial confidant or sounding board.
Still, whether internal or external, a trained/certified 360 coach can strengthen the multi-rater process in the following ways:
1. Focus on the message and not the messenger.
A trained 360 coach helps the participant to focus on the message and not the messenger. Many participants like to play “who said what,” and while 360s are geared towards confidentiality, there are times when it may be possible to pick out raters, particularly when it comes to written comments. This natural reaction is unhelpful, as it distracts from the feedback itself. A good coach keeps a participant on track.
2. Assess Feedback within Context
A certified coach also helps a participant absorb feedback within the proper context. For example, a participant may become so focused on one comment or piece of quantitative feedback that they miss the big picture entirely.
3. Help Participants Along the Emotional Journey.
We often have distorted pictures of our performance. These distortions are unceremoniously laid bare during a 360, which can be emotionally painful. A 360 coach helps a participant understand and navigate their natural emotional reactions and keeps them focused on how the feedback, and the accompanying process, is going to help them improve and become better.
4. See and Accept Both Strengths and Weaknesses
Strong coaches keep participants from either focusing on just the negative feedback or only on the positive feedback. They help a participant see and accept both their strengths and their weaknesses.
5. Confront Necessary Change for Growth
Sometimes a participant needs someone to challenge their assumptions. Or it may be helpful, or even necessary, for a coach to step in and force a participant to confront an uncomfortable piece of feedback. Without an impartial guide, participants feel the pain but do nothing to improve, or they explain away their feedback in unhelpful ways.
6. Compare Benchmarks
A trained, experienced coach can help a participant understand the evaluative scales that are being used. For example, is a particular score common for that organization? Or what scores are expected for a specific role within the organization? This type of understanding gives a participant much needed additional information.
7. Identify Critical Feedback
A 360 coach helps a participant prioritize their feedback, helping draw out what is most important. They also advise a participant on whether they are in jeopardy from a career perspective, or whether the information is helpful but doesn’t represent a red flag. They key is helping a participant focus on what is urgent and important and to avoid activities that aren’t urgent and not important.
8. Create Accountability
Coaches play a vital role in creating accountability and pushing a participant to engage in action planning to address areas that need improvement rather than putting things off for “another day.”
9. Establish an Action Plan
Finally, effective coaches draw from a participant what they will do with the feedback. They understand that the answer lies in the participant, and they help guide and focus the discussion until the participant sees a pathway forward and is appropriately committed to making meaningful change.
In summation, multi-rater feedback is an invaluable source of employee experience data, particularly at the team and individual levels. This data can be used to help leadership better understand themselves, but it can also be used to gain insights about the organization itself. Yet, in order to take full advantage of these benefits, we strongly advise that organizations utilize trained coaches to help facilitate the 360 debrief process. These professionals are vital in helping employees improve and feel valued. They also help participants become self-aware, take action, and hold themselves accountable. Finally, trained coaches also serve as an additional source of qualitative employee experience data that can help guide talent professionals and help EX leaders better understand the employee experience.
At DecisionWise, we offer certification programs, with an accompany digital badge, that certify individuals as “Certified 360 Coaches.” For more information on our certification process, please visit https://decision-wise.com/coaching-certification-training-2/.