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Coaching and Multi-Source Feedback

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The Three Assessment Tiers

360° feedback usually involves two tiers in an assessment process. With regard to the first tier (self-assessment), the employee rates his own performance using the scale that is being distributed to the other people involved in the feedback assessment. The employee can also be asked to predict how he thinks the other people completing the scale will rate him. While this prediction process is rarely engaged I find that it can yield great insights. In most cases, when engaging the second tier (assessment by others), the employee helps to select the people who will rate him, though the final list remains confidential to preserve anonymity. Typically, seven or eight colleagues are asked to complete the rating scale, though this number may be as great as twenty-five or as little as four or five.

The third tier is rarely addressed in a 360° feedback process. This third tier concerns assessment of the context or culture in which the employee operates and in which the ratings are being solicited. This third tier certainly has an impact on the employee’s performance and the perceptions of employees regarding one another. While many 360° advocates suggest that multi-source feedback can influence organizational culture,  most fail to recognize that influence can also flow in the opposite direction: organizational culture can influence the ratings being given to individual employees engaged in a 360° feedback process.

The role taken by organizational culture in the lives and performance of contemporary employees is actually growing even larger, given the current shift in job structures and responsibilities. Tier Two assessments help to address the challenges associated with these multiple roles and assignments. However, Tier Three assessments are just as important, given that fluid job assignments require an adjustment to new constituencies and colleagues, and an adjustment to new work conditions and organizational subcultures. Data about these conditions and cultural characteristics can help an employee more fully appreciate the frame of reference being used by those doing a Tier Two assessment. These data can also help an employee better prepare for and fully understand the nature of the organizational and systemic challenges he is facing. Employees who receive a Tier Three assessment can more fully appreciate those forces operating in their organizational setting that enhance their competencies and those forces that are de-skilling and de-motivating.

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