While multi-rater feedback has its distinct advantages, it also can be a disaster if not planned and implemented carefully. The most common mistake managers make is believing that multi-rater feedback is a replacement for the annual review. That’s wrong, wrong, wrong. Multi-rater feedback is a development tool: it allows an employee to get interim feedback from several sources on his behavior and skills so that he/she can improve his performance. It’s like a map, guiding the employee on his improvement journey. The annual review is just the toll gate.

A second mistake is believing feedback from multiple sources will “fix” a problem employee. That too is wrong, wrong, wrong. Employees who receive low ratings or significant gaps between raters may not care about their performance, which obviously needs to be addressed quickly. Alternately, they may not know what to do or how to do it. That latter reason is the perfect opportunity to work with the employee to create and implement a performance improvement plan, identifying specific work areas, behaviors or competencies to develop.

The third biggest mistake I see is trying to evaluate too much at one time. For instance, let’s say a manager has five reports. A survey is designed to assess ten core competencies, each having six behavioral statements. Each questionnaire then includes a total of sixty questions. That means the manager has to respond to 300 questions for his team. This manager may also be called upon by peers to evaluate their performance. If each employee is also supposed to obtain evaluations from their peers, they too will be responding to 100s of questions. You can see where I’m going with this: responding to all the surveys becomes so time-consuming there is no time left for the feedback, which leads me up to the fourth mistake.

No time for feedback! The goal of 360 degree assessments is feedback, an opportunity for employees to understand how others view their work performance and behavior and learn what they need to do to improve. Time needs to be carved out for the employee to review his reports and meet with his direct supervisors to work on an improvement plan.

What I’m about to outline has been an effective solution to implement and execute multi-rater feedback within organizations – small and large.

1. Management buy-in and enforcement is a must. Management must require every participant to respond in a timely manner. Too often both employees and managers drag their feet at responding to surveys, frustrating many employees who get partial or no feedback.

2. The competencies selected for evaluation must be linked to organizational goals and purpose.

3. Limit the number of competencies to ten, preferably less.

4. Begin the process with a self-assessment or 180 degree. ( A 180 degree evaluations includes just the employee and his/her manager.) Allow the employee to assess his own skills and possibly get feedback from his manager.

5. After the initial assessment, each employee writes a performance development plan to improve specific core areas. Each goal for improvement should include specific actions with milestone dates for monitoring and/or completion.

6. Six month to one year after this initial assessment, the employee is ready for multi-source evaluation.

Actual implementation includes much more planning and forethought than what I described above but it’s a bare-bones plan to get started. Many of the best companies in the world utilize multi-rater 360 degree assessments to evaluate and build competencies. It is considered a best-practice. Isn’t it time to follow their lead?