“We the willing, led by the unknowing, are doing the impossible for the ungrateful. We have done so much, with so little, for so long, we are now qualified to do anything, with nothing.”
Most researchers support the idea that some level of training is required to professionally and ethically provide feedback using multi-rater systems. However, exactly what experiences, academic degrees, or certifications should be required is not very clear. Some vendors require certification training as a requirement to purchase and use 360-degree feedback assessments, and others provide relevant training manuals and resources to purchasers for free.
Coaches and consultants may have very diverse backgrounds (Nowack, 2003) and academic degrees, but familiarity with assessments in general would generally be useful to professionally utilize 360-degree feedback systems (Nowack, 2003). Current research on coaching differences by education and training has found that psychologists are more likely to meet face-to-face, contract for fewer sessions, and are more likely to use 360-degree assessments in their practice (Bono, et al., 2009).
Here are a few of the requirements for interpreting 360-degree feedback:
1. Familiarity with Specific Vendor 360-Degree Feedback Report: Minimally, coaches and consultants should be familiar with vendor reports; be able to interpret the graphs, tables, and data presented.
2. Ability to Cope with Participant Reactions: Furthermore, coaches and consultants need to be competent in handling negative feedback and strong emotional reactions of clients; be capable of discussing results; and be able to help formulate specific developmental plans.
3. Background in Understanding Psychometrics: Additionally, coaches and consultants should have some background and understanding of the basic psychometric properties of assessments, including the various types of reliabilities and validities, different standardized norms that can be used, and issues surrounding the uses of normative data for interpretation of results.
4. Adhering to Ethical Guidelines: Finally, all coaches and human resource practitioners involved in 360-degree feedback interventions should adhere to accepted professional practices and ethical standards to ensure the best interests of their clients. Here is a link to APA on ethical guidelines (http://www.apa.org/monitor/mar04/ethics.aspx)
The types of training and certification that people need in order to interpret 360-degree feedback reports is often a point of confusion. Many organizations implement 360s without any type of professional coaching debriefs. As a result, 360 results are often misinterpreted or not actively utilized for development because those interpreting the reports may not have the appropriate knowledge or experience. Or, participants are often left having to interpret their own feedback report, without really knowing what to make it of it!
So, do people need to be certified in debriefing 360-degree feedback reports? No. However, the person doing the debriefing needs to be familiar with what it means and how to deal with various participant reactions. For instance, a highly defensive participant may become even more resistant and defensive if the feedback is not communicated in a collaborative and useful way.
How the feedback reports gets translated is key to the participant’s acceptance and motivation for development. Therefore, those that interpret it and debrief it with participants should consider the requirements as stated above.
How do you determine whether is qualified to interpret 360-degree feedback reports? What has been your experience?