Case BASF

BASF, global leader in the chemicals industry, performed «360°-assessment» of managers in 2008.

Natalia Duvanova, BASF HR Director, explained how the largest concern in the industry assessed managers.

BASF set the following overriding goal: to compare the self-assessment of the participant’s competencies with the assessment of the individual by other people and, based on the results of the assessment, to draft a development plan for each employee.

Four groups of people assessed the managers:

Client-facing managers were assessed by external clients, who had been selected at the discretion of the manager. Internal department managers were assessed by internal clients.

BASF HR Director Natalia Duvanova organized the assessment procedure and also participated. She was assessed in the same way as the other managers. The assessment procedure consisted of six stages.

At the first stage HR employees organized a briefing with the participants of the assessment. The goal of the briefing was to notify the participants of the goals of the assessment, answer any questions that they might have and establish a positive attitude for this process. It was very important to allay employee fears – it is common knowledge that such events at other companies can often lead employees to worry about possible subsequent management actions based on the results of the assessment.

At the second stage it was necessary to form a pool of appraisers (as a large number of appraisers is required for assessments using the 360° feedback method, particular attention should be paid to this issue). In this project each participant was assessed by 10-15 people. On the one hand, this complicated the assessment process. On the other hand, this made it possible to involve a large number of people in this process, and provided the participant with comprehensive and all-round feedback.

BASF used its own questionnaire that had been compiled on the basis of corporate competencies. Our objective was to enter it in the ONTARGET360 on-line system and organize the on-line assessment process. The ONTARGET360 system made it possible to perform an assessment using one questionnaire in two languages. Foreign managers completed the questionnaire in English, and Russian speakers in Russian. The automatic loading of information on the participants and appraisers required the compilation of a list of these individuals using a special form in an Excel spreadsheet. BASF HR employees created the spreadsheet. Once all the information had been entered in the system: the questionnaire, the information on the participants and appraisers — each participant was automatically sent an electronic invitation to complete the questionnaire. In addition, the consultant providing technical support for the project was able to download information on the current status of the project on a weekly basis and e-mail repeat invitations to employees, who had still not completed the questionnaires. During the project 33 managers were assessed, while the total number of participants together with appraisers came to 119 people. A deadline of three weeks was given for the completion of the questionnaires.

In order to provide structured feedback, we prepared the format of the report that was subsequently received by each participant. When the deadline for completing the questionnaires assigned by the HR department for appraisers had expired, we closed access to the system and generated reports on all the participants. Each completed report was sent to three people: the individual being assessed, the individual’s manager and the HR manager responsible for people development. It is worth noting that the General Director Pyotr Golitsyn was the director for most of the managers being assessed.

As the main goal of the project was to identify development areas and subsequently draft individual development plans, the key stage of the work was to provide feedback. The feedback was provided in two stages.

At the first stage a Detech consultant discussed the results of the assessment with the participant. This meeting lasted two hours. Before this meeting the participant had already studied the report and consequently turned up for the meeting with ready questions. We identified jointly with the participant the main gaps in competencies, tried to work out the reasons for the various assessments, and discussed specific examples that might have led to such assessments. Moreover it was often the case that the participant was surprised not only by low ratings, but also by high ratings. During the discussion we identified ways that would enable the individual to enhance his/her skills within various competencies. At the second stage we attended the meeting with the director lasting approximately one hour. Consequently, one of the objectives of the consultant during the one-on-one meetings with the participant was to prepare him/her for this meeting. At the end of the individual feedback session we identified priority development areas and highlighted possible development areas, compiled the list of questions that the participant wanted to ask his/her line manger and formulated a plan for the conversation with the director.

At the second stage the manager who had been assessed attended the meeting with his/her line manager with the participation of the consultant. At the start the consultant briefly summarized the results of the previous meeting and then let the participant comment, thereby enabling him/her to express his/her own view of personal development and also to ask the line manager questions that had been prepared in advance. In this conversation the participant and his/her line manager were the main speakers. Subsequently, the manager and subordinate discussed specific examples that had influenced the assessment and had been identified in competencies that required priority development. In this case the consultant acted as the facilitator of the process, and where necessary proposed specific recommendations on how to develop competencies that the employee could practice at the workplace or in current projects. Many employees were pleasantly surprised by the extent of the involvement of the General Director and other senior managers of the company in the project. They stated during the second meeting that such sincere interest in their development was a very strong motivator.

The high level of involvement of the General Director was unique in this project. He conducted approximately 30 discussions with subordinates. Prior to the meeting, he studied the report on the subordinate and sketched out his comments, and prepared a list of specific examples from working practice with this participant. If recalculated as hours, it turns out that Pyotr Golitsyn spent almost an entire working week providing feedback to the subordinates as part of this project.

To a large extent the involvement of the company’s chief executive laid the groundwork for the success of the entire 360° feedback project. The assessed managers were positive about the whole process. It is clear that the actual assessment only served as grounds for discussing long-standing problems. However, it also provided an opportunity for the managers to check how far their perception of their role in the company was consistent with general perceptions of their performance, receive advice on development issues and perhaps most importantly speak frankly about these matters with their line managers.

The entire 360° feedback project for key managers took seven weeks, including the actual assessment and feedback. Based on the results of the assessment, individual development plans were drafted for each participant.