Reading time: 4 min
Performance feedback is an ultimate way of developing your employees. Not only is it an important moment to reflect on the areas of improvement, but also to commend them for their work.
In an ever changing and moving world, it is good to step back and reflect on what you have done so far. Not only to appreciate your efforts, but also to reflect on what can be improved. The same counts for your employees. You should take the time to sit down with them and see what they can improve, how they can achieve their goals, but also to commend them on their work so far. So in this blog I will be discussing the do’s and don’ts of performance feedback.
Let’s start with the don’ts, which are mainly focussed on the traditional top-down structure of performance feedback.
If there is anything that we should leave in the 20th century, then it is the fact that performance feedback traditionally goes top-down. In the 21st century we should stop this stubborn tradition and open up our performance feedback to a more bi-directional form of feedback. This is because of a rough threefold of reasons:
- It makes for a very awkward and unwanted conversation (even for managers).
- It upsets and needlessly agitates your employees prior to the meeting.
- The results are often limited and merely for show (“let’s just to get it over with”).
There is a reason why I chose to title this blog with ‘performance feedback’ and not ‘performance review’, and that is, just like the one-way-traffic, we should leave the beautiful tradition of performance reviews in the 20th century. The traditional performance review is, simply put, everything that I think is wrong with a traditional performance appraisal system. It has a strict top-down structure, it only assesses the performance of the employee and it states “SMART” goals (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-based), which are often not complied with or useless/meaningless to begin with. So dear employers, please stop doing this. Adhere to the mantra: if it isn’t being used, it is useless and therefore redundant.
One horrific side effect of performance reviews are ‘self-reviews’. These are often standardized questionnaires in which the employee is asked to review his or her own performance after which the results are being send to the manager as preparations to the performance review. Now, here I ask you to read the following with a critical note as the opinions vary on how valuable these self-reviews are. Just to be clear, I, myself, am NOT a fan. My argument is actually very simple, they are a waste of everybody’s time and effort, and often create an image which contradicts reality. I base my argument on the problem that a lot of questionnaires have: people don’t do what they say and they don’t say what they do. Read more about that here. There are techniques to overcome this issue, but they can only applied in a conversation, so the questionnaire, as far as I am concerned, is redundant.
So let’s talk about how you can open up your employees and how to get productive performance feedback.
This one might ring a bell from the ‘don’ts’, and it should! A performance feedback meeting should be open and bi-directional. The manager should be able to give feedback to the employee, but also the other way around. This way you are not only improving the performance of your employees, but you are also improving the performance of your organisation. Again, in this sense, both sides should share the positives and the negatives to improve. Not only does it enhance performance, but, if executed correctly, it can also strengthen the bond between a manager and employee. A good example of this are: one-to-one meetings.
A personal favourite of mine are recurring one-to-one meetings, where a manager sits down with an employee and takes an hour of their time to go through everything that is going on. This is not specifically tied to performance feedback, but it is a perfect place to incorporate it. A one-to-one meeting is meant to be a personal meeting in a professional setting. Around standardized topics both manager and employee can vent their: concerns, complaints, points of improvement, and appraisal. The open character of the one-to-one meeting is meant to create an atmosphere in which both manager and employee feel encouraged enough to state their true thoughts and feelings. In this sense it is important to understand the cultural background of both parties involved, so you know how much encouragement everybody requires to be open and transparent (hierarchical-cultures require more motivation than non-hierarchical-cultures).
Another thing that you should always try to do during the performance feedback meetings, is the formulation of goals. Now here I am not specifically pointing to the performance enhancing goals which somebody can achieve in their current position. I am more pointing to a wider array of goals which let your employee grow in general, even if that means that your employee wants to grow to another position. You can think about the growth of: interpersonal skills, performance in current job, development of additional technical skills, and intermediary goals on an employee’s path to a promotion. These goals can be part of an employee’s growth plan, which is beneficiary for an employee’s motivation and sense of loyalty towards the employer.
When it comes to performance feedback, we want to move away from the traditional model of top-down and one-way feedback. To engage your employees you need to hear their feedback too. This form of performance feedback has three main benefits:
- You discover problems and can improve your company.
- It strengthens the bond of managers and employees.
- It boosts employee motivation, engagement and loyalty.
Want to find out more about performance management? Read more here.