The Effects of Feedback Interventions on Performance Theory, written by Kluger & DeNisi, defines feedback as: ‘actions taken by (an) external agent (s) to provide information regarding some aspect (s) of one’s task performance’. In the sphere of management and people practitioners feedback is often referred to as ‘feedback interventions (FI)’.
The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) citing the research undertaken by Kluger & DeNisi note that: ‘there is wide consensus among both scholars and practitioners that feedback, in general, can have a large, positive impact on a wide range of performance outcomes’.
Scientific research suggests that feedback can have a positive effect, when it is of good quality, detailed and conducted at the right frequently.
- Be specific & clear: ‘It’s not easy to give specific feedback – it requires more reflection and preparation in advance – but it is necessary’. When providing feedback, be specific about the behaviour or action that you are addressing. Use examples to illustrate your points. Employers should aim not to make feedback personal, but instead, ensure that is it factual or based on the task. Moreover, ensure that your feedback is clear and easily understandable; avoid using jargon or overly technical terms.
- Focus on the positive: Often managers will need to deliver negative feedback but aim to place a positive spin on it to not ‘hurt’ the feelings of the recipient, research supports this approach; purely ‘negative feedback tends not to have a positive effect on performance, partly because it is more difficult for employees to perceive it as fair. Conversely, feedback that focuses on the positives, even for low-performers, does tend to produce improved performance.
- Use the feed-forward interview approach: The feed-forward interview approach is a technique used in performance management and employee development that focuses on future goals and growth opportunities rather than solely on past performance. ‘The conversation starts with discussion of a positive episode from the recent past, where the employee has felt good and has performed well. It then identifies what helps them perform (their personal ‘success formula’) and how to ensure the same conditions in the future’.
- Set goals: ‘Goals and objectives identify the gap between where one is and where one wants to be. Goals and feedback are tightly linked: feedback is often given or interpreted in regard to a goal, and goals in turn are set or adjusted following feedback’. In a management context, goals can be defined as observational or measurable organisational outcomes to be achieved within a specified time limit4. Managers should aim to create goals at the very outset of the individuals journey at probation stage (and continue), doing so will provide clear direction. Also as a secondary benefit, goals and objectives provides a means of reviewing contribution to the business allowing for reward and recognition.
- Follow up: After providing feedback, follow up with individuals to see how they are doing and if they need any additional support. There are good reasons for following up on feedback: following up on feedback interventions allows employers to evaluate whether the intervention had the intended impact on employee performance; interventions sends a message to employees that feedback is an important part of the organisation’s culture; following up on feedback interventions may reveal areas where further improvements are needed.
It goes without saying that one-two-ones should be held in a confidential environment; the invite to the meeting should avoid vagueness (which can induce anxiety); retrospective brief notes should be recorded; managers should use active listening skills and the meeting should be kept relatively informal (not casual) to allow for an open conversation.
In conclusion, feedback is a crucial element in promoting personal and professional growth in individuals and teams. By providing specific, clear and positive focused feedback, employees can gain valuable insights into their strengths and areas for improvement, helping them to develop and grow in their roles. Moreover, feedback can foster a culture of open communication and continuous improvement, leading to increased employee engagement, job satisfaction, and overall organisational success. Employers who recognise the importance of feedback and implement effective feedback systems and practices are likely to see positive results in employee performance, retention, and motivation. Ultimately, feedback is not only important but necessary for individuals and organisations to thrive in today’s dynamic and ever-changing work environment.
If you would like help training managers on how to give feedback or even how to handle difficult conversations, please get in touch with a member of the ViewHR team.