How to Give Feedback Employees Want…and Need
Let’s face it, the traditional performance review we have all known, dreaded, and spent countless hours on is making its way out of many organizations. Companies are finally ready to rethink and redefine performance to be more meaningful for employees, leaders and ultimately the organization.
The true value of performance development comes from the quality of feedback given to employees. Believe it or not, employees seek constructive feedback that will help their performance just as much as positive affirmations. In a Harvard Business Review survey, 92 percent of the respondents agreed with the following assertion: “Negative (redirecting) feedback, if delivered appropriately, is effective at improving performance1.” But the challenge for leaders is how to make the shift away from the traditional process that only focused on the ranking and rating of people.
“Performance development has to evolve beyond simply evaluating performance. Instead the focus needs to be on empowering individuals to be the best they can be at their jobs. This means teaching leaders to be coaches dedicated to giving constant feedback – both on strengths as well as on opportunities for growth,” said Lisa Sterling, Executive Vice President and Chief People Officer at Ceridian.
Harnessing the power of focused feedback
The traditional process of once-a-year performance reviews is no longer relevant to today’s employees. Instead, a shift has occurred to performance development which has leaders focusing on:
- Frequent communications – Make employee development a year-round discussion point by scheduling regular touch-base meetings to review and update performance goals2.
- Career development – Deliver feedback (both strengths and opportunities) encouraging skill development and career growth.
- Strategic contributions – Help employees see how their individual performance ties to company goals and encourage them to offer ideas on how they can contribute to the company’s success.
Getting a handle on performance issues
Most leaders dislike giving constructive feedback for fear of making employees feel bad, unmotivated and potentially disgruntled. However, if handled properly, leaders can use the situation as an opportunity to mentor and coach.
- Address issues early on – Communicate often and early. Make sure to create a corrective action plan before performance issues become unmanageable.
- Prepare for a defensive response – Most people don’t like to hear constructive feedback, so be prepared for some defensiveness. Be specific about areas where they can improve and offer solutions to the issues3.
- Listen and emphasize collaboration – Don’t make employees feel like their performance issues are theirs alone to solve. Make it your responsibility to listen to your employees’ challenges and coach them on how to improve.
Top performers need feedback too
When it comes to your top performers, don’t assume they don’t require any further development4. Focus your feedback and coaching on how they can continue to grow.
- Find new opportunities – Identify the behaviors and skills that make your top performers excel and find other areas in the company where they can make a difference.
- Make them a mentor – Connect your top employee with others that will benefit from their skill set. More often than not, you (and they) will uncover other abilities that will further help them in their job.
- Challenge them to improve – Top performers need your guidance as much as anyone else. Check in often to help them refine their strengths and skills and find new areas to apply them.
Empowerment all year long
No matter who you’re delivering feedback to, strive to be objective and kind. Employees need to understand that performance conversations are part of their overall development, and they should take some ownership of the process. A corporate culture that promotes, recognizes and awards self-improvement will go a long way in changing attitudes about performance.
1Harvard Business Review, Your Employees Want the Negative Feedback You Hate to Give
2Harvard Business Review, Feedback that Works
3Human Resource Executive Online, Best Performance-Evaluation Practices
4Harvard Business Review: Giving a Top Performer Productive Feedback