Article (December-2016)


Employee feedback- A crucial link

Salil Chinchore

Designation : -   Head- Human Resources

Organization : -  Godrej Agrovet Limited, Mumbai


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In one of my earlier stints as trainee, I made a presentation to a panel of senior managers in the company. Given that I was just a trainee, I worked really hard on my project. After the presentation, there was complete silence in the room. The training manager indicated to me to leave the room. I was totally confused and clueless. After all the presentations, I asked the Training Manager on the reasons for no feedback by the panel. He said, "in this company, no feedback is a good feedback". 

My experience is few decades old. But when I look around, I still find managers believing in this Gita principle of- 'Do Your Work without Expecting Any Returns'. They are hesitant to look into the eyes of their team members and give candid performance feedback. In the absence of such communication, the work relationships continue on assumptions by the manager & employees and then at some point of time, they collapse.

Most of the work-places today are dominated by Gen Y and millennial. In the era of instant feedback through social media platforms (e.g. readers instantly liking & commenting your Facebook posts), employees expect similar behavior from their managers. Gen Y and millennial research indicates timely & constructive feedback as a key engagement and retention driver.

But then, how is employee feedback linked to employee recognition?

Employee feedback is the crucial link between the employee performance and recognition. For example, if one of your employee has done exemplary job of handling a tough customer situation. In many companies, such employee is chosen for the Company Award - it could be a business award or a Values In Action award. However, if you as a line manager, have not communicated to him about his contributions and the strengths that he brings to the table, employee would find it difficult to connect with the award. We end up rewarding employees mechanically as rituals. Employee feedback is the much needed glue between the two.

In my view, performance feedback achieves three strategic objectives:

Performance Improvement:
Balanced and timely feedback on employee performance helps employee understand where he/she stands vis-à-vis company expectations. The discussion should not be limited to what got achieved and what not. Rather, the manager should also encourage conversation on employee behavioral aspects that enabled and/or blocked the performance. Then, gain employee alignment to do something about it. It results in employee mending the ways to ensure that expectations are achieved and exceeded. As a result, it improves the team as well as company performance. 

A well prepared and delivered performance feedback conversation can motivate the employee and set him up for bigger things in the career.
Employee Engagement:

Just to take the point further, if you have prepared well for the performance feedback conversation, it improves your credibility in the eyes of your team members. It is true even if it turns out to be a tough feedback. Research shows that employee engagement is higher in the organizations that practices robust employee feedback conversations. Employees find such organizations fair, transparent and worth working for.

Companies recognizing and celebrating employee contributions are humane and humble. Adherence to company values is much healthier there than in the other ones.

Talent Retention:

If you are conversing well with your team and appreciating them on their contributions, you hold high probability of retaining them. Feedback conversations remove the uncertainty and insecurity from the minds of employees and help them focus on their work with positive intent.Good reinforcement to your 'A category players' can get them work longerwith your organization.

Converse is true as well. I have observed that companies with bad managers (those who are rough in managing teams, poor in providing feedback and recognition) find it difficult to attract and retain talent. There are many sources today (such as social media, company alumni networks, job sites) that can provide detailed insights on company culture and line manager issues.

In evolved organizations, employee feedback and recognition are part of must-have competencies of the line managers. Apart from functional expertise, line managers grow only if they have the capability to motivate the teams around.

Employee feedback and recognition is not a one-time effort. It requires preparation and consistent application. Like any other behavioral change, you should be constantly at it till it becomes your second nature. Inconsistent feedback and / or recognition raise doubts in the minds of the employees. It hampers the engagement and team productivity. So, always follow "TRCP" principles:

    Timeliness & Relevance - of the feedback and recognition to employee behavior

    Consistency - in holding feedback and recognition conversations with your team

    Preparation - ensure that you have synthesized the required performance data and insights.

Debates on doing away with traditional performance reviews are gathering momentum. But, let us bear in mind that performance feedback and employee appreciation are the bedrock of every performance management framework.