Accordingly, HR and organizations are making efforts to improve employee performance and productivity through a range of employee engagement initiatives and management measures such as higher remuneration, lavish perks, CSR initiatives, crafting positive work environments and so on. In this scheme of things, one very potent management tool that could turn around employee engagement and help create a culture of high performance but is most underrated is FEEDBACK.
Feedback by definition is about providing information/reactions/statements of opinion about a person's performance of a task that serves as a basis for improvement. Contrary to popular belief, it is not limited to criticism or has to be negative all the time. Negative feedback and criticism are but types of feedback and ones that managers and leaders from consciously stay away from. There are other preferred types of feedback - positive, constructive, feed forward, praise, instructional, motivational, etc. - that must be given at the right time, in the right way and in the right place. Put differently, feedback needs to be effective and delivered in a way that employees are able to take actions based on it.
- Improve job performance by enhancing ability, valuing effort and recognizing results. It enables them to understand their performance from a third-person's perspective, providing rich insights on strengths and weaknesses.
- Reduce mistakes on the job and increase their efficiency on the job, if provided consistently, clearly and constructively. Even top performers may have certain skill gaps (soft skills or interpersonal skills), inadvertent behavior and other deficiencies that effective feedback can help them rectify before it escalates into something bigger.
- Understand manager's/ leader's/ organization's expectations from them and accordingly, set goals and objectives for the short and long terms.
- Resolve challenges that they are facing on the personal and professional front that is hindering their performance. It also enables them to remove uncertainties and
- Gain confidence and improve self-esteem and self-worth.
- Learn faster if the feedback is continuous and constructive.
- Engage in meaningful discussions and build positive workplace relationships.
- Feel more valued and it improves their morale, thereby, enabling them to be more engaged at work.
The millennials comprise over 30% of the world population and are making up an increasing percentage of the workforce as well. It is predicted that by 2025, they will occupy over 75% of the global workforce. Millennials, having grown up in the age of the rapid and constant feedback loops created by social media, seek instant feedback at work too as it helps them learn faster and grow on their jobs. When their need for instant and regular feedback is not met adequately, they feel disengaged at work and do not mind quickly moving on to an employer who will meet this demand.
Effective feedback : How it should be?
Timely : It is ineffective if you provide feedback to an employee months after you noticed something that needs changing. Effective feedback is proactive and as close to the event as possible.
Constructive : Criticism is a big 'NO NO'. Negative feedback should also be presented in a constructive way so that employees do not feel like they are attacked, and they are able to take corrective action, learn and grow. Effective feedback must be appropriate and must be delivered in a tactful, non-threatening manner.
Personal : One-on-one feedback is the most effective. It fosters dialogue, mutual understanding and discussion on possible solutions and better interpersonal relationships.
It is important for everyone in the organization, whether employers or employees, to understand that all feedback does not have the same desired result. Its impact varies on how, when and by whom it is delivered and how the person receiving it processes the feedback cognitively. You may deliver feedback with utmost respect, empathy and care in a constructive manner, but it could still lead to deteriorating performance. This is because the employees receiving it may not be equipped to cognitively process the feedback the way it should be and the way you desire it to be perceived. For instance, employees with a fixed mindset and feels any feedback to be an attack on them. With his/her natural flight or fight instincts kicking it, they will either fight back/argue with the person giving the feedback or not take the feedback seriously and continue the way they always work. Employees with a growth mindset, however, consider their skills and abilities to be malleable and look at feedback as a tool for learning and growth. So, it is key that organizations and HR work with employees to help change their mindset and equip them to leverage the powerful tool that FEEDBACK is.
How to give effective feedback?
Language matters : Frame your thoughts appropriately, choose the right words and then deliver feedback in the most tactful and non-threatening manner as possible. For instance, using the word 'but' could be counterproductive as people tense up on hearing the word and it accentuates the negative feedback over the positive feedback. It would be better if you say something on the lines of, "You could do even better if.." or "better still…", etc. as these do not take away from the positive feedback.
Tying it up with action : Feedback is effective and productive only if it is tied to goal-setting, an action plan and some review parameters else, it would be a waste of work hours.
Embed feedback in your workplace culture