LET’S face it, no one likes to be judged. Yet being judged is what happens to us in workplaces at least once a year, formally, and every other day, informally.
How and when performance feedback is communicated to an employee has become, if anything, more important than ever. Why?
It’s partly driven my Millennials also known as Gen Y (roughly those born between the early 1980s and 2000) who will become the dominant generation in the workforce very soon. We know from multiple research that Millennials like to receive more regular feedback, particularly when tied to specific tasks, as it provides timely information that they can use to learn and become more effective.
END OF THE ANNUAL REVIEW?
Certainly, in Australia the traditional annual performance review is looking increasingly outdated. Research suggests they are expensive, time-consuming and ineffective, failing to mesh with the speed of change now happening in workplaces.
The impact of more frequent and tailored feedback will, of course, depend on what is said. Positive feedback will make an employee feel proud and motivated. Negative feedback will likely produce the opposite effect. One study showed that 98% of managers experienced some form of aggression as a result of providing negative feedback.
So, it’s very clear that the quality of feedback, and the way it is delivered is going to be pretty crucial to how a worker feels about their employer subsequently.
DON’T MAKE IT PERSONAL
In the bestselling book, Creativity Inc, author Ed Catmull describes how movie production company Pixar developed a positive feedback culture. Director of the movie Monsters Inc, Pete Doctor, says that although he and the crew went through rounds and rounds of critical feedback, they “never believed that a failed approach meant that they had failed [personally].”
This is the kind of approach any supervising manager should aim for.
Some managers employ the ‘sandwich’ method of feedback, beginning with something positive, followed by the negative but ending with a positive to make sure employees feel valued even as you are asking them to lift their game.
BE CRYSTAL CLEAR
Begin by being absolutely clear about what the issue or problem is. Keep it simple and specific. There is a danger of overwhelming a worker with so much information they can’t process it all and become demoralised. It’s really important that they walk away from the conversation with a clear understanding of the area requiring improvement and ideas on how they can go about fixing it.
Resist any temptation to blame and direct feedback at the tasks and not the worker. When feedback is given kindly, workers are more likely to feel that they are being treated fairly by their supervisor and not feel their self-esteem has taken a hit.
- Encourage discussion and a collaborative approach to solving a problem.
- Invite the individual to reach solutions for themselves but also be prepared to
- Offer guidance for ways to improve.
Non-verbal cues can make or break how the verbal message is received. Ensure that your facial expression matches what you are saying, so choose the best possible environment, when you are in the right frame of mind, to convey feedback.
Listen to any criticisms that the employee may have. Ideally, you should both arrive at an agreement of how to proceed by putting some concrete action plans in place. For example, start meetings off by recapping the goals you are trying to reach together and the reasons you want to achieve these targets. Set time limits on when you want to achieve improved outcomes.
The best managers are always looking to develop and improve strengths rather than to highlight weaknesses. This helps build a worker’s confidence and ultimately yields great results – borne of talent and motivation rather than fear of failure.
Our newest suite, Employment Law For Managers, consists of important training courses that help managers learn how to manage performance, difficult conversations and meetings, and adverse action and dismissal.