Wednesday 21 March 2018

Continuous feedback a fundamental of performance cycle

Brenda Dooley

In previous articles I highlighted the importance of feedback to employees for driving motivation, commitment and engagement within an organisation.

Daniel Pink in his bestseller 'Drive' talks about the "feedback desert" – the traditional carrot and stick approach to motivating and staff, where feedback comes in the form of a once-a-year badly conducted and awkward conversation.

This management approach is no longer effective, if indeed it ever was. But it is particularly ineffective for a new generation of workers – the millenials – who lead incredibly feedback-rich lives.

Their demands for self-development, career opportunities, autonomy and recognition can only be delivered in a climate that's rich in quality feedback.

But however important feedback is to the employee, it is a critical element in the management of performance, which is a process that contributes to the effective management of individuals and teams in order to achieve enhanced organisational performance.

Performance management is the toolset that ensures managers lead and develop their people so that they are clear in what is expected of them, that they are supported and developed to deliver on those expectations, are allowed to contribute and are given feedback on how they are doing in that context.

But it is important to highlight that it is not just a top-down exercise. It must be a joint process whereby managers clarify their expectations and staff can likewise communicate their expectations of what they need to do to achieve their goals.

A typical organisational performance management process contains elements including performance appraisal, learning and development, goals and standards, measurements, recognition and reward.

The key communication skill throughout this process is the ability to conduct and accept meaningful feedback.

Yet ask any group of managers how they feel about giving feedback and a good portion of them will admit to feeling distinctly uncomfortable about the entire process.

Most managers know what they want done, but many are not good at articulating or communicating it, or providing clear feedback on whether people have or have not achieved it.

So it is vital that there is clarity about organisational and departmental goals, how those objectives are to be achieved, what the performance expectations are, and how well people are delivering against those expectations.

This can only be achieved by providing employees with regular feedback delivered in a constructive and engaging manner by a manager focused on enhancing performance.

So if you are struggling with how to provide effective employee feedback, follow my helpful hints below.

* Focus on the facts – if you are drawing either a positive or negative conclusion, refer to actual events, examples or incidences to justify your opinion. There is no place for impressions or feelings where giving feedback is concerned.

* Engage with the individual – the objective is to help the individual to higher performance so make sure your intentions are authentic and the engagement is genuine. Employees know when you are being sincere in your efforts to help them.

* Encourage meaningful dialogue – feedback is a discussion not a lecture, so make sure that you allow the individual to contribute, discuss and respond to your comments and be prepared to change your mind.

* Discuss what's working well and what's not – people respond better when they receive information in a positive way, so be constructive with your comments, even if they are negative. There is no need to sugar-coat information if it is supported by facts and delivered in a positive way.

* Balance the positives and the negatives – it's seldom all bad, so make sure that if you have negative feedback that you balance it with positive comments. If it's all bad, you have a different problem.

* Accept upward feedback – this is a dialogue in which you must be prepared to accept feedback. Don't forget you have an impact on the individual and the team so you must learn to accept feedback on your performance as a supportive manager.

* Clarify goals and expectations – use a coaching approach to make sure that goals, objectives and performance expectations are clear for the individual and there is explicitness around any corrective action which needs to be taken.

* Keep it going – remember feedback is not just an annual or quarterly form-filling exercise, it is a continuous process and forms a fundamental element of the performance management cycle.

If you follow the above tips, you will ensure that, when approached with the right attitude, you can create a culture of feedback which will result in higher performance outcomes for you and your staff.

Brenda Dooley is an executive coach and HR consultant.

Irish Independent

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