Performance feedback: A pragmatic guide
Every organization is either striving to survive or competing to grow by enhancing organizational performance. Every organization has its performance management system to continuously enhance individual/team/organizational performance. However, employees are the units of organizational performance; which is the focus of performance management.
Performance is the result of employee’s willingness or motivation, capability or competency, and organizational support culture/climate; together they contribute to performance. But organizational culture & climate plays a significant role in influencing the individual performance; which has a direct bearing on the employee's willingness/motivation and capability building.
Performance is measured based on the set goals vis achievements mostly on annual basis. However, goals are the broad objectives; whereas performance is the composition of tasks or daily activities. Therefore, performance is managed (planned, organized & executed) based on every task or daily activities. Every manager or team leader mentally records the performance of the team members based on task or activity and the measurement is done on the expected volume/quality/paces of work /attitude of performance vis a vis actual.
Performance Feedback is extremely important to set the expectation from the employees, which are the dismal necessity of every employee to help him/her to continuously improve the performance. Effective Performance Feedback helps the employee to know where he/she stands concerning the expected performance. This is the basic support system, culture & climate for the employee which builds the overall culture in an organization. Hence, effective Performance Feedback is the moral fiber of the Performance Management System; in absence, it will never achieve its objectives. Therefore, feedback is required to be provided to the employees based on the task or daily activity on the expected or desired vis a vis achieved performance
Organizations carrying out PMS as a ritual and as a tool to decide the increment, rewards & promotions will never fulfill the core objective of PMS i.e performance enhancement. But organizations that need continuous enhancement of performance must use Performance Feedback as the basic fiber.
The details of “What, Why, When, Where & How” of Performance Feedback are as given below:
What is 'Performance Feedback'?
Performance Feedback is the response given to an employee by his/her superior regarding his / her achieved performance vis a vis expected/desired performance in terms of volume of work/quality of work/pace of work/attitude towards the work/customers which should be genuine and unbiased i.e based on the facts, figures and incidents.
Why Performance Feedback?
Effective Performance Feedback sets the expectations of the organization/superiors with the employee from time to time and enables the employee to stretch his/her capabilities to meet the desired/expected performance. Without effective performance feedback neither the employee can know to deliver nor can the team/organization achieve the desired or expected performance. Effective Performance Feedback is the key to continuous enhancement of employee performance which serves the objective of the organization and also serves as the enabler for the employee to survive, grow, and engage with the organization. This is the tool for employee engagement, performance enhancement & employee development; there is no alternative to performance feedback.
When to give Performance Feedback?
It is the industry practice to provide performance feedback to the employees once a year during the performance appraisal or periodically during the performance review. When critically examining this practice, hardly one will find any use of such formal feedback given as a ritual long after the performance or completion of the tasks for which feedback is given. The employee can hardly connect the feedback with the incident/ process to reflect on the same or take any immediate action for improvement.
It is therefore important that the performance feedback is provided to the employee immediately after completion of the task/day’s activities so that the feedback is reinforced in the mind of the employee for further immediate action/improvement/motivation. If the feedback is received immediately, the employee can very well connect with the process/attitude in which he/she has performed the task and where he/she needs the action to continue or improve upon to achieve a higher level of performance. Else, the performance feedback shall lose its relevance or objectives.
Where to give Performance Feedback?
It is the standard rule that “one should be appreciated in public and reprimand in private”. The same principle applies to follow while giving performance feedback to an employee. However, it is difficult to separate performance feedback in terms of well-done feedback & needs-improvement feedback. Therefore, complete feedback i.e. well-done & needs-improvement should be given to the employee in private; but well-done feedback (appreciation) should be repeated in public whenever there is the earliest opportunity, to keep the morale of the employee high.
Who should give Performance Feedback?
The performance feedback should be given with facts, figures, and descriptions of the incidents of one’s performance. This requires close observation/supervision/verification of the employee's work-related activities/performance to give effective performance feedback. Therefore, the person who assigns the task/supervises the work/closely observes the performance of the employee should give feedback. Hence, the immediate superior or whoever assigns the task should give the performance feedback to the employee.
How to give Performance Feedback?
Performance Feedback should be provided with relevant facts, figures, and incidents (date, time & place, the sequence of activities, etc), without which the employee will not accept the feedback wholeheartedly, as he/she may not connect the feedback with the work process; as a result, may not relate to what and where he/she requires course correction/action to retain/achieve desired level performance. The performance feedback may be on the volume of work/ quality of work/ pace of delivery/attitude towards performance; however, the feedback should be very specific with facts, figures, and incidents. This requires the immediate superiors to observe the performance of the employee to help/develop the employee by giving him/her the genuine feedback to retain /achieve the desired/expected levels of performance.
Further, if the feedback is given to find fault/demean the employee or given very casually, it will be counterproductive i.e leading to damaging of interpersonal relationships, downgrading the employee morale, and reducing the employee future performance. Therefore the performance feedback must be given to help/support/guide/ improve the employee's performance or motivate with an objective of his / her career progression. Such constructive feedback will always be very fruitful/ leave a positive impact on the employee’s performance. Further, it will enhance the inter-personal relationship, boost employee morale & promote a higher level of performance.
The art of giving feedback:
Performance Feedback should meet its objectives i.e. the employee should welcome & accept the feedback and should be encouraged, motivated to implement/make use of it to enhance his/her performance. Therefore, it is extremely important that the feedback should be genuine and should be delivered only in the interest of the employee’s development/appreciation. Therefore one needs to articulate and learn the art of giving feedback to make it most effective, as illustrated under:
*Very good job /I liked / I appreciate “the volume of work/quality of work/pace of work/attitude of your performance etc “(with facts and incidents); you can see………..to further improve ………………… to take your performance to the next level.”
Whom (under what circumstances) to give Performance Feedback?
Assume that you are in a social gathering with your friends/colleagues. In that gathering someone has made a derogatory comment against you in front of everyone; how will you respond/react to that situation?
The possible responses are :
- Response 1: React in the same derogatory way, giving a befitting comment against him/her
- Response 2: Respond to dilute or pacify the situation/derogatory comments,
- Response 3: Don’t respond at all;
Q: Let us know, how you are going to react/respond to the situation and why?
A: How you are going to respond/react, all depends on the relationship you share with the person who made the derogatory comments.
- Situation 1: If you are not sharing a very good relationship with the person who made the derogatory comments against you; you will most likely by all means try to give similar/severe derogatory comments in the same forum to take revenge against the person.
- Situation 2: If you are sharing a very friendly /personal/close relationship with the person who made the derogatory comments against you; you will most likely respond to lighten/dilute the situation/ comments to maintain/not to damage your relationship.
- Situation 3: If you are not sure/confused about whether to respond negatively or positively; you may remain silent and may not respond at all; you may deal with it offline.
Whom to give performance feedback is similar to the above situation.
If your relationship with the employee/ team member is trustworthy, he/she will be receptive to your feedback and the same will have a positive outcome/impact on the employee. Therefore, performance feedback should be given to the person with whom you share a trustful relationship.
But, if your relationship with the team member/employee is not trustworthy, he/she will not be receptive to your feedback whether it is well-done or needs-improvement feedback. The employee will construe your good feedback as hypocrisy, as you don't like him/her. The employee will any way reject your needs-improvement feedback with the mindset that it was anyway expected from you, as you don’t like him/her.
It is therefore advisable to be very careful as to whom feedback should be given by the manager/team leader; "Performance Feedback is effective only if there is a trustful relationship between the feedback giver & receiver and if the feedback is given with the intentions to help, support the person; otherwise it will be counter-productive".
Finally, the use of Effective Performance Feedback has multiple benefits for the employee, team leader, and the organization; therefore should be imbibed as a routine practice to build as culture:
- It enhances employee performance & career progression
- It enhances the performance culture of the organization
- It enhances employee morale
- It enhances employee engagement
- It enhances interpersonal relationship & teamwork
- There is no substitute for genuine & effective performance feedback to build a high-performance workplace.
Let's make the best use of it.