Feedback and performance
Feedback is the unpleasant sound we can hear when a microphone is close to a speaker. Feedback is a regulatory mechanism keeping our organism alive. Feedback is…
“I will give you some feedback.” Have you ever heard these words from your superior? An employee hearing this from his/her boss will not be generally optimistic. The term feedback is often used as a euphemism replacing the harsher terms: rebuke, criticism, or punishment.
The term feedback appeared first in electrical engineering as a means of controlling power. Later, it entered the world of management and HR and began to live its own life there. From the originally neutral expression, the term has become to be perceived negatively.
Controlling employees’ performance is one of the key factors of success in companies. The times when the only instruments were reward and punishment are the past. Today, most managers know that motivation and engagement must be encouraged in people.
Companies cannot manage without feedback. Most companies work with some form of staff assessment. Formal tools include annual interviews, employee rankings, or group assessment. However, every interpersonal communication contains feedback elements – we usually know what the other party thinks and how much we meet its expectations.
Well-provided feedback motivates and corrects. It says what is good and what should be continued. It says also what is wrong and what should be changed. Praise is an engine, criticism the helm. A ship without an engine would not move from its mooring. If it had no helm, it would be dashed against the rocks.
Working with feedback is difficult for those who should give it, as well for those who should accept it. Mostly, we prefer praise rather than criticism. If we criticize someone, we risk a chill in relations. There is a risk of conflict and a need to defend our assessment. It is much easier to praise.
If we are criticized, we often feel it as casting doubts on ourselves. It jeopardizes our social status. The criticism raises concerns in us about what has not been said.
Often, we are reluctant to express praise. The good things are understood as a matter of course. A manager may be concerned that too frequent praise would reduce his/her authority. Sometimes, our praise is prevented by an awareness that not everything is perfect, and if I do not want to criticize, the absence of praise balances scoring.
There are many things preventing us from giving and receiving feedback. As a result, we often reduce it to the minimum. In many companies, this is an assessment interview once a year.
Sure, better once a year than never. But how much does an annual interview reflect the course of the entire year? It turns out that the influence of the last period is dominant and earlier events are suppressed in the background. Statistics do not give a too optimistic result:
51% of employees consider annual interviews to be slanted
86% of organizations consider the performance management system based on annual interviews to be ineffective
30% of annual interviews cause demotivation and decrease in performance
Feedback is not only a direct tool for managing company performance but an important factor in shaping the company culture. Corporate culture arises spontaneously thanks to people-to-people communication and represents a shared set of values, standards and attitudes affecting company employee behaviour.
When we are able to work with feedback, we may gain an effective tool for working with the company culture and, in turn, a tool to increase the company performance.
The most effective feedback is that which is provided instantly in real time. It is much easier to capture all the details immediately after the event or the project completion than with some delay of time. Even receiving feedback is easier in such a case.
In order for feedback to become a useful tool for managing the performance and development of the company culture, it is necessary to build mutual trust between people and to learn the principles of providing motivating feedback.
Be honest. Openness is paid off. Revealed insincerity leads to the loss of confidence.
Do not beat about the bush. Do not give scope to speculations. It is better to give things straight.
Respond as soon as possible. By postponing a dialogue, you will lose many valuable details.
Respect and Dialogue
Hold a dialogue. Keep in mind that you may be mistaken, too. Help the other side find the solution yourself, coach.
Process and Performance
Do not assess or change any person, you will not succeed in doing such. Focus on what can be changed: results, processes, and shows of behaviour.
Working with Vision
Even the least pleasant criticism is better tolerated when you know what it will bring to you. Look for connections, work with goals
Working with feedback is time-consuming. Lack of time is often a reason to postpone the feedback. However, the price we pay for it is high.
Feedback can also be provided through software tools. The advantage is great time saving, a record of evaluation for possible later use, structuring, and the possibility of continuous use. Software may reduce the barrier when working with feedback because it eliminates personal contact.
However, the absence of personal contact and possible anonymity are constraints at the same time. For this reason, software tools should not be the only way to work with feedback but rather to complement personal and instant feedback.
Feedback is the most effective tool for shaping the company culture, while motivating and effective feedback is conditioned by an appropriate company culture.