Making employee feedback more effective

There are reviews and there are reviews.

There are some, in which the reviewers provide useful feedback, make discussions transparent and cordial, and get people to implement the change required. And other reviews… well, despite the discussions nothing much changes. Certainly not employee behavior.

Why does this happen?

Certain aspects or topics in a review process come with measurable, defined parameters. For instance, the success of a project can be measured in terms of revenue, and quality by number of defects and bugs. But behavior – defining it is tough and pointing out the change required even tougher.

How can you provide effective feedback to employees to bring about a behavior change? How can you help them action the change? Here are some pointers.

  • Define the behavior.

Give employees actionable feedback by specifying what’s right and what needs to change. Identify their positive traits and strengths. Next, articulate the behavior you want them to adopt and set out actionable points to help them get there. For instance, break down ‘be a team player’ into actionable steps such as ‘lend a helping hand to a colleague trying to meet a deadline’, or ‘complement a team member on good work done’.

  • Explain the success criteria.

Once you have defined the behavior, define how you’d measure the success or progress of the employee’s efforts. Would a score of three against the ‘team player’ parameter, based on peer reviews, count as success? Or would it be soft goals such as planning an office picnic or more participation in team discussions? A clear explanation of the success criteria helps people set targets and work towards reaching them.

  • Provide continuous feedback.

Don’t wait till the next annual review to praise the right behavior or share a useful pointer. Continuous feedback makes employees feel more engaged and motivates them to do their best. Do chat about the expected behavior change at frequent intervals – a word of appreciation at the water cooler or a quick chat once a month will help ensure your employee is on the right track.

Remember, it takes time and repeated effort for people to change what they do and how they do it. Use the review process as an opportunity to have a positive conversation about the change required and let your employees warm up to the idea gradually.

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