The numbers are in. More and more major companies who rely on top employee performance, from General Electric to Accenture, are ditching annual performance reviews. The reasons are plentiful. They’re expensive. They take up far too much administrative time. And fundamentally, they just don’t work.
Business professor Samuel Culbert has called them “just plain bad management”, and the science of goal-setting, learning, and high performance backs him up. After all, we know that the best goals are measurable. But if you only measure your progress once a year, then you’ll spend the rest of that year floundering. Similarly, you can only learn and perform to a certain level without any external feedback.
So it’s not surprising that many high-performing companies are moving to a system providing timely and ongoing performance feedback in the workplace to develop their team. But implementing such a system well is easier said than done. After all, you can sign off on an annual performance review and forget about it until the next year. But the nature of ongoing performance feedback means it needs to be provided constantly.
The Science of Ongoing Performance Feedback
According to a recent Gallup study, only one in four employees “strongly agree” that they are provided with meaningful feedback, and only 21% of employees “strongly agree” they are managed in a way that “motivates them to do outstanding work.” These statistics not only show the cry for more servant leadership, they also show how important meaningful feedback in the workplace is to employees and their performance.
And no wonder. Because high performance relies on ongoing feedback.
In fact, you cannot sustain high performance without ongoing feedback.
You see it in the way elite sportspeople rely on their coaches to provide constant feedback throughout training and games. High performance, whether it’s in sports or in business, depends on the ability to juggle a number of tasks, and do them all a fraction faster or better than your similarly highly skilled competition.
So high-performing sportspeople need to constantly measure things like how fast their service is and how much power they have in their kick. And then they need to rely on their sharp-eyed coaches to point out that if they stop dropping their knee, they’ll save two milliseconds that might mean the difference between victory and defeat. It’s exactly the same in business.
In today’s fast-paced market, your team members are traveling at high speed, whether they’re conducting research, responding to requests or complaints, or rushing to meet deadlines. To make sure they meet the company’s goals and their KPIs, they need constant, relevant and timely performance feedback to keep them on track, and let them know how they can specifically learn and improve.
That’s why feedback in the workplace can’t afford to wait for a whole year: by then, everyone has forgotten the details, or it’s too late to realign the project and deliver a win.
How to give ongoing performance feedback
How exactly do you go about giving ongoing performance feedback?
Let’s break it down into two parts: how the feedback is delivered, and the content of the feedback itself.
Depending on the way your team works, also your leadership style, and your direct relationships with your team members, performance feedback can take a number of forms. You might choose fortnightly or monthly one-on-one meetings. Alternatively, you might choose to provide your feedback through responding to your team members’ daily or weekly reports. Or if your team is more project-based maybe it would make more sense to schedule a review meeting or report after each project milestone is reached.
Whatever form you end up choosing, the most important thing is to make a regular commitment and stick to it. It’s too easy in our busy work lives to let things slip and keep postponing meetings. Keeping a regular meeting will not only keep you on track and providing useful feedback, it will also send the message to your team that you’re serious about helping to support their performance and development.
Aside from the way you schedule your team’s ongoing performance feedback, you should also consider the best way to structure its delivery. You’ve probably heard that you should set Specific, Measurable, Agreed Upon, Realistic and Time-based (SMART) goals.
There’s a similar cute acronym for how to provide context to your performance feedback: Situation, Task, Action, and Result (STAR):
Situation: Establish the specific situation the employee was in.
Task: Describe the specific task the employee was given.
Action: Describe what the employee did or how they handled the situation.
Result: Set out the results of the employee’s action.
Here are some employee feedback examples:
|Lily M. (Patient Relations Officer)||Danny Z (IT Manager)|
|Situation||The insurance company denied your customer’s rights to hospitalization benefits.||The company was planning to launch a new integrated customer service system in two months’ time.|
|Task||Get the insurance company to recognize your customer’s rights and release the payments.||Keep the team on launch schedule, including conducting a test run one week prior to launch.|
|Action||You provided evidence of the customer’s rights through a detailed letter to the insurance company. You followed up with several phone calls and also engaged the customer’s employer in seeking compensation for their employee.||You did not inform Royce, your lead IT specialist, about the new system until it was too late. He only found out about the launch two days before the scheduled test run.|
|Result||The insurance company granted approval of the hospitalization benefits and will release the proceeds next month.||We had to reschedule the launch to next month and incurred $8,000 in extra costs.|
Going through the specifics and using the STAR method gives your team members enough detail to ground and also make use of the feedback that’s to come.
So instead of just saying
“You need to improve your vendor relationships”,
you can say:
“When you were dealing with our vendor, I noticed that you lost your temper when they mentioned there would be a delay. This made the vendor defensive and I think the call took much longer as a result. I think you need to think of other ways to communicate our needs – let’s brainstorm together.”
Which brings us to the next section: performance feedback examples and content you can use in helping your team members to grow.
Performance Feedback Content
We know that good constructive criticism needs to include both positive and negative feedback. That way your employee knows what to keep doing, and what to amend. But at a more granular level, you can actually split up positive and negative feedback into four different categories:
Comments that affirm past behaviours. Here are some positive feedback examples:
A) “Your intense preparation for the presentation really helped you nail the hard questions they asked.”
B) “I really liked the patient way you explained our issue to our supplier, it was very effective.”
C) “What a great bit of code -such an elegant solution!”
Comments that aim to correct past behaviors. Here are some negative feedback examples:
A) “You were reading a lot from your notes. It made you seem less prepared and knowledgeable.”
B) “I think the way you handled Anaya was too confrontational.”
C) “Your project submission was too long and convoluted.”
Comments that affirm future behavior. Here are some positive feedforward examples:
A) “You were confident and made good eye contact in that presentation – keep it up and try doing that in our meetings as well.”
B) “The collaborative way you work with Elijah is great. Try using that same approach with Tyler next week.”
C) “I thought the way you set out the project deliverables worked well, so please use that as a template for all our submissions from now on.”
Comments that aim to correct future behavior. Here are some negative feedforward examples:
A) “Next time you do a presentation, don’t just list all the numbers. Try presenting your data more visually to make the implications clearer for the audience.”
B) “Don’t rush off after your appointment with Anaya next week, I think you’re not giving her enough attention.”
C) “For the next project, focus on structuring your submission more clearly.”
If you’re stuck, it’s a good idea to brainstorm some positive feedback examples and negative feedback examples you might give to an imaginary employee before going back to the specific team member you’re thinking about. Depending on the employee and their goals, it’s also good to give a mix of both feedback and feedforward.
But what areas should you give that feedback or feedforward in? Here are some ideas:
A great way to motivate and also reward your employees is to recognize and provide feedback on their achievements, including the small ones. Ongoing performance feedback lets you provide feedback on even the accomplishment of small daily or weekly tasks, pointing out strengths that can be even further maximized or weaknesses that can be improved.
In fact, you might be surprised to learn that you get the most ‘bang for your buck’ out of this sort of feedback, because small, regularly performed tasks can actually take up the bulk of a team member’s time or responsibilities. You can also make this a regular team-wide celebration of achievements and invite other team members to provide feedback and share learning.
Progress toward larger goals or performance objectives.
As we highlighted earlier, people need constant feedback on the way to a big goal to allow them to readjust and get motivated by their progress. So use the time to check in on the team members’ main performance goals and objectives, and ask them to reflect as well on how they feel they’re going.
Changes in priorities.
We all know that in today’s turbulent markets, we need to be more adaptable. Ongoing performance feedback allows you to help your employees shift their goals or responsibilities where necessary, and to monitor whether an employees’ current tasks or focus match their needs and the company’s needs, or whether they need an update.
Areas for improvement.
One of the most painful things about annual performance reviews is having to address a whole year of problems or poor performance. But ongoing performance feedback allows you to raise issues as soon as you notice them and before they become bigger problems. Regular feedback meetings or reports also let you provide current performance feedback examples that your team member can remember and immediately act on, helping them to learn and do better work.
Areas for development.
Ongoing performance feedback in the workplace helps you to both identify when your team members are ready to be challenged and developed further and monitor when they need support. It also provides you the opportunity to actively coach and mentor your team members by giving them targeted and ongoing performance feedback examples (or feedforward examples) that they can use to improve their work.
If you’re still scrambling for ideas, remember you’re not alone and there are many sources you can reach out to for performance feedback examples that you can use to develop your team. Indeed, it’s best to reach out to more sources to ensure a broader and more holistic range performance feedback.
Here are three potential sources of performance feedback examples for your employees:
Whether internal (eg. departments who rely on that employees’ work) or external (your company’s customers), your employee’s direct customers are a great source of feedback. You can reach out to them through customer feedback surveys and also ask them to identify the employee(s) they dealt with.
Peers and team members:
Co-workers can provide a different perspective when it comes to evaluating their colleagues’ work performance. You can solicit this feedback through private 360-degree feedback surveys.
You can draw on both the employee’s individual KPI results or their team results (taking into account their role in the team) to provide data and feedback on their performance. Note, however, that it’s a good idea to ask the employee for context on this sort of data. For example, a computer technician’s repair numbers might have dropped. But that might have been because he was focusing successfully on more preventative maintenance.
Status.net is a cloud solution that makes it easy for leaders to provide and receive updates regularly.
How to use status.net for status updates
- Easily implement daily or weekly status updates for your team members by creating a status feed with questions like “What did you do today?” or “How did you contribute to the team’s goals this week?”.
- Improve leadership communication by sharing company goals and objectives regularly.
- No one forgets to fill in their status updates because status.net sends automated reminders according to the recurrence schedule you chose.
- Increase workplace satisfaction by improving transparency:
Each status update has a separate section for comments, which is used by team members to clarify information, including upcoming goals, and by leaders to provide feedback and coordinate better without micromanagement.
- Use status updates for future reference and decrease time and efforts spent on monthly, quarterly, and yearly reporting thanks to powerful filtering and export features.
- Optionally, enrich reports with the latest updates automatically added from web apps your team uses (such as project management tools, version control systems, support systems, financial applications, CRM, etc.) by connecting these apps to your status feed.
- Spend less time on meetings by making them more productive because everyone is on the same page at all times.
- Sharing: Status updates can be either— exported to files and printed, or sent by email;
— shared with manager online; or
— shared online as company-wide or team-wide status reports, i.e., all team members share their progress with each other.
How to configure status updates:
- Create a “Status Update” feed and set up a recurrence.
- Configure who will write and read status updates by choosing the “Participants” tab and then clicking the “Cog” button near “Feed Participants” title.
- Set the status feed as “Team-wide” if you want all team members to view each other’s status updates.
- Alternatively, you can allow access to status updates for certain participants only (such as yourself if you’re a team lead). In this case, turn “Team-wide” mode OFF and restrict viewing by unchecking “View” properties for other participants. Team members with the “View” checkbox unchecked will only be able to view their own status updates.
- If you’re a manager and you don’t plan to share your status updates with your team, uncheck “Update” for yourself – in this case, you won’t receive reminders.
- The Recurrence setting configures how often participants receive email reminders to fill in their status updates. This feature is optional and can be turned off.
- You can add, remove, and assign new team members at any time.
Step 2: The text of the status update should be added to the “Update” field of status feed.
As soon as a new status update is added, participants with “View” rights can view it in real time when they log in to their accounts. They will also automatically receive emails with the full text of status updates.