Feedback and Performance: The Critical Connection and How to Foster It

Management feedback can directly influence employee performance and engagement. A recent scientific study found that a supportive supervisor and feedback-driven environment lead to an increase in creative performance for employees. Beyond more inspired work, according to a report by Achievers, 72 percent of employees ranked employee recognition as having the greatest impact on their engagement levels in the workplace.

As a manager or HR leader, you can use the following strategies to foster that feedback-friendly culture and optimize employee performance at your organization.

Build the Proper Foundation

Feedback is only effective when there are directions, instructions or goals in place to begin with. You can’t tell someone they are doing a good or bad job if they don’t understand their role in the first place. This is even harder to do if you don’t have any benchmark to measure against, like a pre-set goal.

Consider whether you’re set up for a feedback-driven culture first by asking yourself these questions:

      • Are performance expectations understood? Don’t assume. Make sure you or your managers confirm your team’s grasp on their position and duties.
      • Are projects and objectives clearly outlined with measurable goals?
      • If an employee faces a roadblock or issue, do they understand who to turn to and how to ask for help?

In their guide to performance reviews, LinkedIn recommends using either the SMART or OKR structure to set up performance criteria for your staff (refer to Perdoo’s comparison of the options to learn which will work better for your company).

In addition to goals, managers and team leads that provide feedback need to have the proper training and tools to do so. According to LinkedIn, you should “arm managers with the inputs they need—like learning resources, career ladders, feedback they’ve gotten from peers [or] compensation matrixes specific to your organization. Most importantly, you need to help [them] give clear, honest and constructive feedback.”

Once you have this foundation in place, you can shift focus to creating a feedback-friendly culture.

Ensure Feedback is Specific and Actionable

While you might assume people only want to hear good feedback, 83 percent of employees appreciate receiving feedback, whether it’s positive or negative, according to Officevibe’s State of Employee Engagement report. Unfortunately, 64 percent agree that the quality of the feedback they do receive should improve.

To avoid this challenge, make all feedback honest and more valuable with tangible details. For example, providing feedback like, “We’re happy with your performance because you exceeded your sales quota by 15 percent” is more powerful than, “You’re doing well!”

With the first statement, the employee understands what they did correctly, which they can directly correlate to their future work. As such, remember that the most beneficial feedback is actionable.

Understand the Importance of Timeliness

Timeliness is truly key when it comes to delivering feedback that leads to better performance. The 2017 Gallup State of the American Workplace report found that employees are more likely to learn, and therefore grow, when feedback is two things: immediate and specific.

This means giving feedback immediately after a great presentation or when a client project is moved into the hands of someone else. If you can’t give that feedback immediately, make time at the end of the day to ensure the experience is fresh in your mind and that of the employee.

This not only benefits the employee, but the manager as well. In, Giving Feedback is a Responsibility, Not a Courtesy, Hubgets explains, “Frequent feedback is equally beneficial for those of us who need to assess and review. Because it reduces the risks of miscommunication and repeated errors, giving both sides the necessary time to suggest improvements and fix problems.”

If you’re worried about the time commitment, consider how technology can help you deliver regular feedback without regular meetings. This is especially true for group feedback, says Hubgets: “Having a dedicated feedback channel … doesn’t take a hold of your work hours, restrict your schedule, or impose a specific reaction time.”

Use Different Types of Feedback

To cultivate consistency, incorporate both casual and formal feedback in your management structure. Company’s leaders should have 1:1s and regular conversations with their team where input is given on everyday tasks as well as overall performance. What’s more, encourage your staff to ask for feedback when they feel lost or confused.

When feedback occurs naturally in conversations, as well as in planned formal settings (performance or project reviews), you’re able to provide consistent support that leads to learning and better performance.

“Feedback needs to be distinct from the performance appraisal process done once or twice a year,” says Sam Hodges, co-founder of Funding Circle. Hodges explains to Inc, “In fact, if anyone shows up to a performance review and the evaluation is a surprise, then you know you have a serious breakdown in your feedback culture.”

Drive Better Employee Performance with Feedback

You can’t expect an employee to develop and grow within their position without the proper support, a large part of which comes from direct communication with leadership. Feedback not only provides much-needed positive reinforcement, but also constructive criticism on how to enhance work processes. Encourage a feedback-driven culture in your workplace so that your staff can understand how their performance plays into the company’s overall goals, and how they can continue to improve their performance.

Founder & CEO
Jessica Thiefels Consulting
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