Feedback: Why It’s So Important For Keeping Employees on Course

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Jun 12, 2012

Feedback — how often should we give it? Who should give it? When should it be given? What format to deliver it should be used?

All of these are good questions, but are we all in agreement on what feedback is?

Steve Roesler, author of the All Things Workplace blog, recently answered this question by telling us where the term originated:

“Feedback started as a term used to describe the signals sent from a rocket back to Earth in order to determine the accuracy of the rocket’s course. By tracking speed and trajectory, ground crews could determine when and where to make corrections.

“At some point in time, the term Feedback was incorporated into business language as a way to talk about performance. And, as in rocket flight, it has been determined that the best way for a person to stay “on course” is to assess where one stands at any given moment in relation to the task or goal at hand.

“Here’s the really important point: The chances of impacting performance increase with frequency and timeliness of feedback. That implies the need for ongoing ‘How are we doing?’ conversations. It’s our best chance at knowing whether we’re on track or not.”

The problem with performance reviews

I couldn’t agree more. And that’s the key failing of the annual performance review process (or even the bi-annual approach). It’s simply too infrequent to provide the course correction needed.

That’s why it’s critical to integrate social recognition into your performance management programs. As Mary Ann Masarech, employee engagement practice leader with BlessingWhite, said in a recent webinar with me:

“The powerful thing about recognition is that it reminds people of what matters most. This is a key part of engagement – to redirect employee effort and attention to the top priorities of the organization. Regular recognition throughout the year is a reminder of what you need employees to keep doing.”

Giving what employees really need

Regular, frequent, consistent recognition – from multiple sources (not just the direct manager) – gives the ongoing, real-time feedback employees at all levels need to stay on course.

From management’s perspective, the dramatic increase in amount of feedback better informs talent management systems, especially when viewed as comparative Talent Maps across the organization.

Do you have a structure for giving frequent feedback to keep employees on course, or are you relying on a system that may be letting them wander away from your goals?

You can find more from Derek Irvine on his Recognize This! blog.