Performance reviews: mastering the art of giving effective feedback in summary:

  • Providing effective feedback during performance reviews can spark growth, inspiration and propel individuals to reach new heights.
  • Effective performance review feedback should begin with positive acknowledgments and specific, objective examples.
  • Also, foster a culture of open dialogue, offer solutions and support, use performance management software to make a record of reviews, and schedule consistent follow-ups to ensure continuous improvement and development.

With the new year now in full swing, both line managers and employees will now be huddling together to reflect on past activities and chart their courses for future successes.

Although not popular with everyone, traditional performance reviews provide the perfect opportunity to do exactly that. When done well, they offer a structured platform for evaluating progress, aligning goals and fostering both individual and organisational development – all perfect for ongoing growth and success.

But, there’s a one vital aspect of performance reviews that act as a linchpin which can truly make or break the process: feedback.

Performance Reviews: Mastering the Art of Giving Effective Feedback Cezanne HR Blog

Now, feedback isn’t just a mere checklist of what’s gone right and wrong for an employee. Effective feedback is the cornerstone of progress and evolution within any organisation. Done right, and it’ll act as a catalyst for growth, sparking inspiration and propelling individuals to reach new heights.

However, poor feedback can damage performance evaluations by causing confusion, demotivation, and a lack of clarity regarding areas needing improvement. Ultimately, bad or poorly delivered feedback hinders growth and potentially leads to disengagement or decreased productivity.

So, as a line manager, how can you ensure the feedback you give during a performance review isn’t just a checklist item but rather, a transformative dialogue? Let’s find out…

Set a positive stage

Performance reviews can be daunting for employees at the best of times, especially if it’s going to be a potentially difficult appraisal. So, look to begin with a positive tone. Start by acknowledging an employee’s achievements over the previous review period and their strengths before delving into areas that need improvement. This sets the scene for a constructive conversation, rather than a critical evaluation.

Be specific and objective

Vagueness is the arch enemy of effective feedback. In fact, studies have shown that inaccurate performance reviews are a core reason for employees wanting to leave their roles! To avoid this problem, give specific examples of both an employee’s successes and areas needing improvement. In addition, providing objective metrics or tangible instances will help in clarifying expectations.

Consider the ‘Sandwich Technique’

If the review you’re delivering contains a mix of both positive and negative feedback, you may want to consider surrounding constructive criticism with positives—a technique likened to a ‘feedback sandwich’.

This method of delivering feedback cushions areas for improvement between layers of praise, making it easier to digest and fostering a balanced perspective. It also makes it easier for employees to receive more negative feedback, and helps keep the conversation more enjoyable for both sides. However, the technique is not without its drawbacks.

Critics of the ‘Sandwich Technique’ frequently argue that it diminishes genuine praise. This happens because employees tend to catch on to this approach, especially with frequent use. Consequently, positive feedback loses its sincerity, becoming a mere prelude to negative remarks.

In addition, by concealing criticisms within positive evaluations, the sandwich method often obscures the crucial points of improvement. This can result in the employee either missing the actual critique, or failing to grasp its significance, hindering their ability to make necessary adjustments.

Remember, delivering effective feedback isn’t a one-size-fits-all scenario. Each individual you speak to is unique, so tailor your approach accordingly.

Listen and encourage dialogue

A good performance review should involve feedback from both a line manager and the employee. After all, allowing the employee to share their perspective on things may unveil underlying issues impacting their performances, shedding light on matters of which you might be unaware.

If it’s a particularly difficult review, their perspective could provide a genuine explanation for subpar performance, such as a lack of specific training or ongoing personal challenges. With that in mind, encourage employees to share their perspectives, concerns, and ideas. Active listening cultivates trust and openness, enriching the exchange and making the review process more constructive.

Focus on behaviour, not personality

When providing feedback, it’s crucial you highlight actions and behaviours, rather than framing your comments around an individual’s character traits. By doing so, the focus remains on specific actions and conduct that are subject to change or improvement.

This approach helps create a constructive environment where the emphasis is on addressing actions within one’s control, instead of attributing feedback to inherent qualities or traits. Doing this will enable a clearer path toward both positive development and growth.

Offer solutions and support

During a poor performance review, bad managers will simply identify problems and expect the employee to come up with all the answers. However, a great manager conducting an engaging review will propose solutions, collaborate with an employee on setting achievable goals and providing the resources or support needed to reach them.

Giving effective feedback that includes solutions and support will empower your employees and motivate them, too. But, perhaps most importantly, it also demonstrates your commitment to their success.

Record conversations and objectives accurately

Precisely documenting performance review discussions serves as a reliable reference for both parties. There are a wealth of positive effects when making a record of conversations and objectives made during performance reviews. These include fostering clarity, accountability, and fairness by providing a factual foundation for future assessments… not to mention enhancing trust and transparency within your company’s performance review processes.

Using an HR system with integrated performance management software is the perfect tool to do all that. It provides a central online hub where discussions about goals, aspirations and planned development activities can be housed and made accessible to the people who need to see them.

Using performance management software in that way consolidates information much more accurately than paper-based systems. Plus, it makes it easy for everyone to be clear about what’s been said, what’s been agreed and make regular performance check-ins on progress to ensure everyone is staying on track.

Follow up and track progress

Last but not least, effective feedback doesn’t end in the meeting room. Be sure to schedule follow-up sessions to track progress and offer ongoing guidance to your employees. Consistent check-ins reinforce accountability and show you’re seriously invested in their development – a core component of thriving company cultures.

Author bio

Kim Holdroyd has an MSc in HRM and is passionate about all things HR and people operations, specialising in the employee life cycle, company culture, and employee empowerment. Her career background has been spent with various industries, including technology start-ups, gaming software, and recruitment.

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