Employee Feedback is Best Delivered Like Sunshine: Frequent Small Bursts

Employee FeedbackGuest Blog by: Ilana Herring

Health.com reports that a sensible amount of sun exposure on a frequent basis is one way to get the Vitamin D that your body needs. I personally aim to get about 20 minutes daily of sunshine, while being careful not to get a sunburn. Turns out, human resource experts advise that frequent, short doses of employee feedback are best delivered similar to a natural dose of Vitamin D. People bask in sunshine, just like they do with recognition. We are thirsty for feedback. In Daring Greatly, Brené Brown explains that when we don’t get feedback, we ask ourselves: “Why am I not getting feedback? Tell me you love me! Tell me it sucks! Just tell me something so I know you remember that I work here!” If doing something wrong, employees want real-time feedback, not delayed criticism 11 months later, clouded in the darkness of a hierarchical performance review. Employees want to know they are seen and heard.

How do you give feedback? 360-degree feedback is a popular type of review for leaders and directors. The well-known employee engagement advocate, Dr. Larry Bienati, recommends that the first 360-degree assessment take place after about one year on the job. Leaders and the employee can use the 360-degree feedback to develop action plans for the year ahead. Dr. Bienati suggests a follow-up one year later, ideally with the same population of respondents. He also advises tailoring the employee feedback to elicit key measures and specific actions that are calibrated to success. Dr Bienati notes the importance of thanking the participants for their valuable feedback and support of the one being assessed. It is noteworthy that the 360-review can often have 20 or more data points, it’s an arduous process and it’s not likely possible to conduct a 360 for every member of the organization.

The Best Managers Provide Feedback Regularly

In order to create structure for feedback, organizational development experts suggest an annual review. VPI Strategies recommends not limiting yourself to just an annual review. Provide employee feedback regularly. According to Gallup Research, “Our studies show that the best managers around the world provide feedback regularly. Expectations are set and continually clarified through ongoing performance feedback and recognition.” The Gallup Business Journal published: “What Your Employees Need to Know: They probably don’t know how they’re performing. Feedback and recognition are among the lowest rated workplace elements.”

“Gallup researchers conducted the first assessment of employee engagement worldwide using the Q12, Gallup’s 12-item assessment of engagement. Decades of research has proven that these items distinguish the most productive and successful workplaces from the rest. More than 47,000 employed respondents in 116 countries, from Canada to Qatar, were asked to respond to these 12 items.

In most global regions, two items were the most poorly rated among the 12: “In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work” and “In the last six months, someone at work has talked to me about my progress.”

VPI Strategies recommends the use of Q12 measurement device or other engagement assessments. It is part of our Strength Based Leadership curriculum. Research and anecdotal evidence support our belief in the Q12 measurement device. When managers don’t provide workers with regular, individualized feedback, they are depriving them of the sunshine to grow and improve their work performance. Gallup notes that: “Frontline managers may also be overlooking opportunities to talk with their employees about what they need to remain engaged and productive at work.”

Help Your People Get an A

Ken Blanchard and Garry Ridge coauthored: Helping People Win at Work: A Business Philosophy Called “Don’t Mark My Paper, Help Me Get an A” When asked about why he wrote the book, Garry Ridge answered:

“When I first heard Ken talk about giving his final exam at the beginning of the course and then teaching students the answers so they could get an A, it blew me away. Why don’t we do that in business? So that’s exactly what I did at WD-40 Company when we set up our ‘Don’t Mark My Paper, Help Me Get an A’ performance management system. Has it made a difference? You’d better believe it. Ever since we began the system, our company’s annual sales have more than tripled, from $100 million to more than $339 million. And we’ve accomplished this feat while making the company a great place to work.”

Executives know talent management is important. But do they know what “helping their employees get an A” looks like in their organization? It’s no secret that most performance management systems don’t do what they intended to do – enhance performance. Now is the time to be thinking about an organization’s next generation’s performance management system. Train managers to use the systems in place, but train them to also maximize the smaller, more frequent opportunities to give employees feedback. We know that Millennials are looking for that constant feedback because they want to be keeping score, always learning, always growing. Encourage management to know what works best for their teams and to make feedback apart of the constant flow of communication.

Don’t Abolish the Annual Review

Whether or not to abolish the annual review is a hot topic amongst bloggers. I do not advise abolishing the annual review, but suggest that feedback should not be contained to only the annual review. Waiting to give feedback only once a year deprives your employees of their needed dosage of Vitamin D. Humans and organizations alike need sunshine. Employees who don’t get as much feedback as they desire often suffer and ask themselves ‘How am I’m doing?’ We need regular feedback to be our be our best self at work.

Organizations are smart to create structure like annual performance reviews and 360-degree feedback. We would love to get to a point where companies give their employees feedback on a continual basis. At VPI Strategies, we recommend an annual review plus two more discussions per year. We often call these two discussions “performance coaching”. We encourage you to take an honest look at your performance system and consider how a structured performance discussion could complement the annual review until we are all really comfortable with the giving and receiving of feedback. Until we learn to instinctively take the opportunity to provide feedback when we have the opportunity. Until it is part of our work and lifestyle, not an isolated event. When someone does something good we want to tell him or her right then and there. When someone does something wrong, we also want to say it right then and there. Of course, deliver it in a tone that does not make people feel bad for an action they took. Prompt frequent dosages of feedback can keep our employees, our organizations, and ourselves healthy. Just like taking our vitamins, let’s commit to healthy lifestyle for ourselves and our organizations. Let’s model feedback today and help the next generation grow up learning from our positive example.

Bottom Line

Employees need feedback. There are a lot of vehicles for how you can get and give feedback, but ultimately they are looking at you to make a commitment to getting and providing feedback. Get it regularly. Give it regularly. Just like getting your Vitamin D.

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