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How to Give Feedback — Part One: Creating a Structure for Formal Review

Feedback is the most affordable and most powerful way to manage employees. When done correctly, it can help provide guidance for employees in their career development, drive employee engagement, and indirectly improve productivity in the workplace.

This will be the first in a series of four posts on how to give feedback effectively. Today, we will look at how to create a structure for formal review.

Before starting to give or receive feedback, it is important to create a structure for formal review. This will help give a reinforcing framework that ensures that giving and receiving feedback is not an additive process. As well, having scheduled feedback can renew your engagement rhythm.

Set Expectations Early

As with any business process, expectations should be set before implementing the feedback system.

This ensures alignment between employees and managers. In talent management, a recurring trend is the disconnect between leaders and employees. For example, according to a study by Bersin, while 40 percent of senior leaders felt that employees were recognized on a weekly basis, only 2 percent of individual contributors felt that they were regularly recognized every week. By setting expectations early, managers and employees can ensure that both parties are aligned and aware of each other’s roles, responsibilities, and goals.

Another result from setting expectations is that both managers and employees can hold each other accountable for their goals. This applies in both an individual (or one-on-one) feedback situation as well as in a team setting where team members can hold each other accountable for meeting team performance metrics.

Make Sure You Check In Regularly

Although there are no set rules for the frequency of check-ins or reviews, we recommend that more is better than less. Especially at the beginning of implementing the system, reviewing more often will then give you the opportunity to adjust the frequency later on. Here at SoapBox for example, we have one-on-ones with our teams every month to make sure everything is running smoothly and on track.

Check-ins should be a scheduled event regardless of how frequently you meet. Having it scheduled will help to reinforce the idea of constantly reviewing and improving, while ensuring that the performance review does not feel like an additive task.

Formalizing Reviews

As you begin to fully develop your feedback system, you can begin to start framing your reviews around key metrics and the accomplishment of goals. For individual reviews, we work with a Start-Stop-Keep framework, where we discuss the new initiatives or processes we should start doing, any current projects or tasks to stop doing, and what we should keep doing. Another benefit of framing your review around key metrics is that it keeps performance and goals top of mind.

In the team setting, formalizing review sessions will help team members get used to giving constructive feedback. Eventually the team will adopt a continuous improvement attitude which becomes ingrained in how they work. At SoapBox, we are always looking for ways to improve ourselves and each other and even though our teams are too small for a formalized team review, we make an effort to suggest better ways for each other to work.

One thing to keep in mind when performing team performance reviews however is “ganging up” on one person, where everyone suggests that one person improve on something. To prevent that from happening, you can structure your reviews for each person to say one thing another person does well and one thing that they could improve on for every person. This way every person has been doing something that benefits the team and something that they can work on to improve performance.

Project Debrief

Regardless of whether an initiative was successful or failed, it is important to review what happened over the course of a project or initiative. For successes, review what factors contributed to meeting the project goals and performance metrics. Consider what processes can be repeated again and which processes were unique to the project that would have to be modified for the next initiative. For initiatives that failed, we use the “Five Whys” framework to evaluate the root cause of the failure and try to understand how we can fix the problem for the next project.

Check in every week for more posts on the How to Give Feedback series.

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