How Feedback Boosts Performance

by Granville Triumph

‘Tis the season for year-end employee reviews, which probably isn’t a process that makes you want to sing “fa la la.” But it is a necessary evil of leadership, and a productive one, if you get beyond the clichés and offer effective feedback that helps and inspires employees to become better at what they do.

Effective feedback benefits the organization as a whole because it improves performance and morale and clarifies expectations, all of which reduce turnover and build loyalty. According to AARP research, the cost to replace an employee can be anywhere from 50 to 150 percent of the employee’s salary. Grooming top performers by offering constructive feedback and rewarding employees with salary increases is much less costly than replacing employees.

Positive feedback and reinforcement are particularly valuable because they encourage the continuation of productive behavior. Recognize excellent performance and tell employees what you want them to keep doing. Positive feedback also gives the employee credit and gives you a formal opportunity to thank them for a job well done, a much appreciated but far too infrequent gesture. Negative feedback, on the other hand, focuses on behaviors that you want eliminated. Negative feedback may be necessary, but it should be balanced with positivity.

In addition to balancing positive with negative, feedback is more effective when it is specific and timely. For example, if an employee completed a recent project that benefitted the organization, don’t just send an email that says, “Great job!” And don’t wait until the next formal employee review to offer feedback. Call them into your office. Tell them what they did well. Explain why you appreciate their efforts. Include specific data if possible that verifies the impact of their good work.

Timeliness is especially important if the feedback is negative because it allows you to have the problem corrected more quickly. Just make sure your feedback is actionable by explaining why performance needs to improve and providing specific instructions and recommendations about what needs to improve.

Keep in mind that performance, in many cases, is measurable, especially in data-driven companies that know how to leverage analytics and key performance indicators. Feedback can be integrated with business processes and performance management programs to automatically show employees if they’re meeting objectives.

By providing the right kind of feedback, and delivering feedback the right way, you can improve the performance of individuals, teams and the organization as a whole.

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