Why Structure Feedback?
Employee and manager feedback is one of the more sensitive issues in a workplace, and can be greatly enhanced by careful planning and critical thinking about how to objectively, equitably, and efficiently discuss employee outcomes and assessments.
As a result, structuring feedback strategically can be a great benefit to both managers and employees. There are a wide variety of models and structures for providing employee feedback. A few of the more useful structures for feedback are listed below.
The simplest of feedback mechanisms, this essentially looks at basic performance methods such as output, sales, volume, profitability, or other concrete and objective methods of overall productivity. As a structural option for feedback delivery, there are some pros and cons to this method. It works well in jobs where data is readily available and objective, but not so well in jobs relying on more ambiguous metrics. It is also quite impersonal, and can result in employees feeling like 'just another gear in the machine'.
A much less objective approach would be various formats of judgment evaluation. All this really means is that an individual or group of individuals will assess the performance of a given employee, and provide this feedback directly (often in the form of a scale or model). As a result of the potential subjectivity, it is best to provide training to ensure consistency and informed assessment.
Some assessment formats include:
- Graphic Rating Scales: On some sort of relative scale (usually 1-5 or 1-7), employees are assessed on specific characteristics, accomplishments and behaviors. This is a useful method to observe improvements over time.
- Employee Comparison Models: Two of the main culprits of subjectivity are leniency error and central-tendency error (judging to favorably and judging everyone the same respectively). To avoid these, management could be asked to directly compare various employees. This does incur halo effect errors, however.
- Behavioral Checklists and Scales: Certain behaviors can have positive or negative implications, and monitoring specific key behaviors over a given time frame can be a useful feedback structure as well.
360 Degree Feedback
While managerial feedback is important, it is also important to balance this with the perspectives of colleagues, subordinates, and those of the individual being assessed (self assessment). In this model, all work groups and implications of a given individual's work decisions can be assessed from various perspectives. Compared to a static top-down feedback structure, 360 degree feedback has significant advantages in accuracy, objectivity and equality.
Often simplicity excels in implementing feedback, and the Start-Stop-Continue model is just about as simple as it gets. Agile teams and flat organizational structures focus on peer assessments that leverage models such as this (often coupled with some basic rating scales) to assess employees with the goal of personal growth. This is done using three points of commentary:
- Start: What tasks, habits, and/or behaviors should the employee begin doing to improve?
- Stop: What should a given employee discontinue doing to improve performance?
- Continue: What does the employee excel in doing, and should continue?
The key advantage of this structure is the simplicity of it. Employees have immediate feedback that they can actually act on right away.
While there are countless opinions and models to utilize in structuring feedback, managers should keep in mind that the purpose of feedback is growth and improvement. Any model selected should result in actionable conclusions the employee can use to improve.