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Why your company is fumbling with performance feedback

Anchor performance reviews with data to prevent performance feedback fumbles.

You know who woke up thinking, “I can’t wait to conduct performance reviews for my staff today.” Answer = no one ever.

Constructive criticism is often at the heart of the dreaded performance review. But for some reason, evaluators forget the first word in that phrase and only share the second part. Few people enjoy giving others constructive criticism even when that feedback could be very useful to the person and to the company. Many who do enjoy providing that type of feedback are typically very bad at it.

Whether we enjoy providing it or not, feedback is an important part of any successful organization, family, and relationship. From a company standpoint, it is in the best interests of all informed parties to ensure your performance review system provides value and the easiest way to provide value is to measure behaviors against benchmarks using behavioral data.

5 questions to determine the quality of your performance review process

Here are five questions you can ask to determine whether your company is fumbling feedback during your performance review process.

1. Do we consistently train our employees to seek feedback?

It’s one thing to tell employees to seek feedback and it’s quite another to have processes, programs, and training that consistently reinforce this message over time. Hearing this message a few times during onboarding won’t create a culture of employees who seek and provide feedback.

2. If we already have a culture that values feedback, have we provided enough information about this process?

Employees need to know the nuts and bolts of the feedback process. They need to know the norms of when, where, and how to ask for feedback. Saying you have an “open-door policy” isn’t enough.

3. What is the purpose of your performance review process?

Are your performance evaluations just another thing for HR to accomplish—a box-checking, compliance mentality—or are they a way to make behavioral adjustments, a means to justify merit increases or a program committed to people’s growth?

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4. If one of your top-performing employees approached you with the following question, do you know how you would respond:

“If I told you I was quitting, what would you do to keep me here?”

You need to know who your top-performing employees are and make sure you are doing enough to keep them around. Top performers go-to firms where they feel valued and are rewarded, so at the very least be sure you are publicly pointing out the things that your top 5% are doing right.

5. Do we use behavioral data and analytics during the performance review?

A valid and reliable tool that provides behavioral benchmarks and highlights people’s natural behavioral needs can help eliminate some of the negative emotions associated with performance reviews. Evaluators can use this data to supplement other metrics and form the foundation for a productive conversation about behavioral expectations, norms, needs, and goals.

Successful companies and great leaders use the performance review process to motivate employees, incentivize employees, build and repair relationships, and to identify neglected areas in overall organizational development. They don’t fumble the feedback during this process because they use behavioral data and analytics to anchor the conversations in data. While these leaders might not wake up excited for performance reviews, they can at least know that feedback supported by behavioral data is a more pleasant, and less dreaded, conversation. 

Zach is the founder and CEO at Spark the Discussion.

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