Constructive Feedback for Performance Reviews

Why Constructive Feedback is Crucial for Performance Reviews

Why Constructive Feedback is Crucial for Performance Reviews
Reading Time: 4 minutes

The purpose of a performance review

Running a successful team is an outcome managers strive for. It takes effective leadership to create spaces of trust and honesty that’ll help evolve top performers even when criticism needs to be shared. An important element of a performance review is how we evaluate an employee’s performance and turn it into opportunities for professional growth.

“For the giver of feedback, the process is key to getting people to practice the right things, prioritize opportunities, and clarify accountabilities owned by the individual versus the manager or the company.”- Harvard Business Review

It’s not uncommon for employees to get discouraged when performance reviews roll around the corner, but changing the narrative by adjusting your approach could encourage a positive outcome your team could look forward to. After all, the purpose of these reviews is to guide development, discover challenges, clarify goals, and promote practices for improving performance.

Expectations, fears, and the reality of receiving constructive feedback

As formal or informal as your planned performance reviews may be, even the slightest criticisms can feel like a personal attack. This is why the delivery is just as important as the feedback itself.

Employees and supervisors should have similar expectations about what will take place in a performance review. It’s within both parties’ best interest to clarify what’s to be discussed and gained by these meetings.

Main expectations of a performance review:

  • An analysis of progression
  • Defined goals and the trajectory to meet them
  • Areas of improvement
  • Guidance for modifications
  • Recognition of work to date

Fears and anxiety about the process itself can hinder professionals’ desire to face evaluations, even though they are essential for impactful growth within a team and organization. Leaders who address these concerns before a performance review can take advantage of their feedback strategy.

Minimizing the fear of workplace assessments:

  • Highlight the assessment’s benefit. A performance review isn’t about telling employees they’re not doing enough or laying blame. It’s about establishing practices that’ll help them reach their goals.
  • Regard assessments as an opportunity for solidifying their role and opening channels for advancement. Performance reviews should be an effort toward retention rather than resentment or termination.
  • Allow for performance review comments. Setting the tone and appropriate time aside for employees lets them know their time and opinions are valued. These are conversations, not contentions. 
  • Introduce a self-assessment performance review so employees can become better acquainted with their strengths and weaknesses if pointing them out is causing unwanted friction.

The reality is there may always be cause for discomfort when receiving feedback, no matter how well you prepare a team member for their upcoming review. This fact could even result in your hesitation to give it. 

Managers can help reduce reluctance by approaching performance reviews as a continuous and year-long process rather than a pinned date for constructive criticism. For instance, if a project is underway and you see an opportunity to help your team optimize their performance, it is counterproductive to wait till they’ve completed the task only to tell them you would’ve preferred it done differently.

“Giving feedback throughout the year and touching base with an employee to see how they’re working toward their yearly goals can help improve worker morale and keep employees on track at work.” – Freshbooks

Boosting employee engagement, ongoing support, and encouragement to improve performance are additional perks of an employee appraisal that are hard to maintain if only done once a year. Intentional action plans are necessary for real-time one-on-ones or group feedback sessions to solidify the foundation of a top performer.

Positive and negative feedback strategies

There are two sides to providing constructive feedback. On one side is positive feedback, and on the other is negative feedback. But these aren’t mutually exclusive. When you have negative or positive things to say in a performance review, lacing them together gives a fuller scope of what’s going right and what needs some adjustment. 

Negative feedback could be as simple as pointing out errors in a project, but if intertwined with positive feedback, the person receiving constructive criticism can better understand what you want without feeling defeated. Consider some of these performance review phrases when having difficulty pairing good and less-than-good feedback:

Improving the quality of production

  • “I appreciate your initiative to begin and take on these tasks. There’s an area for improvement between the start and completion of your work. Be sure you’re using the tools and resources available to make each final product consistent with what you’ve produced thus far.”

Focusing on attention to detail

  • “You’ve demonstrated impressive dedication to your tasks. To help refine your execution and polish your workflow, I suggest reviewing the instructions given for certain processes to ensure you’re hitting all the necessary requirements of the projects you’re leading.”

Strengthening communication skills & cooperation

  • “The value of your expertise and availability is an asset to the team. Opening up the communication channels and collaborating with your peers will help you further tap into your strengths and understand where potential improvements can be made.”

Encouraging better problem-solving

  • “In your role, you’ve built a great foundation for successful outcomes. Overcoming challenges and troubleshooting obstacles that arise can be improved upon with resourcefulness and anticipation. It would be beneficial for you to assess the potential shortcoming while in your planning process to better adapt to project adversities down the line.”

Turning constructive feedback into goals for improvement

Aligning the goals you have for your team with those they have for themselves is fundamental for a performance review. Yes, you want your employees to feel appreciated, capable, and encouraged to be their best selves in the workplace, but the broader scope of team development is company growth.

Asking open-ended questions and engaging in nurturing dialogues during your performance reviews helps identify what you and they can do better to strengthen team bonds and promote team accomplishments.

  • What are your opinions on how we can improve as a team? 
  • What do you think is lacking in our current process? 
  • Are there any tasks you feel overwhelmed by?
  • What would make your role more fulfilling?

Constructive feedback during a performance review is a must for leaders wanting to elevate their team’s growth. The right approach can sometimes mean removing the “numbers game” of production and getting down to the real issues that may be holding an employee back. Remember, improvement is gradual, not instantaneous. Tracking what changes prove useful and which need adapting is beneficial for continuous progress and getting closer to overall success.

Contributed by Mary Dominguez

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