“Quality feedback is necessary to help direct reports truly understand what they may need to do differently. Plus, it keeps everyone moving toward the same goal,” said Kathy Adams, director of education and organizational development at Mercy Health System, a nonprofit health care provider and hospital headquartered in Janesville, Wis.
Mercy Health System offers leadership development to managers through its leadership development academy, which includes a series of classes offered twice a year to help managers understand the value of delivering quality feedback.
Managers need to provide performance feedback and guidance continually throughout the year, not just during annual performance evaluations. Increasing communication with employees beyond the traditional, often unpopular end-of-year event turns a dated obligation into ongoing conversations around performance management expectations and deliverables.
These discussions should focus on an employee’s current projects and opportunities for career development. This approach requires managers to observe and evaluate their employees regularly, and to work closely with individual employees as needed to advance their skills or correct behaviors. Giving constant feedback will ensure an organization’s workforce remains engaged and keep turnover to a minimum.
These skills don’t always come naturally, nor are they a sure thing when someone receives a manager title. Formal development in a classroom or other blended learning setting should be offered so managers can learn and practice different techniques to enable them to provide specific, concrete performance feedback during informal conversations as well as formal reviews.
Managerial development should highlight the advantages of ongoing performance feedback, provide best practices for giving useful feedback and allow time for managers to role play what they have learned in a safe, non-threatening environment. Further, managers should be taught to clearly communicate performance expectations to all direct reports upfront so there are no questions regarding employees’ goals and objectives. From extending a personal compliment for a job well done to sharing how a direct report’s suggestion saved the organization money, managers must be willing to deliver praise as well as constructive criticism.
The distance separating managers and their direct reports can be the biggest productivity and performance drain in an organization.