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Performance Management Challenges: How to Deliver More Positive Feedback During One-to-Ones

Man holding a balloon up with a smiley face drawn on.

How can we turn back­ward, neg­a­tive annu­al appraisals into reg­u­lar, pos­i­tive, for­ward-think­ing per­for­mance discussions?

You might have heard that in order to make per­for­mance dis­cus­sions pro­duc­tive and use­ful they should con­struc­tive, infor­ma­tive and pos­i­tive. Such for­ward-think­ing con­ver­sa­tions do won­ders for per­for­mance and they go a long way to lessen the sense of dread employ­ees gen­er­al­ly feel when con­front­ed with an annu­al appraisal. But what are the tan­gi­ble ben­e­fits of pos­i­tive per­for­mance reviews, and how can we make our one-on-one dis­cus­sions more meaningful?

Such for­ward-think­ing con­ver­sa­tions do won­ders for per­for­mance and they go a long way to lessen the sense of dread employ­ees gen­er­al­ly feel when con­front­ed with an annu­al appraisal. But what are the tan­gi­ble ben­e­fits of pos­i­tive per­for­mance reviews, and how can we make our one-on-one dis­cus­sions more meaningful?

The first thing we need to recog­nise is that human beings thrive on praise. We are con­di­tioned to respond pos­i­tive­ly to praise, and our fight-or-flight mech­a­nism kicks in when con­front­ed with neg­a­tive feed­back. Despite our best efforts, the aver­age human has a frag­ile ego and high expec­ta­tions. When we con­tin­u­al­ly per­ceive our­selves to fall short of these expec­ta­tions, we become unmo­ti­vat­ed and our sense of iden­ti­ty is dam­aged. As such, pos­i­tive feed­back is much eas­i­er to take in.

When we’re paid a com­pli­ment or receive pos­i­tive feed­back, we expe­ri­ence feel­ings of plea­sure and pride, due to the release of dopamine in our sys­tems. In turn, dopamine makes us more inno­v­a­tive and cre­ative, which improves future per­for­mance at work.

But how can we put this into prac­tice and adapt our per­for­mance man­age­ment sys­tems to deliv­er for­ward-think­ing, pos­i­tive feed­back dur­ing our one-on-ones? Below are some tips on how to put this into action and explain how mod­ern employ­ee appraisal soft­ware can help.

Dis­cuss recent suc­cess­es and milestones

Each time you and your employ­ee meet, cov­er pos­i­tive employ­ee moments. Dis­cuss recent suc­cess­es, mile­stones they have accom­plished and skills they have improved. This is known as employ­ee recog­ni­tion and if you want your work­force to per­form above and beyond expec­ta­tions, it is some­thing you need to start incor­po­rat­ing today.

Recog­ni­tion is crit­i­cal as appre­ci­a­tion is a fun­da­men­tal need to all of us, and the deliv­ery of recog­ni­tion shows employ­ees that what they do is val­ued. When it is clear to employ­ees that their efforts are being acknowl­edged, this encour­ages them to work hard­er and to be more pro­duc­tive, and at the same time, the employ­ee expe­ri­ences an increased sense of sat­is­fac­tion. The deliv­ery of pos­i­tive feed­back pro­motes engage­ment and boosts per­for­mance when giv­en reg­u­lar­ly. So keep an eye out for indi­vid­ual suc­cess­es, great dis­plays of effort and real enthu­si­asm. Don’t let your employee’s work go unnoticed.

Make per­for­mance dis­cus­sions reg­u­lar and casual

Pos­i­tive feed­back is essen­tial and effec­tive, but it needs to be deliv­ered on a reg­u­lar basis. Feed­back should be time­ly and rel­e­vant, and for this to hap­pen, you’ll need to intro­duce reg­u­lar per­for­mance dis­cus­sions. These one-on-ones are the per­fect oppor­tu­ni­ty to cov­er progress, dis­cuss objec­tives and give employ­ees the recog­ni­tion they deserve. If you’re look­ing for evi­dence to sup­port the need for reg­u­lar per­for­mance dis­cus­sions, you can look to the Gallup poll which shows that employ­ees who receive reg­u­lar recog­ni­tion are three times more like­ly to remain with a com­pa­ny.

When per­for­mance dis­cus­sions are more reg­u­lar, they become more infor­mal and employ­ees are less appre­hen­sive. If you’re look­ing for guid­ance on how to effec­tive­ly con­duct these reg­u­lar meet­ings, we have a free one-to-one meet­ing tem­plate that you can use for inspiration.

Make feed­back action­able and helpful

So does a focus on the pos­i­tive mean that we com­plete­ly ignore the neg­a­tive? Do we refrain from point­ing out areas the employ­ee can improve, and why? Of course not, but there is a way we can phrase con­struc­tive crit­i­cism with­out dam­ag­ing employ­ee morale and affect­ing moti­va­tion lev­els. Rather than the focal point of per­for­mance dis­cus­sions being areas for improve­ment, have an opti­mistic con­ver­sa­tion about how the employ­ee feels about their performance.

If an employ­ee needs to improve in a spe­cif­ic area, you need to give feed­back that is both action­able and help­ful. Refrain from vague­ness and judge­men­tal com­ments at all costs.

Feed­back that is neg­a­tive or vague will frus­trate and con­fuse employ­ees, mean­ing that progress won’t be made. Instead, when things haven’t gone well, focus your feed­back on what can be learned and what could be improved next time. Agree on spe­cif­ic actions for improve­ment where relevant.

Keep track of per­son­al devel­op­ment objec­tives using per­for­mance man­age­ment software

Some­times it’s not enough to get praise, enthu­si­asm, and pos­i­tiv­i­ty from man­age­ment. Some­times, employ­ees need to see and track their progress for them­selves. To do this, man­ag­er and employ­ee should col­lab­o­rate on agree­ing on per­son­al devel­op­ment objec­tives dur­ing one-on-ones.

Place the employ­ee in the driver’s seat and encour­age them to con­sid­er what skills, knowl­edge or behav­iours they should be devel­op­ing and what spe­cif­ic learn­ing activ­i­ties they can under­take. Using this infor­ma­tion, employ­ees can write spe­cif­ic devel­op­ment objec­tives and log them onto mod­ern per­for­mance man­age­ment soft­ware, where HR, man­age­ment, and the employ­ee can mon­i­tor progress and achieve­ment. When employ­ees are able to tick an objec­tive as suc­cess­ful­ly com­plet­ed, they’ll expe­ri­ence a sense of pride and accomplishment.

Whether you want to learn more about how per­for­mance man­age­ment soft­ware can be used to recog­nise employ­ee accom­plish­ments, or if you’d like to book a free per­for­mance man­age­ment soft­ware demo, get in touch today and our ded­i­cat­ed HR team will be hap­py to help you out.