Feedback Methods

Employee feedback can be an incredibly effective way to increase performance, improve levels of collaboration and trust, and lead to mutually beneficial outcomes for leaders and their subordinates. 

However, some organizations avoid the crucial feedback process for fear of making their employees uncomfortable. Worse still, some employees receive feedback that is detrimental to their productivity or mental well-being.

It would be a stretch to suggest that effective feedback is an art form, but it is an essential skill that all leaders need to possess. To that end, various context-dependent feedback methods can be used to ensure employee evaluations do more good than harm.

Feedforward

In essence, the feedforward feedback method involves giving an employee pointers for how they can improve for the future. The creator of the method, Marshall Goldsmith, noted that it is better to help people be right rather than prove them wrong. In the latter case, negative feedback often puts the employee on the defensive and causes discomfort in the leader.

Say for example that an employee delivered a sub-par sales presentation. Instead of the superior berating their performance, they can work with the employee to prepare them for future presentations with specific, positive suggestions. This way, the employee avoids having to relive the negative experience and focuses only on what they are able to control.

DESC

The DESC feedback technique was developed by Sharon and Gordon Bower in their book Asserting Yourself. DESC is an acronym of four steps that helps individuals become more assertive during difficult conversations:

  1. Describe – the individual starts by outlining the behavior or situation as thoroughly and objectively as possible. Here, it’s important to stick to the facts.
  2. Express – in the second step, the individual expresses their thoughts and feelings about the behavior or situation. Sentences must be phrased using “I” and not “You”, which tends to make people defensive.
  3. Specify – this is where the individual clarifies what they would prefer to happen. For example, “I would like us to meet before the next presentation to discuss some effective communication strategies.
  4. Consequences – the consequences (both positive and negative) of the behavioral change should be listed at this point. Many employees will want to know why a superior is asking them to change before committing to the process.

360-degree dinner

The 360-degree dinner feedback method is popular with many organizations and for good reason. The method, which is a scaled-back version of the standard 360-degree feedback approach, involves inviting a team of employees to dinner where feedback is given over a meal.

The team leader starts by asking those at the table to evaluate their performance, behavior, or any other issue they feel is important. The process is then repeated for each employee and individuals who provide feedback are thanked for their contributions.

This method can also be used for remote teams who share their respective dinner times with others on a platform such as Zoom.

Key takeaways:

  • Employee feedback can be an incredibly effective way to increase performance, improve levels of collaboration and trust. However, many leaders and organizations avoid it because of the awkward or uncomfortable situations that can result.
  • The feedforward feedback method involves giving an employee pointers for how they can improve for the future. It rightly leaves past actions in the past because they cannot be changed and focuses on how future performance can be improved.
  • The DESC technique helps individuals in most contexts assert themselves in a situation where feedback is necessary but may cause discomfort. The 360 degree dinner is a less formal method that invites employees and leaders to receive and offer feedback for others around a dinner table.
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