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What is feedback?

By August 5, 2019 No Comments

There is a lot written about feedback. Most personal development, team or leadership programs include a session or workshop on feedback – what is it; why it’s important, how to deliver feedback, and less often how to receive it.  Yet, for many organisations, creating a culture of constructive feedback remains elusive.

According to Cognology, nearly 65% of employees want more feedback than they’re currently getting. So it’s clear that there’s still a lot of room for improvement.

Feedback, in its simplest definition is…

“a process in which the effect of an action is fed-back in order to modify the next action.” 

In a learner-centric, continuous development context, “feedback provides a sense of engagement and interactivity, and allows learners to take ownership of their learning”[1] and is often used to demonstrate a learner’s current level of performance, and what they need to do to improve. In the context of learning, both positive and negative feedback is crucial.  

Research has shown most employees prefer corrective feedback, to praise and recognition. In a Harvard Business Review survey of “900 global employees, 57% of respondents stated that they prefer corrective (negative/constructive) feedback, whilst only 43% stated that they prefer praise or recognition”.

We often classify feedback as something we give or something we get. We like to consider feedback as a loop – providing each feedback participant with the opportunity for growth.  In the context of learning, feedback is crucial to the development of the learner’s  capability and capacity and a critical aspect of training.

Effective feedback is not a single act, it is a process.

Feedback is a two-way flow, inherent in all interactions – providing information on a previous action or behaviour, in order to improve or modify future behaviour.  Feedback requires engagement from both the giver and receiver.  Our research shows the more specific or targeted the feedback the more involved the learner is in the process, the more likely it is to resonate and be adopted.  

This is where we often see feedback going array.  Here are two additional principles to help improve the success of your feedback.

Feedback as a conversation

When feedback is reframed into a conversation, it allows the learner, or team member in the case of performance feedback, to develop an awareness of their learning/performance, and will be more like to recognise areas for improvement and develop strategies for tackling areas of improvement. They key to feedback as a conversation is the asking of questions and exchange of ideas and solutions.  This creates the opportunity to check in on how the learner/team member may be responding to the feedback and to clarify any points of difference.

We are our own critics

When giving feedback, it is important to remember that we are our own best (and worst! critics); therefore it is important to check in with the learner/team member about their perceptions on how they are performing.  Ask how they are feeling about their performance, what has worked well and what could be done to improve. Then, allow them time to consider their response (rather than providing the solution). This process helps them connect with the solution and empowers them to own both the feedback and any strategies for improvement or change. 

Feedback in the moment

When feedback is provided in the moment, it enables potential issues to be resolved quickly and provides the opportunity for the learner/team member to correct behaviour and/or develop strategies for future performance.  When delivered well, feedback can increase motivation, lead to greater performance, provide the opportunity for continuous learning and personal growth, and build effective relationships[2].

[1] https://leolearning.com/2016/11/what-is-feedback-and-why-is-it-important/

[2] https://www.highspeedtraining.co.uk/hub/feedback-in-the-workplace/