Feedbackby Paul Matthews
Why feedback is important
The first thing to realise is that feedback in its broader sense is vital to life. Without feedback there could be no natural selection, no evolution.
Feedback is an essential component of effective change.
Within the workplace, there is always change. Paradoxically, change is perhaps the one constant. Feedback – seeking it, giving it and receiving it – is one of the most effective tools we have for harnessing and promoting change, so that it is to our benefit.
That is the more global view, but how is feedback important to me, right here, right now, in my situation as a manager in an organisation?
Just as on the global level, feedback is an essential component of effective change, and therefore improvement, and one of the roles of any manager is to seek to improve things. Feedback helps us understand things like
- What we can change to get better results
- The rate of progress towards a goal
- What needs to happen to improve relationships
- Whether something is worth doing
- How well we are doing
- What others think of us or how they value us
- Our level of performance against a target
In 1983, Bandura and Cervone carried out research into feedback and published the result of some trials that they had carried out on a group of cyclists. The group of 80 cyclists was split equally into four smaller training groups. Their performance improvement was closely monitored.
The first group received clear performance goals.
The second did not receive goals, but did benefit from regular performance feedback.
The third group was given goals at the start and feedback throughout.
The fourth group was the control and got neither goals nor performance feedback.
The fourth group showed the least performance improvement by far and the third, which had goals and got feedback improved by nearly three times as much.
This illustrates just how important the giving of helpful feedback is to the development of individuals and the wider team.
Uses of feedback
Effective feedback helps individuals to understand what they did well and what they could do better. Once they know what is good and what isn’t, they are able to adapt their behaviour and work to improve it. Thus, feedback is a key tool for improving both individual and team performance.
Effective feedback in the form of praise lets staff know that they have achieved something. It recognises their efforts and gives rise to the satisfaction of a job well done. Feedback plays an extremely large part in the Motivation of employees (see Herzberg’s theory).
Feedback can be used for a variety of management purposes, including to
- Influence someone to do something differently or to change their approach
- Show people that you appreciate what they did and give them recognition, which helps to motivate them
- Get information from your manager, team or others regarding your own performance and behaviour
- Improve the quality of an individuals’ work or the work of teams
- Show people that you value them and their input
- Help people back onto the right target when they have misunderstood a goal or task
- Build and maintain relationships with an open and honest dialogue, fostering trust and support
- Set and explain expectations regarding behaviour and performance, enabling people to meet and exceed their objectives.
In summary, regular, good quality feedback is one of the most important ingredients in building effective working relationships and in getting things done.
Feedback is critical for succession planning. If you want to coach someone to be able to take your place one day, they will need to understand how and where they should change their performance and behaviour in order to step into your shoes.