This CQ Dossier focuses on effective performance feedback and how to give performance feedback to employees that improves individual and organizational effectiveness. We review recent research from psychology and related social sciences and summarize the key findings such that managers and professionals can implement them in their organization. Key findings include the need for regular feedback, transparency and employee involvement, rater training as well as the relevance of the specific context feedback is given.
Create an effective performance feedback system
Providing effective performance feedback is a key human resource management strategy to enable organizations to retain and support talent management. Organizations can develop the knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAOs) of employees for successful performance through providing effective performance feedback that grows and develops employees (Boon et al., 2017).
Provide effective feedback to employees
It is important for organizations to provide feedback to employees to engage job performance and employee motivation. The feedback needs to be clear, specific and detailed so that employees gain information on their strengths and weaknesses. This knowledge allows employees to gain better knowledge of their job duties and consider how to improve and refine their performance (Humphrey et al., 2007). Feedback is important because it also helps identify gaps in current knowledge so is related to training analysis that identifies training needs and shows strengths and developmental opportunities. Organizations become successful when employees develop and grow through performance feedback and learning (London, 1997). Providing effective performance feedback, as part of an effective performance management system, also enables organizations to identify individuals for promotion and to facilitate lateral transfers through identifying current individual strengths.
Goal-setting theory demonstrates that employees respond best to feedback when they are assigned goals that are specific and difficult for task performance (Locke & Latham, 2002). It is important for management to set specific, difficult goals early in the process rather than vague goals or merely encouraging employees to do their best. Integral to the process is that employees accept the difficult goals and accept the feedback that is given by their supervisor. Feedback provides opportunities to clarify expectations and adjust goal difficulty. Management can provide opportunities for employees so they can self-monitor their progress. These progress report can be implemented throughout the year through an effective performance system that includes continuous conversations and discussions about employee progress (Pulakos et al., 2015).
Effective Feedback: Key Principles Use Effective Performance Rating scales
A recent review of performance appraisal research reveals several solid principles that can be engaged as part of a performance management system (DeNisi & Murphy, 2017). In their review of the literature, DeNisi and Murphy (2017) concur that, despite all the research, the search for a superior rating scale has not been successful. However, they also state that this surge in research demonstrated that some scales are superior to others. For example, the use of anchored performance judgments in behavioral terms has improved the clarity of performance ratings. This research shows that it is important for organizations to utilize solid and clear performance rating scales that are accepted by all employees in the organization.
Ensure Raters receive quality training
The second important principle in providing effective performance feedback is to ensure that raters receive quality training. Empirical research has sought to determine: a) how best to train raters and b) to determine the effectiveness of rater training (DeNisi & Ford, 2017). The consensus on rater training is that it is best to train raters in best practices rather than focuses on what not to do or how to avoid errors such as rater bias. The best way in which to provide training is in establishing concepts on what represents effective vs. ineffective performance. It is also important to train raters on which behaviors and competencies constitute performance.
Be Transparent and involve employees in performance appraisal process
Third, the research shows that attitudes towards performance ratings matter to the incumbent (DeNisi & Murphy, 2017). A meta-analytic review of the literature shows that participation in the appraisal process is important because it is related to employee reactions (Cawley et al., 1998). In fact, justice perceptions are an integral part of performance ratings and can be aligned with effective performance management systems (DeNisi & Murphy, 2017).
Align Performance Appraisal with Staffing, Feedback and Compensation
Research conducted on performance feedback also demonstrates that performance appraisal is an integral component of performance management; however, linking individual and firm performance has been problematic (DeNisi & Murphy, 2017). One of the best ways in which to link individual and firm performance is through acknowledgment that performance appraisal, as a human resource practice, is a component of a parcel of activities that align staffing, performance feedback, and compensation with the strategic goals of the firm (DeNisi & Murphy, 2017). In this way performance feedback would be viewed as a broader set of human resource activities. However, DeNisi and Murphy (2017) point out that many of these models need to be more thoroughly tested to assess their effectiveness.
Understand the context in which feedback is provided
One of the other features of effective performance feedback is in understanding the context in which feedback is provided (DeNisi & Murphy, 2017). Much of the research on performance feedback has considered particular aspects of the process, including cognitive processes, scales and training, without considering the situation in which the appraisal takes place. Research in organizational psychology informs us that the climate and culture within the firm shapes the beliefs concerning talent and this can impact the appraisal system (DeNisi & Murphy, 2017).
Overall, the research on performance feedback is useful in detailing how best to provide feedback to individuals. However, it is important to consider how performance feedback should be integrated into an effective performance management system for feedback to be effective (DeNisi & Murphy 2017). Advances in organizational science inform both scientists and practitioners that it is prudent to be aware of how changes in technology and organizational culture influence performance feedback.
In last week’s post, we discussed predictability, David Hogue’s fourth core principle of interaction design. In this final installment of our five-part series, I’d like to share another critical — and often overlooked — component of great interaction design and positive user experience: feedback.
Just like form matters in industrial design, feedback is absolutely essential to interaction design. And Hogue is talking about much more than simply supporting individual moments, actions and interactions. Feedback, he says, serves a larger purpose in any system as a whole, in that it tells people how they can — and should — interact with what’s on the screen.
Principle 5: Good Interaction Design Provides Feedback.
Feedback communicates the results of any interaction, making it both visible and understandable. Its job is to give the user a signal that they (or the product) have succeeded or failed at performing a task.
On desktops or laptops, when you hover over navigation items, you expect them to change color or load a submenu. That’s feedback, telling you that the item is clickable. progress bars and animations are also common feedback mechanisms, used to inform people that the system is doing something. And the simple act of using the correct visual form for controls (e.g. buttons that look like buttons, underlined text hyperlinks) provides immediate visual feedback.
Essentially, according to Hogue, feedback answers questions across four categories:
- Location: Where am I?
- Current Status: What’s happening — and is it still happening?
- Future Status: What will happen next?
- Outcomes & Results: What just happened?
Feedback tells us whether or not we’re moving closer to accomplishing a task or achieving a goal. It tells us if errors have occurred, and if so, what to do about them. Feedback can be attention-grabbing via modal alerts or dialogs that cover the screen, or it may be as subtle as an icon badge that communicates status. Feedback encourages and guides users through steps in a process, whole warning them when they veer off course.
Above all else, feedback is important because it provides answers to the questions the human brain is designed to instinctively ask:
- How do I get started?
- Should I click that?
- Is that work saved?
- Am I almost finished?
- Why is this taking so long?
- Should I cancel this, or wait a little longer?
- Is it doing anything, or is it stuck?
Feedback provides comfort and a sense of security; it tells us we’re doing the right thing, and it helps us decide if the outcome of our actions is valuable. if we get clear signals that our investment of time and effort will be worthwhile and will meet our needs and expectations, we’ll keep going. When the results of our actions costs us, when the result isn’t worth the effort, we learn to avoid doing those things. And in cases of apps or systems designed for repeated use, that feedback increases the likelihood that we’ll return to use it again.
Feedback, Hogue says, echoes what we learned in high school Physics: for every action there should be a reaction.
The following infographic provides some interaction design principles to help you deliver meaningful feedback in your UI designs. Click here for a larger, downloadable PDF version.
Good interaction design and good UX will always require some kind of feedback: obvious, visible, understandable reactions from the UI or the device. Feedback should be prompt, meaningful and perceivable so that users know their actions were detected. The connection between the action and the result should be made obvious, so that people know what happened, why it happened and what they should do next. Feedback should always simplify and support the user’s experience, instead of complicating it.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this series on David Hogue’s Interaction Design principles. Leave a comment and let me know what you think!
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