How am I doing? Developing life-long learners (and outstanding employees) through effective performance feedback practices White Paper

Deanna Geddes, Ph.D., Temple University
Published Date: 
9 Jan 2014

Ongoing and increased interest in learning strategies reflects recognition of its critical role in continued professional success. Lifelong learning is synonymous with self-regulated learning, meaning one’s willingness and ability to learn and adapt throughout one’s life. The positive relationship between continuous learning and improved performance is at the heart of management education as well as the management function. Business students and organizational members alike are encouraged to set high, but achievable goals, monitor their progress, and regulate their effort as they accomplish various assignments. Faculty and supervisors assist in this learning process by providing timely, ongoing feedback on tasks and assessment of individual progress toward established goals and objectives. It is important for those interested in business to develop an ability to sense how well their efforts yield favorable results if they want to succeed. Self-monitoring and feedback-seeking (and feedback-providing) strategies can serve as vehicles to promote critical reflection that will help establish logical connections between one’s activities at work with subsequent outcomes. Enhancing abilities and inclinations to self-monitor/selfregulate-- using reliable performance information sources (e.g., self, peers, mentors, managers, and available performance data--allows individuals to improve their future growth and success in all achievement contexts, academic or professional.
Key to this process is the use of performance feedback. The purpose of performance feedback is to promote continuous learning and improvement through self-regulation of performance. Managers provide feedback to help employees improve their future performance and enhance the possibility of employee success (i.e., retention, professional development, and promotion). However, if managers are only approaching employees with praise, “good job, keep it up,” they are less effective coaches. The best coaches see the potential of their charge and are constantly promoting incremental improvements. No employee (or manager) is doing everything right or everything wrong. But managers are often afraid to provide negative feedback. Worse, they may do so in a manner that is confusing to the employees. For instance, the traditional “sandwich” approach to feedback starts with praise then critique then praise again. Often the employee is more confused after the review than before, “Does my supervisor think I doing well, or not?” Sometimes managers are guilty of being overly critical and abusive in their criticism, which is also problematic--decreasing employee motivation and increasing turnover. When we do try to offer the right amount of constructive criticism, there is still a strong possibility recipients might perceive any “negative” feedback as inaccurate and unfair, causing stress and promoting negative emotions to surface. Complicating this is the fact that many employees consider themselves to be above average in performance.

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