Jobs & Employment: Genuine feedback adds to productivity

February 8, 2021 6:30 AM

Genuine feedback contributes to job satisfaction, retaining good people, and boosting productivity

In every industry—be these entertainment, hospitality, manufacturing, education, tourism or any other—business organisations thrive because of a genuine feedback system.In every industry—be these entertainment, hospitality, manufacturing, education, tourism or any other—business organisations thrive because of a genuine feedback system.

By Vidya Hattangadi

In our daily lives we mature and grow wiser because of the feedback we receive for most activities of ours. The feedback can be either positive or negative, but it is important because it helps us to enhance our abilities. Many times we underestimate the importance of giving and receiving honest feedback. The process of feedback starts from childhood and every person you deal with in your life gives you a feedback directly or indirectly. Feedback is a reaction that occurs naturally for someone’s actions or behaviour.

Traditional processes are in a makeover mode as organisations such as InMobi, Godrej Industries, KPMG and the RPG Group have revamped and redesigned their existing performance appraisal systems to make these more transparent, more inclusive and more agile. These and many other companies have been renovating their appraisal processes, looking to drive better performance and engagement amongst employees.

At KPMG, a performance tool called the MyPD has been launched globally which provides a lot of qualitative feedback. For a particular business or team, it links goals and priorities to targets and cascades them to different levels. The tool allows spontaneous feedback throughout the year, as opposed to HR-driven checkpoints from both performance and engagement managers as well as colleagues on particular projects.

In every industry—be these entertainment, hospitality, manufacturing, education, tourism or any other—business organisations thrive because of a genuine feedback system. Based on feedback, organisations can retain, promote, develop or remove staff from their rolls; certainly, efforts should be taken to focus on the emotional and mental needs of employees.

Giving and receiving genuine feedback starts from the top: CEOs, executives, managers, board members and leaders. From here it filters down to everyone else. The order of feedback can occur planned by intention or sometimes inadvertently. The superior route, however, is by intention with trained managers and employees who are skilled in delivering feedback based on the individual and group performance principles.

So, what must be included in a feedback? Specific parameters: It must be tangible and relate to specific, measurable performance goals. Whenever we are asked to give feedback on a fellow employee, on a topic, on a happening, our feedback must be useful to the organisation; we must be able to separate it from our personal beliefs and biases. We must learn to emphasise on facts, not our interpretations. This means staying away from comments that are prejudiced: ‘he is a snob’, ‘she is weird’, ‘he is dumb’, ‘he lacks confidence’ … these comments sound biased.

Since 2010-11, at HUL, there has been a great emphasis on real delivery and accountability. HUL started practising 360-degree performance appraisal which takes mid-year for reviewing. Some employees could deal with it, others struggled immensely. HUL made mid-year reviews mandatory. With 360-degree reviews, employees started getting the messages about their performance gaps loud and clear. This is how HUL laid greater emphasis on real delivery and the company moved to a far more aggressive performance-based rewards system.

Words have power; they can make or break someone’s life. Even if you believe that an employee lacks confidence or an employee is simply telling lies, it can just be your opinion; it may or may not be accurate. You must learn to point to specific behaviours, instead: for example, he is slow in preparing analysis, he does not contribute in meetings, she is slow in executing, he is poor in costing ratios, and so on and so forth. If you can ensure your feedback includes both negative and positive notes, it will help the organisation counteract to an employee’s personal biases and preferences.

We believe that feedback happens during a performance appraisal, during training, during corporate brainstorming, etc. But in reality feedback is around us all the time. Every time we speak to a person, employee, customer, vendor, etc, we communicate feedback. In reality, it is impossible not to give feedback.

At Tata Motors, as part of its endeavour to nurture a culture of performance and accountability, the company announced the introduction of a performance improvement programme (PIP). It is meant for employees who have received a rating of ‘Not Met’ in the last performance cycle. Employees who have received a rating of ‘Partially Met’ consecutively for the last two performance cycles will also be covered under this programme. Some employees who have received a rating of ‘Partially Met’ in the last performance cycle also are included in the plan based on their manager’s discretion. The PIP is generally treated as a filtering mechanism, where the organisation identifies poor performers and gives them a chance to improve over a few months. However, if nothing comes out of the exercise, they are asked to leave. But the most important aspect in a PIP is being fair and objective in the whole review process.

Why should leaders focus on giving and receiving genuine feedback? When employers give genuine feedback, it can actually motivate employees to perform better. Employees like to feel valued and motivated employees’ productivity rises, which helps organisations to formulate the right strategies. The same goes with feedback from clients, suppliers, vendors, government and stakeholders which can be used to formulate better policies and better working relations.

Genuine feedback helps to get job satisfaction, it helps in retaining good people, and it boosts productivity in people and gives longevity to their careers in an organisation. These are some of the benefits that come with skill development in giving and receiving frank, genuine feedback. The effort is worth it when you focus on the emotional and mental needs of employees.

The author is a management thinker and blogger

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