Making a Case for “Feedforward” vs. Performance Reviews
The coronavirus pandemic has brought sweeping changes to the workplace, forcing both employers and employees to adapt in ways that have never been tested before. There is no doubt that productivity is suffering across the board during this crisis, but one key move you, as an employer, can make is to forgo performance reviews while we collectively attempt to make it through these trying times.
The Perils of Evaluating Work Performance During a Crisis
Performance reviews, while far from perfect, are beneficial for many companies during the normal course of business. Obviously, we are about as far from the norm as we can get today—a strong argument for temporarily suspending employee evaluations.
Shifting dynamics in the workplace have already made the traditional 9-to-5 work schedule a thing of the past for many. Those who are fortunate enough to have escaped furloughs or layoffs are likely scattered, working from home (or spread out considerably around the office). Adding to this upheaval is unprecedented levels of anxiety and stress as we all try to cope with the unknown. These factors make performance evaluations pretty inaccurate at the moment.
Despite the pandemic, business does go on…for many companies, at least. Management might argue that, coronavirus or not, employees still need feedback in order to perform their jobs effectively. Instead, try giving them “feedforward”—a term associated with Stakeholder Centered Coaching (SCC). In a nutshell, this means shifting the focus to what is working and what can be done better. If that sounds similar to feedback, just look carefully at both words and you’ll understand the difference: feedback looks to the past (e.g., what an employee did and how well they did it), while feedforward looks to the future (what is an employee doing now that is successful and should be maintained, and what should change?). Subtle differences in terminology represent a completely different mindset, one that removes blame from the employee and concentrates instead on positivity. Rather than criticizing or passing judgment, it’s enabling workers to succeed. With so much uncertainty in the world today, employees want to believe their employers have their best interests at heart. Feedforward accomplishes this nicely.
Employees do want to know what their bosses think…especially during times of uncertainty. When the modern workplace has changed so drastically in a short period of time, it’s more important than ever to have a firm understanding of what employers expect of their staff. They, too, can use feedforward to broach the subject. A simple way of doing so would be to ask the boss if there are any obstacles to achieving success under the current arrangement, and which things are working well as opposed to those that are not. If you’re an employee, your boss will undoubtedly appreciate your proactiveness and will appreciate the fact that you have made his or her job easier. Giving feedback is often just as difficult as receiving it!
When the crisis is over, many expect a “new normal.” Why not continue emphasizing feedforward once that day arrives? It’s a much more positive approach than the traditional performance review and can improve relations between employers and employees. It would be a great way to turn a tragedy into a long-term positive!