As employees rely on more performance feedback today than they did prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, HR leaders must pursue two strategies to ensure their organizations’ feedback practices become more equitable for associates. Many employees don’t feel that the feedback they receive at work accurately reflects their performance.
“Coaching and feedback is an integral part of the employment lifecycle and to the success of an employee’s career, making it vitally important to how employees perceive fairness overall,” said Laurence Cacho, senior director analyst in the Gartner HR practice.
To ensure that an organization’s feedback practices become more equitable, Gartner recommends HR leaders pursue the following two strategies:
Make employees owners of feedback
Employees often know better than their managers what feedback they need and when. Preparing employees to engage in proactive, two-way discussions focused on what they need leads to more actionable feedback.
To shift to an employee-owned feedback strategy, HR should focus on four things:
- Ensure employees are bought into the process and take ownership for scheduling feedback conversations.
- Empower employees to lead conversations that will best improve their chances for success.
- Train employees on how to engage in more detailed conversations so that conversations centre around the skills that they need to progress.
- Encourage employees to not only value the feedback that their manager can provide, but also to seek out and place weight in the feedback that they get from peers as well.
“Transitioning to an employee-led feedback process is a critical step towards ensuring that the quality of the feedback received is individually targeted,” said Cacho.
Build trust between managers and employees
Relationships built on trust lead to employees who are more likely to speak up when they receive feedback that feels hurtful or irrelevant and managers who are better able to understand how their employees are perceiving feedback – including where they might have biases impacting the kind of feedback they are giving.
Gartner research has found that inequities exist in the quality of feedback employees receive. These inequities can limit the usefulness of feedback for certain groups of employees and exist in two main areas:
Unactionable feedback: Feedback that cannot be implemented. For example, Gartner research has shown that women are significantly less likely than men to get targeted feedback and coaching when they need it most.
Relationship-eroding feedback: Feedback that is demoralizing or harms work relationships. For example, many women have reported that “demoralizing” has been a primary reason why feedback has been unhelpful to them.
To address and manage the perception of inequity in the feedback and coaching that is delivered to employees, HR leaders should do the following:
- Provide opportunities for managers to hear from employees with different backgrounds about how they experience work.
- Create tools that help employees and managers understand what trust looks like and reflect on the level of trust in their relationships.
- Level-set expectations of managers and employees regarding their relationship and roles around feedback.
- Encourage managers and employees to regularly discuss how they can improve the transparency in their relationships as a foundation to facilitate healthy feedback conversations.
“Employees believe that feedback is critical for improving performance,” said Cacho. “Organizations can drive performance, loyalty and a fairer employee experience by providing all employees with access to equitable feedback.”