Compared to other performance management activities, your ability to set realistic performance expectations has the greatest impact on performance. These goals will help you frame the real-time feedback you give to your employees. To effectively set realistic performance expectations, you can have goal-setting discussions at the start of a role, shortly after performance reviews, or when your employees rotate from one project to the next.
Here are some questions that can help you think through the process of setting employee performance expectations:
A culture of coaching and development requires giving consistent feedback, albeit in small enough doses that employees can absorb it, learn from it, and adjust. A great way to think about how to give feedback is the FAST model popularized by Bruce Tulgan. Tulgan advocated that feedback should be ‘FAST’:
Managers should provide feedback on an ongoing basis so that employees have an accurate and up-to-date understanding of their performance strengths and development areas. At Humi, we encourage each manager to reflect on their employees’ behaviours and progress at the end of each week. Ideally, we have managers give this informal feedback in-person.
Questions to reflect on include:
According to Mehrabian, words account for only 7% of communication, tone of voice accounts for 38%, and body language accounts for 55%. As discussed, when you are giving feedback at the end of the week it should be face-to-face. It also helps to log it in to a shared system of record with the employee so they can reflect on their growth (yes, you can do this in Humi!).
Psst! Similar to frequency, we also encourage consistency. It establishes a predictable pattern of behaviour and creates safety. When people operate in predictable ways, we know what to expect and we become comfortable with them.
Feedback should help the employee do their job better. It’s important to ensure that recommended actions or behaviours are actionable and within the capability of the employee in their current position. The two different styles of actionable feedback you give to the employee can be referred to as soft feedback and hard feedback.
Soft feedback are ideas worth considering. For example: “Hey, may want to give this a shot, or it’s worth considering anyway!”
Hard feedback are ideas requiring implementation (or at least trial implementation). For example: “I want you to try this next week. I did this once and here is what happened. Let’s set a goal to try it this week.”
In short, soft feedback signals “Hey, consider this … it might help.” Hard feedback signals: “Here’s what I want you to try, and here is why.'' We find a good blend of soft and hard feedback is necessary to build a culture of coaching. In order for hard feedback to be effective, it’s crucial to outline the “why”.
On top of soft and hard feedback, there needs to be a certain level of specificity. To deliver feedback, we use the SBI Model: “Situation -> Behaviour -> Impact”.
Situation – remind the person of the situation. Examples:
Behaviour – describe the behaviour. Examples:
Impact – describe the impact on yourself and/or the organization. Examples:
Managers should give feedback as timely as possible. Timely feedback maximizes the impact of feedback on the employee’s performance. Delayed feedback can resentment in the recipient if the opportunity for improvement has passed. If your feedback is primarily negative, take time to prepare what you will say or write.
To start, managers need to take inventory of the micro-moments available to them to give their feedback. Every manager and department has unique feedback cycles. This might include deployments for developers, month/quarter-end for sales, etc. We split these moments as direct and indirect moments.
Indirect Moments refer to times when you can observe behaviour casually. This might include noticing the employee offer help or refusing to offer help. It might include seeing them stay late or coming in early to complete a task. In all cases, in these moments you are a casual observer. Having the manager actually write them out and be referenceable in your performance tool puts these moments on the radar as opportunities for general feedback.
Other examples of “indirect moments” include:
Direct Moments refer to the times you have to carve out in order to directly observe the employee in the execution of their role. Examples of this might include:
“Giving people feedback is an act of trust and confidence. It shows that you believe in their ability to change. That you believe they will use the information to become better. And that you have faith in their potential. It’s also a sign of commitment to the team and to the larger purpose and goals of the organization. Because, ultimately, we’re all responsible for our collective success.” – Peter Bregman from Harvard Business Review
The underlying implication of the real-time feedback model is: I give you permission to make mistakes and am here to help you; you have an obligation to learn from those mistakes and not repeat them.