We’re commonly asked who should be invited to provide employee feedback. We have consistent advice, but we found it’s often better to share these three common mistakes we see organizations make. Understanding these miscues helps you identify appropriate candidates and source meaningful feedback.
Mistake #1: Feedback pool is too restricted.
Why it happens: Intuitively, the ideal candidates to provide feedback would be the employee’s direct teammates. They’re the ones most closely associated with the employee on the org tree and hypothetically spend the most time with them.
Tips to consider
- Include raters from other teams and departments. Employees commonly work with people on other teams more often than with those on their own. Feedback is intended to determine employee performance, development potential, and how they exhibit the organization’s core values. Those who interact with the employee most often, not those on their team, can provide the most accurate feedback on those topics.
- Empower the employee receiving feedback to choose providers. HR representatives or managers typically identify feedback providers, but they may not be aware of who the employee interacts with most. Employees know who can speak best on their performance, and allowing them to add to the feedback pool paints a more accurate picture.
- Allow selected raters an opt-out if they don’t feel they’re best to provide feedback. Being inclusive results in more robust feedback, but you don’t want potential providers to feel uncomfortable or unprepared to share their opinion.
Bottom line: We generally recommend 5-7 raters to collect comprehensive feedback. Allow the employee to select or agree upon providers that can speak best to their performance and potential and create and accurate view of their performance and potential.
Mistake #2: The employee is forgotten.
Why it happens: It’s assumed that employees will rate themselves favorably, skewing perceptions and creating uncomfortable alignment conversations.
Tips to consider
- Identify meaningful gaps in perception. If an employee rates themselves highly in several areas but their peers disagree, the employee likely doesn’t understand expectations. The follow-up conversation may be uncomfortable, but the employee needs honest feedback to understand how to improve. You want to identify and correct potential misalignment as early as possible – the longer an employee’s inaccurate perceptions exist, the more confusion and resentment it can lead to down the road.
- Give employees a voice. Doing so reinforces a culture of transparency and feedback.
Bottom line: Self-assessment allows employees to reflect on their actions and behaviors – a potentially uncomfortable but necessary responsibility. It’s important to identify areas of growth and improvement – doing so leads to greater self-awareness and an ownership of developmental goals.
Mistake #3: The manager is underestimated (but not in the way you might assume!)
Why it happens: Managers commonly serve as raters for their direct reports. However, their most important contributions come after feedback is gathered. Many managers don’t realize their role in the post-feedback process or feel ill-equipped to help the employee understand and take action on feedback.
Tips to consider
- Create manager expectations. Managers should serve as coaches that help team members develop and grow. Define what that looks like in your organization and clearly communicate a post-feedback action plan for managers.
- In the case of matrix managers, ensure all managers have the opportunity to provide feedback. Provide clarity on who is responsible for helping the employee after feedback is gathered.
- Equip them with appropriate resources. This can be an intimidating process, particularly those that are unfamiliar with it. Supply information to help them engage in productive post-feedback conversations with employees.
Here are a few to consider:
The bottom line: The best managers serve as coaches to their employees. They provide ongoing positive and constructive feedback in real-time, help employees make sense of feedback they receive from others, work with their team members to set performance and developmental goals, and discuss progress and priorities throughout the year.