Tactical Guide to Employee Feedback and Improvement

Defining Employee Feedback Plans and Pinpointing Areas for Improvement: The Tactical Guide

Why are feedback sessions so important? 

For one, companies that carry out regular employee feedback have turnover rates that are 14.9% lower than those employees who receive no feedback at all.

Now, here are additional helpful insights from the stats on employee feedback and performance reviews: 

  • Managers who received regular feedback on their strengths showed 8.9% greater profitability. (Source
  • About 43% of those highly engaged employees receive feedback on a weekly basis. (Source
  • 92% of respondents agreed that when negative feedback is delivered appropriately, they can be highly effective at improving one’s performance.” (Source)
  • 63% of Gen Z employees want to hear constant and constructive performance feedback throughout the year. (Source)

During these times when the “Great Resignation” is having such a huge impact on several industries, it is extremely important to figure out how to be resilient, how to bring in new people, and how to accommodate for the workload that you have on a daily basis. 

Most businesses have to hire real fast since lots of talent are moving back and forth between companies, while also trying to supplement whatever we do through agencies, freelancers, consultants, and other parties. 

As a result, most companies have onboarded many new people this year alone, and the interview process is going beyond the normal cycles of duration or number of interviews due to lots of competition and job opportunities for every single person. 

Many leaders are now facing challenges when it comes to hiring the wrong fit. In order to rectify this issue, determine what exactly went wrong, how to potentially correct it, or what’s the best way to move forward. 

This is why I’ve designed this seven-step guide that is fairly simple and you can use it as a foundation for giving feedback and pinpointing issues with your new hire. 

Guide: Performance Improvement Plans

1. Develop a System of Competencies

Some people who join an organization may be great, but do not necessarily fit the organizational culture. This means that the types of skills they possess or the types of activities they are good at may fit a different organization, but not necessarily your own company. 

In order to accommodate that, you need to develop a system of competencies that tracks down what are the key qualities you are looking for in a person, or what are the important traits that every organization has to possess. 

A system of competencies entails a competency framework that clearly defines the practical knowledge, skills, and other attributes needed for people within a company or organization. 

This framework takes into account the role of an individual and what competencies that role requires to achieve efficiency. This can be very challenging if you are a leader who lacks an understanding of the different roles in your company. 

In order for you to create the framework, Mind Tools recommend that you abide by the following principles in designing a competency framework: Involve the people doing the work, communicate, and use relevant competencies.

Another resource to give you an idea of how to ensure coverage of the most essential competencies is the Human Resource Systems Group’s competencies. They have identified three main types of competencies that can comprehensively cover the traits you want in a hire.

HRSG's Competencies

Different companies tackle that in different ways. Some do that through their core value system or their mission and vision statements, or other tactics to ensure they have certain values.

But in any case, start with the most important thing—your core team. Identify then extract the main values. Does your team value hard work, creative thinking, multitasking, great support, or customer service? What are the certain traits that every single person in your organization has to possess so that you can first off attract the right people, and second, have a clear list to push back the wrong people joining your organization?

2. Enrich Your System Through an Existing Framework

There are existing frameworks that you can kind of use to build your value system if you don’t have any. Some of them are the RACI matrix of strengths and weaknesses. 

Below is an example of the RACI matrix from Upwork:

RACI Matrix Example

Some of them are related to the SWOT personality test that you can use to actually evaluate your talent. Some of them are based on behavioral-based interview questions and the mechanics behind that. 

One of my favorite books on that is the 701 Behavior-Based Interview Questions, which is a great read if you want to kind of develop competencies, both in terms of a great interview cycle and just building those value lists in terms of the types of traits you want from your people. 

So start with your own framework, the traits that you know of, and enrich them with an existing framework that is already out there. 

3. Grade the System Across Multiple Tiers

Once you have your core competencies, the next step is to enrich that horizontally and vertically, meaning that by having some of those competencies, you can actually make sure that some of those competencies may be across the entire organization or across certain departments.

In some cases, you can build a value map that is spread across the company or spread across different teams. 

What may be important for an engineer may be different for a salesperson, like some are introverted, some are extroverted, some are more data-driven analytical, others are more emotional, just building better connections, so build that on a horizontal level. 

The same goes for verticals. When you hire a junior, you want to figure out what the value map is based on when you scale them up to mid-level, to senior, to manager, or maybe even to a VP. 

Develop this value map in a sense that grades the system throughout different tiers. 

4. Identify New Traits as They Come

There are times when you may miss some of the traits, and one of the easiest, even though the most expensive ways to identify new traits is through the wrong type of hires. 

Most of the time, when you work with the wrong type of hire, you have missed out an important detail during the interview question, during the interview phase, or during the onboarding phase, that kind of leads to several weeks or even several months of working with the person, and at the same time, seeing the disconnect at this point. 

So, you know they’re not performing well, but you don’t know how, and you don’t know what exactly is going on. So what you need to do in this case is identify the trait depending on what’s going wrong. 

This is not going to be easy, but it is really important to find out what is going wrong and at least put it into words, like they are slow or there is back and forth, or there is something else. So knowing that, you can move to the next step as well. 

5. Quantify Through SMART

When you know that a particular employee is not doing great in a certain endeavor, you need to be able to communicate it with them. You need to to give feedback, and define that through a set of requirements that they can go through and make sure there is something they can work with. 

One of the ways to manage that is through SMART, the popular measurement system that includes an abbreviation of Simple, Measurable, Attainable, Relatable, and Time-bound. These five factors make quantifying a certain trait much easier so that you can actually put into words what the expectation is based on how your team is underperforming. 

Here is an informative graphic from Profit.co that explains what setting up SMART goals means.

For example, if they are slow, you need to be able to define several activities and the time expected to complete them so that they can actually fit into that specific bucket. 

If there is communication overhead, you can tell them that they are not allowed to get asked to answer more than two follow-up questions for each assignment because everyone else gets it from the get-go but only they take five, six or seven follow-up questions back and forth. 

The same goes for work quality. If an editori sends back six or seven typos for each of their content pieces and they are supposed to have one or two max, you need to communicate and quantify it one way or another. So, use SMART to target this. 

6. Create a Regular Feedback Loop

Incorporate regular feedbacking into your core value system so that you don’t make any additional mistakes in upcoming interview phases. 

One of the important things you need to do is set feedback loops on a regular basis to measure results and to make sure that things are improving. This could be developed in a sense of a monthly plan, which means a set of assignments and then measuring every month, or it could be broken down into a weekly session, discussing if things are going well or not. 

Whatever the system is, make sure there is a regular feedback loop because otherwise, the entire back and forth process is going to take a while. 

7. Refine Your Performance Improvement Plans 

PIPs are fairly common in enterprises, but not necessarily as common in the startup ecosystem; however, they could be really good. Sometimes, giving feedback may not be direct enough or may not be perceived as something that is too serious. 

Reverting that, “Hey, this is taking awhile,” is one thing, but actually having a formalized process with HR and with your direct manager, confirming that things are really bad and you are not taking care of what you are supposed to and you have 30 days to rectify or else, it sends a completely different message. 

Develop a system that builds Performance Improvement Plans. This could be designed in different phases. It could be feedback loops, as in strike one and strike two before a PIP, or it could be simplified performance improvement plans that are graded in different tiers like a Starter Improvement Plan, mid-tier, and a Final Warning Improvement Plan. In any case, they could be good. 

Again, best-case scenario, you won’t come to that; but if you do, you better have a refined process that you follow. 

Considering the high number of people most companies need to hire nowadays, it is really common to just hire people who are not necessarily a great fit within your organization. there is no harm in that aside from having to spend some money and time with onboarding.

But if you get to this point, you need the right plan to return feedback and learn from that entire exercise, get some lessons, and incorporate them into your own best practices. 

Good luck and persevere throughout the next year.

Your thoughts?