HR departments need to transform one of the fundamental tools that they use.
The dreaded traditional employee annual review and feedback process has been found to be outdated – very outdated.

New research just published in the Harvard Business Review(HBR) found that feedback reviews often have no, or even a negative, impact on peoples’ performance. This is because the feedback employees receive is often too vague – and fails to highlight what our people can improve on and how to improve.

The Harvard research found employees received more effective input when they were asked for advice on how they could improve their own performance and what tools and training they required, rather than being given feedback on how they were performing.  

Compared to those asked to give feedback, those asked to provide ‘advice’ suggested 34% more areas of improvement and 56% more ways to improve. Smart organisations also asked how they could improve their processes.

HBR reported: “Why is asking for advice more effective than asking for feedback? As it turns out, feedback is often associated with evaluation. At school, we receive feedback with letter grades. When we enter the workforce, we receive feedback with our performance evaluations. Because of this link between feedback and evaluation, when people are asked to provide feedback, they often focus on judging others’ performance; they think more about how others performed in the past. This makes it harder to imagine someone’s future and possibly better performance. As a result, feedback givers end up providing less critical and actionable input.

“In contrast, when asked to provide advice, people focus less on evaluation and more on possible future actions. Whereas the past is unchangeable, the future is full of possibilities. So, if you ask someone for advice, they will be more likely to think forward to future opportunities to improve rather than backwards to the things you have done, which you can no longer change.”

However, the research suggested that for new starters and novices it was better to ask for and provide feedback, rather than advice.

“Organisations are full of opportunities to learn from peers, colleagues, and clients,” HBR said. “Despite its prevalence, asking for feedback is often an ineffective strategy for promoting growth and learning. This is because when givers focus too much on evaluating past actions, they fail to provide tangible recommendations for future ones. How can we overcome this barrier? By asking our peers, clients, colleagues, and bosses for advice instead.”