It’s possible that your company’s needs haven’t changed over the years. It still needs to meet targets and grow revenue. And the processes to achieve that might be essentially the same as they’ve always been. However, the needs of the people fulfilling those processes have changed.
We’re never going back to a time before the pandemic when work was work and home was home. The boundaries between people’s work lives and home lives are forever blurred. Now they just have lives that include family needs, work objectives, personal health, etc.
When reviewing employee performance, it’s not enough to simply compare their KPIs to their objectives and tell them how to do better. Feedback needs to be given within the context of the whole life of the employee.
Here are some essential elements of productive feedback in the post-pandemic workplace.
It should be clear about the context
Start by describing the reason for the feedback in the first place. Discuss the company’s requirements for meeting objectives, maintaining proper behaviour or any other guidelines that you’d like to address. You may find as you describe the context that your employee didn’t have a solid understanding of company policies and procedures. That’s the root of the misaligned behaviour. If that’s the case, you can adjust your feedback accordingly.
It should be timely
Feedback should never be given in the heat of the moment. But it should be given soon thereafter. Give yourself a day or two to put your thoughts into order. Then, invite your employee for a calm, quiet conversation.
It should be non-judgmental
You only know what happened. You don’t know why it happened. There are many behaviours that aren’t inherently good or bad. They’re just neutral behaviours that people assign meaning and interpretations to.
For example, maybe your co-worker brushed past your desk and knocked your papers on the floor and just kept walking. It’s tempting to label your co-worker as rude, careless or outright antagonistic. After all, what possible reason could they have for not coming back and helping you pick up your papers?
When giving feedback, it’s important to only describe the behaviour, not the judgment (e.g. Do: When you walked past my desk this morning, you knocked some papers on the floor. Don’t: You were really rude this morning knocking my papers on the floor and not even caring enough to help me clean up.). You may find out that your co-worker is indeed rude and antagonistic. Or you may find out they had in earbuds and didn’t notice the papers falling. Or that their pet just had to be put down and their mind was elsewhere.
It should describe the impact of the behaviour
As mentioned, behaviours aren’t necessarily good or bad in and of themselves. But they beget results and it’s those results you’re trying to manage. For example, when you don’t meet your objectives that makes an impact on the larger goals of the company. Or when you knock someone’s papers of their desk and don’t help to pick them up, it makes them feel hurt or angry and causes them to have to spend time cleaning up.
It should leave room for a response
Remember that your employee has a whole life happening around them that work is only a part of. Allow them to put context to their behaviour for you. It won’t necessarily change how you proceed or make their behaviour okay. But it will allow them to feel heard and supported. It will give you a chance to see them in a different light and offer additional support if needed.
It should end with a plan
Create a clear plan for moving forward including talking about what needs to change and what needs to be repeated to get the desired results. Make sure your employee has everything they need to achieve success in their role, including support for any non-work-related issues that could be affecting their performance.
There’s no predicting what changes will happen in the workforce in the future. Building resiliency is the only way to prepare for unpredictability. Recognising the wholeness of your employee’s life in the context of their work performance will help strengthen your organisation.
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