Feedback vs. Feedforward: Difference and Why Your Organization Needs to Move Forward
Are you tired of giving and receiving the same old feedback that seems to keep your team stuck in the same place?
It's time to try something new - feedforward.
Feedforward is a new philosophy of supporting and accelerating employee performance into the future rather than focusing on their work in the past.
While this obviously benefits the professional growth of your employees and company, feedforward also promotes much more amicable interactions between workers and people ops.
Discover why your organization needs to make the switch from feedback to feedforward and how it can help your team move forward and achieve success.
From increasing engagement and productivity to fostering a culture of continuous improvement, we'll cover the benefits and how to make the transition with a step-by-step guide for conducting cutting-edge employee assessments.
🔍 What are feedback and feedforward?
Employee feedback is the traditional way of giving reviews to workers. It usually manifests as a private meeting with a manager and can be directly tied to a raise.
Many employees find this old-fashioned method anxiety-inducing, seeing traditional performance reviews as a stressful and combative event, dreading the date on their calendar.
Giving constructive feedback is one of the most important responsibilities for people operations. But, unfortunately, it can also be one of the most difficult.
Many modern managers are evolving their tactics when giving critical feedback.
Feedforward is a more modern approach to this tired and counterproductive concept. The idea is a more frequent, flexible, and interactive conversation focusing on an employee's future goals and growth.
Rather than looking at past performance and deciding if a worker deserves a raise, with feedforward, companies look ahead at what an employee can achieve with the proper support and guidance.
🆚 Feedback vs. feedforward
One of the primary benefits of feedforward is that it is proactive.
Instead of waiting for an arbitrary annual review date, managers and team leaders share suggestions when opportunities arise.
For example, this could be when an employee underperformed, highlighting the need for improvement, or a situation where an employee's abilities could shine.
Feedforward is also future-looking, focusing on career development and ways employees can better themselves professionally.
Instead of pointing out past performance as a metric for an employee's value, help them set developmental goals to increase their contribution to the company. This is a win-win situation as it provides a clear path for individual growth and upskilling while also benefiting the company.
Feedforward is a much more cooperative concept than feedback. It dissolves the "us vs. them" mentality where employees have to plead their case to management in hopes of a raise.
Instead, people operations professionals offer their expertise to help coworkers grow and succeed.
All-in-all, feedforward enables a more positive experience for everyone involved and can lead to healthier company culture.
🏆 Benefits of using feedforward
There are many benefits to the feedforward philosophy. We have already touched on some main concepts, but let's break them down into a more digestible comparison.
👀 Note that a feedforward approach does not overlook poor performance and criticism.
However, it addresses these issues in a more proactive and supportive way.
For example, rather than pointing out a problem with negative feedback, feedforward suggests a solution. This approach is less uncomfortable for the reviewee and more productive for getting results.
Feedforward is also universal, meaning any employee can benefit from it.
Tip #1: Since feedforward encourages professional growth and advancement, ambitious workers will embrace it.
Tip #2: To get the best results, integrate feedforward in your 360-degree reviews, where upward, downward, and cross-team analyses are possible.
📈 Is feedforward useful for performance reviews?
Since feedforward is all about looking ahead, it can revolutionize how you conduct employee appraisals and significantly improve the results.
Rather than just pointing out issues from the past, the goal is to create a plan for moving forward together.
Collaboratively setting goals helps with employee motivation, retention, and satisfaction. This approach is very different from traditional performance review feedback, where employees often have to guess what management wants to see or hear from them.
Feedforward also changes the dynamic from a superior handing down criticism and praise to people operations professionals teaming up with employees to develop a strategy for continuous improvement together. The latter promotes proactive, open dialogue between workers and management about how to make the company more successful.
🪜 How to conduct a feedforward assessment in 9 steps
Conducting feedforward assessments is not drastically different from giving feedback.
However, a more mindful and active approach will be rewarded with better results.
Below is the nine-step program for conducting feedforward assessments, created by experienced people operations experts.
1. Provide assessments frequently when opportunities arise
Unlike providing feedback during an annual performance review, feedforward opportunities can present themselves at any time. Particularly at the end of a project or upon accomplishment of tasks.
Finding frequent opportunities to provide feedforward gives an employee a steady stream of inspiration and constant goals to work toward.
These opportunities include pointing out areas an employee excels at so they can build upon those strengths and identifying areas where they may need additional training.
In both cases, consistent guidance will create a culture of cooperative growth instead of the stressful review and raise process.
Tip: The goal here is to arm employees with new skills to make them more valuable employees eligible for raises and promotions, not to give them a grade along with a raise or rejection.
2. Collaborate on goals
Feedforward is a collaborative discussion. The role of management is to provide support and a fresh perspective while gaining insight from the employee's unique perspective.
No one knows the role of an employee better than they do. Deciding goals for them without their input can often lead to frustration. Their input is precious to management, don't ignore it!
Use the opportunity to learn about the individual and their role—specifically, duties, preferences, ability, employee satisfaction, and ideas for company improvement.
In return, you can provide objectives you would like to see them achieve and work together to devise a plan to make it happen.
💡 Get inspired by 14 examples of developmental goals and ways to achieve them.
3. Set a timeframe
This plan should have a timeframe with specific conditions. Vague objectives lack the direction needed for employees to stay focused and succeed.
A simple formula is: "I would like to see you accomplish [objective] by [date]. How would you go about doing that?"
In this way, you present performance goals that would benefit the company and allow employees to give their input.
Consider their opinions and ideas on the matter, make logical adjustments, then let them run with it!
4. Make it measurable
When possible, make these plans measurable.
For example, this suggestion is vague and difficult for both you and the employee to track: "We would like to see you become more productive."
The following is much more straightforward and measurable: "We would like to see your monthly output increase. How do you feel about a steady increase of one additional job per month for the rest of the quarter? That would put you right in the target range."
In this example, you clearly state the goal and measurable metrics to achieve it. This way, you can easily determine if the employee accomplished the goal at the end of each month. You also create an opportunity to check in each month rather than waiting three months to offer assistance.
Be sure to have an open mind during the initial plan creation phase and any subsequent check-ins. This attitude can help you uncover what areas the employee is struggling with so you can help them find the best solution.
5. Track and document progress
With measurable objectives, tracking and documenting progress should be easy. You can use this data in your check-ins and as a record of an employee's long-term performance.
Tip #1: Consider creating and sharing a spreadsheet with employees noting goals and tracking KPIs.
Tip #2: Better yet, use our 360-degree review software to set, track, and manage employee objectives.
6. Include other perspectives when feasible
In some cases, particularly those with hard-to-measure objectives or when a past problem needs to be addressed, it can be very beneficial to get input from multiple sources. Not only does this provide more background information on the situation, but it can make the insight more well-rounded and less biased.
Tip: 360-degree assessments are perfect in this scenario.
Hearing the opinions of those above and below an employee, as well as those in other departments, ensures a more fair assessment once you sum up and average the input.
It is not unusual for management to be unaware of certain circumstances affecting an employee's role.
However, if there is consensus about an employee's ability, you can be reasonably sure of the accuracy of inputs.
Feedforward relies on honesty, which sometimes means tough love.
7. Don't forget self-evaluation
Another valuable perspective for gaining insight about an individual in their role is themself.
Ask the subject to fill out an evaluation for themself along with the others.
💡 You can use our self-evaluation template to get started.
Tip: You may or may not want to average self-evaluations into final scores. However, they will still provide valuable data for people operations to analyze.
For example, does the employee have a skewed view of their abilities and performance?
8. Review results
Once you have insight from different perspectives and objective data regarding the subject's performance, it is time to put your people operations skills to use.
Review the results and try to infer any helpful focus areas for that employee.
Identify weak areas, ways to improve them, and opportunities for positive reinforcement.
Tip #1: The real trick is to achieve a feedforward culture where pointing out an employee's weakness or failure does not have a negative connotation but presents an opportunity for future improvement.
Tip #2: Remember that employees often know their weak areas. They don't need reminders for them. Instead, they want help fixing them!
9. Repeat and follow-up
Note what you deduce from the data and reviews so you can offer further assistance in the next meeting.
Plan a follow-up to check progress and provide more guidance, or wait until the next feedforward opportunity if you suspect it will be timely.
Tip #1: Remember that frequency is advantageous for feedforward, allowing constant support and encouragement for employees while also wearing down feelings of anxiety and negativity about meeting with management.
Tip #2: Your job as a people pro is to help employees succeed. So there shouldn't be anything scary about that.
➡️ Help employees develop using feedforward with Zavvy
People operations is an ever-changing field, as fluid as the individuals who make up the global workforce.
A key concept is growth: of employees, companies, and success.
Feedforward is a new idea that focuses on the growth of individuals, nurturing their professional development for their benefit and the betterment of their company.
At Zavvy, we embrace positive changes in HR and people operations to promote happier, healthier, and more effective company cultures.
If you are looking for ways to help your company grow and its employees prosper, Zavvy is here to help.
Our 360-degree feedback tool makes it easy to track performance goals, plan career progression, and assess leadership potential among your employees.
Automated software means getting more insights and better results with less work. Schedule a free demo to learn more about how Zavvy can help your business!