Feedforward vs. Feedback: A New Approach to Performance ManagementSeptember 15, 2023
We can’t take back mistakes we’ve made in the past, and it’s seldom helpful to dwell on or be reminded of them — even with the best of intentions. Let’s explore why it’s often more productive to look forward.
How to Structure a Feedforward Conversation
How you deliver feedforward will depend on the task and the structure of your team. It should be personal and aimed at professional development.
However, you may still find it useful to use a framework if you or your team are new to the feedforward format.
Fans of feedforward often use the R.E.P.A.I.R. method for performance management. It encourages open communication and understanding between team members. It stands for:
- R – regenerating talent
- E – expanding possibilities
- P – particular
- A – authentic
- I – impactful
- R – refining team dynamic
Let’s break down each of these sections.
It can help to think of feedforward as a form of knowledge transfer. The goal is to take the knowledge and experiences of supervisors and deliver them to their team in the form of suggestions for the future.
Feedforward helps foster career progression and improves confidence and knowledge in your field.
A major feature of feedforward is its ability to expand on ideas and introduce new processes into the business.
For example, instead of using a silencing statement like: “No, that wouldn’t work,” you'd use an amplifying statement: “That’s a great idea. Let’s discuss a few tweaks to work with our resources and see if we can implement that.”
Do you see how the second statement still acknowledges that there may be some practical challenges but also encourages and expands on the idea?
One of the major concerns with basic feedback is that it can easily descend into vague criticism. With a focus on positivity and future improvement, a feedforward framework helps to craft a specific response — letting your colleague know exactly how they can improve next time and what they can ask for support with.
Feedforward is authentic communication. It reframes criticism into suggestions for improvement without the need for inauthentic praise — although it’s great to include praise if the project has earned it.
Because honesty and communication are built into the structure of feedforward, you can safely use this framework without devolving into platitudes or dishonesty.
Feedforward creates a positive, lasting impact on the recipient and the provider. It creates space for the recipient to understand areas of strength and weakness, focusing on growing in their profession.
At the same time, the impact on the provider shouldn't be overlooked. Feedforward encourages supervisors to examine their own methods of commenting on work and may help to identify areas of bias or ways of improving your management style.
Refining Team Dynamic
Feedback is one of the many markers of team dynamics and hierarchy. Typically, it’s supervisors with more industry and company experience who are providing feedback to junior employees.
Feedforward can use this dynamic too, but it also creates space for other team members to engage and make comments on past projects.
Feedforward vs. Feedback Example
We’ve covered the what, the why, and the how. Now, let’s see feedforward in action!
Consider the same scenario and two outcomes, one in which feedback is provided and the other in which feedforward communication is used. Notice the difference in tone and the shift towards the task itself and the future when feedforward is introduced.
Scenario: Sarah has just finished presenting a marketing plan for the company’s new product to senior leadership, the marketing team, and her direct supervisor. After the session, her supervisor offers her the following comments:
Example of Feedback
“You didn’t seem very engaged during parts of that presentation. You spent a lot of time reading from slides and avoiding eye contact with the Marketing Director. I also felt that you could have included more statistics from past campaigns to highlight why we’re using paid campaigns.”
Example of Feedforward
“There were some really strong parts of that presentation! In the future, can we brainstorm with the team and collate some data that justifies the budget we’re proposing? It might also be helpful if you reduced the amount of content on each slide to improve engagement. Let me know if you need any support preparing future projects.”
Spot the Difference
Do you see the difference in the two responses above? In the first, Sarah’s supervisor makes comments about her personally, including body language and their own potentially biased reading of Sarah’s thoughts.
In the second response, her supervisor offers coaching, makes general, task-based suggestions, and begins by pointing out the positive elements of her work.
This isn’t to say that feedback should be abandoned. Rather, start with feedback, and then go further. Avoid simply picking out a fault. Examine the fault. Identify priorities for improvement and suggestions for the future that move the task on and improve its efficiency.
Embrace Feedforward Leadership for More Effective Talent Development
Don't get stuck in the past — move forward with feedforward!
Feedforward conversations should be one pillar of your performance management Embrace this technique to create meaningful coaching opportunities and foster a culture of professional growth.
To make feedforward even easier, consider implementing an effective digital system. We designed Paylocity’s performance management software to foster productive conversations about employee performance.
With features like easy goal tracking, self-reflection journals (with text and video capabilities), and career planning templates, it’s easy to incorporate feedforward tactics into your employee development strategy.
Request a demo to learn more about Paylocity’s employee performance management offerings.
Level Up Employee Performance
Help your employees unlock their true potential with modern performance management tools. From goal management to personalized performance review and Journals, our solutions facilitate transparent, two-communication and get your workforce involved in their own development. Employees want to grow and expect ongoing support - give it to them with Performance Management from Paylocity.Develop Talent