Feedback – it’s easier than you think

Anyone has been on any kind of management training will, I’m sure, have been told about the virtues of giving good feedback. This makes it particularly surprising that in my years of experience as an HR Manager it is one of the things that seems to be most commonly lacking in workplaces.

Is it really that difficult to just be honest with people, tell theFeedbackm what you think, let them know how they’re getting on? Well…yes! Perhaps it is a side effect of living in a litigous society, where managers are worried about saying the wrong thing, or perhaps it’s a bit too touchy feely?

It doesn’t have to be such a terrifying thing! In my experience, and based on some quite solid empirical evidence, these are the key characteristics of successful feedback:

  • Provide information, not opinion. Give examples and reasons for the feedback, not statements of opinion
  • Be positive! Positive feedback has been shown to be far more motivational than negative. It’s all too easy to give feedback when something goes wrong, say when something goes well too!
  • Acknowledge the recipient’s point of view – ask their opinion about how they are getting on, listen and acknowledge what they have to say and don’t be quick to make judgements before you have done so
  • Be sincere – most people are incredibly perceptive and if your feedback isn’t genuine, they will feel it even if not at a conscious level

It doesn’t have to be a challenge giving feedback – most people really appreciate it and it will encourage a more honest and open working relationship.

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Creative recognition

Monetary bonuses are commonplace in many workplaces. The argument about whether or not they have a positive impact on motivation is not one that is likely to be settled soon. It is my belief that they can help to give short-term bursts of motivation but the risk is that, in the long-term, employee’s attention is focused toward gaining their financial reward and not towards the value of the work itself. Wouldn’t we all rather have employees who are motivated because they care about what they are doing and want the company to be a success than a bunch of people thinking about their bonus at the end of the year?

That’s not to say that all bonuses have the same impact – giving unexpected rewards or recognition has been shown to have a positive impact on motivation because it is a form of positive feedback whilst not directing the individual’s focus toward the reward itself (they don’t know it’s coming!).

As part of my research I want to explore how different forms of one-off recognition award impact on motivation. It could be cold hard cash, extra days’ holiday, retail vouchers, special gifts…

Has anyone come across any interesting or creative forms of one off recognition?

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Dump the carrot and stick

Dan Pink’s, “Drive: the Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us“, outlines in an engaging and informative way how organisations are perpetuating the myth that the way to motivate workers is to offer them a carrot or beat them with a stick.

In this interview, he explains what organisations can do to create an environment which encourages autonomy, competence and relatedness – the 3 basic psychological needs that Self-Determination Theory proposes we all need to thrive.

Dan Pink – Washington Post interview

In my research, I will be exploring the notion that traditional approaches to reward result in motivation that is short-lived, lacking in engagement, less productive and detrimental to employee’s wellbeing. Watch this space!

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First past the post…

I have been inspired to begin this blog by the discussions and blog posts linked through the #phdchat on twitter. I am constantly impressed by the quality of discussion on the forum, and of the quality of the blogs that my fellow PhD students produce.

For my first post on my new research blog I thought I might try to articulate the purpose of this blog. I imagine that there will be a few different types of posts:

  • Thoughts in relation to my research topic (motivation and/or reward) that come up throughout my reading
  • Discussion on research methods and methodology
  • Observations about life as a part-time phd student

I have just started the second year of my PhD, and I imagine that I will have another 3-4 years to go so I hope that this blog provides me with a record of my “journey”.

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