After the Performance Review: How to Follow-up on Hard Feedback

We’ve written at length in recent months about the importance of hard feedback for the health of an organization as well as the relationships between management and employees. Companies that don’t foster a healthy feedback culture struggle with all manner of other problems – from higher turnover to lower productivity.

But a common question we received in our recent webinars on performance reviews and feedback culture is about what to do after the feedback. How do you follow-up on hard feedback and ensure that an employee not only takes manager input to heart, but acts to improve their performance and communicate if they are struggling? Without that follow-up, it’s impossible to know if the feedback culture you’re working so hard to build is having an impact.

Let’s take a closer look at what comes after the performance review, how to follow-up on hard feedback, and what to do if an employee isn’t responding positively or if their performance fails to improve.

After the Performance Review

Having a regular performance review on the calendar for each of your employees is one of the most important things you can do to coordinate and establish clear goals, provide and receive feedback, and formally address job performance issues. But it’s only one small piece of the puzzle.

A healthy performance cycle includes more than just one or two checkpoints throughout the year. Regular follow-ups paired with weekly one-on-one meetings supplement these formal meetings with opportunities to check back on the feedback you’ve already provided. After the performance review, your focus should shift from past performance to future performance and how the employee improves or continues the positive behaviors you highlighted in the review. That means setting goals that are:

  • Performance Related – These are goals related to overall productivity, work output, general behavior or results depending on the nature of the employee’s role.
  • Developmental – These are related to the employee acquiring new skills and abilities on the job, addressing areas of strength and weakness to become a more well-rounded employee.
  • SMART – Goals should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound. Make sure they are clear, easy to understand, and attainable.

An employee should never wonder what your expectations are after a performance review. They should have a clear sense of what didn’t work and what needs to come next.

Maintaining Communication with Employees After Review

Hard feedback has connotations. It’s a recognition that the employee didn’t live up to expectations in key areas. That management will be watching them more closely. That things need to change.

Even in a healthy feedback culture, this can be stressful for an employee, and everyone responds differently to stress. Some people buckle down and work harder to live up to management expectations. Others will struggle to reform their work habits but ultimately meet those expectations. Others still might lash out defensively, choosing to believe the feedback was unwarranted.

As a leader, your role is to be supportive and provide the mentorship they need to strive for the former and avoid the latter. To do this, there are several things you can prioritize in your daily schedule:

  • Spend More Time on the Floor – Increase the time you spend working directly with employees, providing live feedback, and witnessing any issues or challenges that informed the original feedback. Hands-on evaluation makes it possible to provide real-time corrections and support for your employees as they work to improve.
  • Provide Positive Feedback – At the same time, take any opportunity you can to provide positive feedback. Even if it’s unrelated to the issues you’re evaluating, small wins can have a big impact on morale and help motivate an employee to try harder at all aspects of their job.
  • Coach Constantly – Management’s role is to be a mentor, role model, and coach for employees in times of success and struggle alike. This is your opportunity to step up and coach an employee through difficulties. Whether it’s a core competency they’re lagging behind in, personal issues bleeding over to impact work performance, or a time management issue – provide the guidance and coaching needed to navigate these challenges.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of looking for poor performance – of being the “clipboard boss” who is more interested in recording mistakes than enabling success. But your effectiveness as a manager is defined by your ability to guide employees through these rough patches and provide the feedback they need to be successful.

This applies not only for the employee you’re evaluating but for everyone else in the organization as well. When your team sees you providing the hands-on support and guidance needed for someone to succeed, your credibility increases, and they’ll trust you more if they ever fall into the same situation themselves.

Learn more about the importance of building a healthy feedback culture in Keegan Walden’s recent webcast on the topic here. You can also download our guide to active listening and having effective one-on-one conversations to help with the follow-up process.

Download Our Guide to Active Listening

Author Cameron Yarbrough

Cameron is the Co-founder and CEO of Torch Leadership Labs. In this capacity, Cameron heads up business development, sales, and marketing, and defines Torch’s strategic vision. He brings 15 years of entrepreneurial experience to his role as CEO, along with a deep background in mindfulness and psychotherapy.

More posts by Cameron Yarbrough

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