Performance feedback should play a role in motivating and improving employees’ work performance. While most of us enjoy receiving positive feedback, employees are often in fear of negative feedback and supervisors do not feel comfortable providing negative feedback. The discomfort anticipated and experienced by both sides could sever the important communication channel at work. Feedback naturally focuses on the past. How about adding a new spin to our feedback practice to look to the future?
What is a feedforward interview?
Feedforward interviews are a method of performance management using positive psychology and capitalizing on the strengths of employees to help them develop and increase work performance. In contrast to feedback, which focuses on reviewing the positive and negative outcomes of past performance, feedforward interviews focus on improvement of future performance. Feedforward interviews can be conducted efficiently and frequently, on a project by project, or task by task basis, as well as in a periodic performance review. They help employees focus on the things they do well and how they can learn, adapt, and optimize their strengths in future work.
How are feedforward interviews utilized?
In 2010, Kluger and Nir proposed the feedforward interview as a tool for performance appraisal, coaching, selection, career planning and employee development to improve organizations. There are three steps in the feedforward interview. The first step is for an employee to pull from their episodic memory by recalling a specific story in which they experienced positive emotions in a win-win situation. Step two is for the employee to glean the strengths that led to success in the story. The last step is to construct a plan to incorporate those strengths into future work. Research studies showed that employees who had feedforward interviews showed better job performance four months later (Budworth et al., 2015) and experienced positive psychological change, success in meeting goals, and increased self-confidence in one’s potential compared to traditional feedback sessions (McDowall et al., 2014).
An example of feedforward in an annual performance appraisal would be a supervisor soliciting a story from the employee by asking them to tell a specific instance at work that was a success, and in which they felt proud. Perhaps the employee was a sales representative who brought on three new accounts. Next, the supervisor would ask the employee to reflect on their contributions to the successful outcome. The employee might recognize their skill at building authentic relationships. Finally, the employee and supervisor would collaborate on a plan to integrate those strengths into the employee’s goals for the upcoming performance period. The employee might set a goal of 5 new accounts for the upcoming quarter in addition to mentoring a new team member in this skill.
Adding feedforward interviews to your toolkit
Incorporating a feedforward element could make performance discussions between employees and supervisors more productive. The feedforward process may allow for more honest conversations with employees since appreciation is typically easier to deliver than negative feedback. Research also showed that feedforward increases employee performance, which leads to better overall organizational performance (Budworth et al., 2015). In our fast-changing world, speed, flexibility, and adaptation are critical elements of business. The dynamic nature of feedforward allows faster more flexible reactions to add value for today’s organizations.
In EKU’s Industrial-Organizational Psychology program, students will explore the research and practice of performance appraisals and performance management in PSY 809 Performance Management.
By: Hollee Abney & Yoshie Nakai
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About the Authors
Hollee Abney is an EKU graduate student in the I-O Psychology program. She is interested in improving people’s lives at work. Hollee currently works as a Change Management Facilitator for technology implementation projects. She loves making change easier on end users, while helping clients achieve faster adoption and better return on investment.
Yoshie Nakai is a professor of Industrial-Organizational (I-O) Psychology at Eastern Kentucky University. For EKU’s I-O Psychology Master’s program, Yoshie teaches Performance Management, Selection, and Applied Research Methods. Her research focuses on career development and aging at work. Yoshie is also the Director of the Center for Applied Psychology and Workforce Development at Eastern Kentucky University. In this role, she consults with a variety of organizations and coordinates undergraduate and graduate students’ practicum experience. She earned her Ph.D. in Industrial/Gerontological Psychology from the University of Akron. She is also certified through the Society for Human Resource Management as a Senior Certified Professional (SHRM-SCP).
Budworth, M. H., Latham, G. P., & Manroop, L. (2015). Looking forward to performance improvement: A field test of the feedforward interview for performance management. Human Resource Management, 54(1), 45-54.
Goldsmith, M. (2002). Try feedforward instead of feedback. Leader to Leader, 25(Summer), 11-14.
Kluger, A. N., & Nir, D. (2010). The feedforward interview. Human Resource Management Review, 20(3), 235-246.
McDowall, A., Freemann, K., & Marshall, K. (2014). Is FeedForward the way forward? A comparison of the effects of FeedForward coaching and Feedback. International Coaching Psychology Review, 9(2), 135-146.