The culture of giving feedback in the workplace as part of performance management is generally viewed as a positive method for improving performance – and there is a lot of research which backs this up. But feedback can also be detrimental to performance if not done in the right way.

People professionals and leaders in organisations need to have an understanding of what makes feedback effective or destructive, and ensure constructive feedback becomes part of performance management practices.

This evidence review looks at the key lessons in making feedback effective, and explores how people professionals can implement this through policies and by building people’s capabilities.

Key recommendations

When delivered well, feedback can be a highly effective way to improve performance. People professionals and leaders can advocate good-quality feedback in the following ways:

  • Prompt managers to invest time in better preparing and delivering feedback and train them to recognise and work with reactions to feedback.
  • Ensure feedback is fair and seen to be fair. Managers should explain to employees how the information was gathered, highlighting why it is consistent, accurate and unbiased.
  • It is important not to push for very frequent or immediate feedback. Encourage teams and managers to find the frequency and timing that works for them.
  • Before giving feedback to employees, managers should make sure goal-setting takes place. Train employees and managers to set specific and challenging goals.
  • Ensure the performance appraisal process is fair: define clear, consistent criteria; train evaluators on how to avoid biases; open the process up to input from employees.

Key factors for effective feedback

  • Good-quality feedback should include information that is specific, relevant to the job, constructive, credible and unbiased. The quality of feedback is much more important than the amount, frequency or ‘timeliness’ of feedback.
  • In most situations, positive feedback is a more effective way to improve performance than negative feedback. When negative feedback is necessary or likely to help, frame the message positively and constructively.
  • Employees should be able to see that the information that informs feedback was gathered in a reasonable and reliable way, draws on credible sources and is unbiased. They should also be able to respond to feedback, so that it is a two-way consultative process.

See the practice summary for the main insights and practical recommendations for action. 

See the scientific summary for our methodology and technical information on the research and study references.

Performance feedback: An evidence review | Practice summary

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Performance feedback: An evidence review | Scientific summary

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