Employee Experience: Are You Providing Feedback or Feedforward?

A critical component of a great employee experience is feedback – both from peers and from management. The iterative, continuous improvement that happens as a result of that feedback is important to an employee’s development, productivity, and engagement. But does that improvement really happen? Or is providing/receiving feedback more of a demoralizing exercise?

I recently read about a concept called “feedforward,” which was developed by Marshall Goldsmith many years ago. While feedback identifies areas that you need to improve upon based on current or past performance, feedforward “helps people envision and focus on a positive future, not a failed past. By giving people ideas on how they can be even more successful, we increase their chances of success.”

So, feedback is “here’s what you’re doing well or not,” and feedforward is “let’s set you up for success by providing suggestions or ideas to do just that.” The focus is on solutions, not on the problem. (Reminds me a little of current state mapping versus future state mapping and ideation.) Check out this video to see how Marshall describes feedforward and how it works.


Feedforward: Coaching For Behavioral Change

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This got me thinking of another example that I’d categorize as a form of feedback versus feedforward: exit interviews versus stay interviews. One looks back, while the other looks forward. In this case, the feedback is for the company about why the employee is leaving, what was broken in the experience that drove the employee out. On the other hand, the stay interview is future focused, i.e., what could be done differently in the future to ensure you have a good experience and stay with the company. What skills will you need in the future? What development opportunities or tools will you need? Etc.

It would be interesting to hear how many companies are using feedforward instead of – or in conjunction with – feedback. I’m sure Marshall has impacted thousands of companies in the last 15 years with this concept. Are they still using this approach? Tell me what’s happening within your organization. Which of these tools are being used?

Coaching is unlocking a person’s potential to maximize their own performance. It’s helping them to learn rather than teaching them. -Tim Gallwey

Annette Franz is an internationally recognized customer experience thought leader, coach, speaker, and author. She recently published her first book, Customer Understanding: Three Ways to Put the “Customer” in Customer Experience (and at the Heart of Your Business); it’s available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle formats. Sign up for our newsletter for updates, insights, and other great content that you can use to up your CX game.

Image courtesy of Pixabay.

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