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Bas Kohnke



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How can feedback affect reward & recognition?


An active and positive feedback culture is integral to modern businesses; I covered the basics of why and how to boost a feedback culture based on praise in my last article.

Once your company has started giving more frequent feedback, you may be wondering how this new system will impact reward and career progression decisions.

You may be inclined to directly use the information collected, as you do with your annual performance reviews. However, this could have consequences on your new feedback culture.

Try and separate feedback as much as possible from reward and recognition. There are several reasons why:


One of the biggest problems with traditional performance reviews is that, rather than encouraging development, they often cause stress. With the potential to have a major impact on your employee's job security and financial situation, rather than looking at the information as an opportunity for advancement, employees often look on it with dread.

In fact, one report showed that the stress it can cause led 22% of employees to call in sick rather than face their performance review. Receiving mostly positive feedback is a relief, while constructive feedback merely induces fear. This completely undermines the objective of feedback: to provide insights for professional growth.

It stifles breakthrough innovation

Instead, the feedback process should be linked more to learning & development. The more learning based the performance management process is, the more likely employees are to take risks that could lead to breakthrough innovation.

What HR has to do is eliminate fear of failure from the equation. Linking pay and advancement to performance can stifle innovation.

Financial incentives are not the key to retention

Linking pay to performance evaluations won’t necessarily win your employees’ loyalty. Employee engagement is not about the financial rewards you provide, it’s about the growth opportunities and recognition you give your people. Say your business hits hard times and you can’t provide pay raises that meet the standards you had set in the past; employees who are there for the financial rewards will be the first to start looking for new jobs.

What HR has to do is eliminate fear of failure from the equation

Instead, creating a strong culture of continuous learning and feedback will demonstrate to your employees that their managers have a genuine interest in helping them develop. The loyalty that this type of culture can yield will win you employees who will continue performing at their best, even during difficult times.

Making the most of the process

When you cut these factors from the process it becomes easier for people to take feedback as an opportunity for improvement. Of course you still need a way to promote new managers and make reward decisions.

There are four ways continuous 360-degree feedback can help you optimize your process:

Base promotions on leadership skills

Not everyone is cut out to be a manager - just because someone excels in the technical skills they bring to a team does not mean they will necessarily be good at managing people, or want to do so.

Only one in ten people have what it takes to be an effective manager. In fact, Gallup alarmingly found that companies choose the wrong person for the job 82% of the time. Together the best managers can produce 48% higher profit than average managers. Companies such as Facebook are taking this seriously by making management positions lateral moves rather than basing them on pay grades.

Communication skills and concern for employees’ well-being were even more important than technical skills

What do great managers have in common? Google’s Project Oxygen sought to answer this common question within its own workforce. After conducting a company-wide study they found that skills such as coaching ability, communication skills and concern for employees’ well-being were even more important than technical skills. 

Make sure you’re making the right decisions

Data analysts have proven that unconscious bias in the workplace is much more common than you think. Studies have shown that a ‘rater bias’ based on age, gender, race, sexual orientation and personal relationships often surfaces in performance reviews.

When compensation and promotion decisions are made by one person (a manager), on an annual basis, there is a much higher possibility for bias to occur. For example, raters may often be biased due to poor performance on a more recent project which may cloud over projects that achieved great results in Q1, 2 or 3.

Basing reviews on continuous 360-degree assessments limits the possibility for bias by bringing multiple perspectives into the equation. Having this more objective information allows HR to compare and address potential bias in the workplace.

Eliminate fear of failure

Encourage your people to take risks. Set some time aside every year or quarter for employees to come up with their next great idea. Many companies today organize ‘Shipit’ days during which groups of employees band together to realize their dream project.

Connect groups with senior leaders who can provide feedback and help groups develop and mature their idea

Groups receive prizes and recognition for having the most innovative ideas. Some even go on to become the next feature developed by the company. Connect groups with senior leaders who can provide feedback and help groups develop and mature their idea. Whether their project is implemented or not, provide recognition for the most creative and forward thinking ideas. 


So aside from promotions, how do you figure out the reward question? Rather than linking bonuses to reviews, a gaming company using our product is now making promotion decisions based on the quality of feedback people give each other.

Every month people vote on the best feedback they were given and the people who get the most votes receive a bonus. This system not only encourages people to simply give more feedback, but to really give advice they feel will help others develop.

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