Build on the Positives When Giving Performance Feedback


New research published by the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, shows that line managers can improve the performance of their teams by focusing on building their strengths rather than trying to fix their weaknesses.

‘Strengths-based performance conversations’ aim to move managers away from a deficit-oriented method, which is focused on identifying and fixing the weaknesses of team members, analysing what has gone wrong and considering how that can be avoided in the future.

The new study of performance management outcomes shows that employee performance can be improved by a simple training intervention focused on building strengths instead of fixing weaknesses.

Jonny Gifford, senior research adviser for organisational behavior at the CIPD, said: “The strengths-based approach marks a big shift in mindset for many, if not most of us. Our default mode when looking for improvements tends to be deficit-oriented – we home in on what’s gone wrong and consider how we can avoid that in the future. There will always be cases where it’s imperative to do this, but our research shows the benefit of making the norm in performance conversations to reflect instead on what worked well, why, and how it can be replicated.

“The research demonstrated that by focusing on the positives and building on what works, we can actually boost employee performance and help with the learning and development of our teams.”

The feedback from employees after the study suggests a marked improvement in how useful performance conversations were when they focused on strengths-based conversations. Overall, the interventions led to a 9.7% increase in employees agreeing with the statement, ‘My meetings with my line manager help me learn and develop as a professional’. There was also a 7.4% increase in those agreeing with the statement, ‘My meetings with my line manager help to improve my performance’.

Andrew Kean, Deputy Director of Civil Service Employee Policy, said: “In the Civil Service, we know that the quality of the performance conversation between the manager and their employee is fundamental to any good performance management approach. So we are delighted that this research, which has centred on the nature and quality of performance conversations, has provided such clear results. In particular, that a simple training intervention focused on building strengths instead of fixing weaknesses positively influences the performance conversations that take place between managers and their staff.”

David Ede, Director of People and Organisational Development at the Valuation Office Agency, said: “It has been a really useful experience to have the CIPD research running alongside our own internal performance management pilot. This has allowed for a comparison between a holistic approach to performance management (complete policy change and cultural shift to coaching conversations) and a more discrete strengths-based intervention where the policy has remained unchanged.”

Click here to view ‘Strengths-based performance conversations’

Published On: 27th Nov 2017 - Last modified: 13th Feb 2019
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