High performing organizations often require supervisors to provide regular coaching and feedback to their employees. This practice helps supervisors:
Discuss employees' performance progress.
Provide additional support or resources as necessary.
Reduce employee anxiety over the content of the final evaluation.
Strategies for Success
Set clear expectations for supervisors. Make sure supervisors know how and when to provide coaching and feedback. Try expectations such as:
Timely. Provide feedback and coaching at least weekly. Confront difficult subjects right away. Recognize accomplishments as they occur.
Specific. Let employees know exactly how they are performing. Refer to the deliverables in the employee’s performance plan.
Constructive. Focus on what the employee needs to do in order to be successful. Draw attention to behaviors and results instead of personal traits. Involve the employee in defining issues and developing solutions.
Hire supervisors for their communication skills. Effective employee coaching and feedback require specific talents and skills. Not everyone has the ability (or desire) to do it well. Develop core supervisory competencies around communication, and hire those who demonstrate strong aptitude.
Model good coaching and feedback. Supervisors copy the practices of their leadership. Senior leaders and managers should model good coaching and feedback with their own direct reports.
Build a culture that values feedback. Reinforce the expectation that employees deserve feedback, and that a primary function of supervisors is to help employees be successful.
Provide supervisor training. Teach supervisors how to have meaningful conversations with employees about their progress. Show them how to provide difficult feedback that an employee needs in order to be successful.
Provide HR support to supervisors. Supervisors sometimes forget their training when faced with difficult employee issues. Ensure that HR has the expertise to support supervisors, and build a trusting relationship between supervisors and HR consultants.
Hold formal interim reviews. Consider conducting one or more interim evaluations during the year. Document achievements and progress towards achieving performance plan deliverables.
Supervisors who are technical experts but lack communication skills. Give these supervisors extra support, training, and coaching. In the future, avoid hiring or promoting technical experts who lack the skills to communicate with and coach employees to higher levels of success.
Supervisors' failure to delegate. While some supervisors may have solid communication skills, they still enjoy the technical work too much to let it go. Set clear expectations about delegating work and committing sufficient time to supervisory tasks.
Overloading supervisors. Supervisors are commonly assigned other deliverables in addition to their supervisory duties. Take care not to assign so much work that supervisors lack time to meet with their staff. Consider this when making decisions about organizational structure and lines of service.
Employee resistance. Some employees don’t expect or want coaching and feedback. Help them see the benefits of regular feedback. Teach them to expect supervisors to invest time to help them be successful.
Lack of executive support. For regular coaching and feedback to go from just a ‘program on paper’ to being part of the organization’s culture, senior leadership must communicate its expectations, model the behaviors, and allocate the necessary time and other resources.
Original: January 20, 2008
Last update: February 17, 2010