What is feedforward, besides a very awkward word to pronounce?
To put it simply, it's a talent evaluation process focused more on future goals than on the past. Therefore, it is more upbeat with an emphasis on talent development. Because of this, feedforward is rapidly gaining popularity among different business industries, including the IT sector.
Feedback - Focus On the Past
By its very nature, feedback is focused on the past, on things that have already happened.
While that may be useful to prevent repeating mistakes, it still focuses on waiting until someone makes a mistake. After that, the talent gets “scolded.” It focuses on fixing instead of prevention. Due to this, feedback is intrinsically considered negative and is often viewed as such by the talent.
The positive side of feedback is that sometimes you need to fix issues that have already happened. Especially with new talent, sometimes looking backward is necessary to address mistakes already made. Because how else would the new talent know what they need to change in their working method? Still, it is crucial to keep the negative aspect of pointing out mistakes to a minimum. In addition to making new talent aware of their mistakes, the focus must be on fixing the mistakes for the future rather than “punishing” talents, so to speak. Keep in mind that new talents will make mistakes. It is a normal part of learning. Handle it by shifting it into a learning experience.
The effectiveness of feedback depends heavily on the person giving it.
Unfortunately, if the person giving feedback does not have the required social skills, it will feel like criticism and potentially provoke arguments. This leads to talent dreading upcoming feedback and feeling stressed, which might affect their performance. Hence, if you decide that feedback is the way forward for your company’s organization, make sure the people giving it are well-educated for that role and have high-level social skills.
Feedforward – Look to the Future
Instead of focusing on mistakes, feedforward is designed to engage with them and help your talent from the start. It enables you to focus on the growth of the talents in your company, and it can provide insights into ways people can develop or even take on new roles and responsibilities.
What Is Feedforward?
The most critical aspect of feedforward is the focus on the future.
It avoids comments on previous events and behaviors and instead looks toward opportunities and new developments. Specifically, it is meant to illuminate specific paths for improvement and advancement of both talents and the company.
Therefore, it is a great way to show your talent what is expected of them and how they can advance in a way that works for them and also benefit your company’s development. Feedforward is supposed to be more relaxed and casual. That way, it builds a healthy relationship within the group and fosters connections between people.
Any conflicts are resolved with a positive glance toward the future. Feedforward mustn't come off as judgmental, but it should offer support in a comfortable environment instead.
How to Hold a Feedforward Session
We will break down the session into four main parts that should help make the conversation with the talent more meaningful.
Start by commenting on the person's accomplishments in the period since the last feedforward. Then, point out specific events that showed off initiative and effort to explain in what way such actions lead to further advancement.
Have an in-depth discussion about their goals for the company, both in the near future and long term. Define where they are currently concerning those goals and what they need to do to accomplish them. It is imperative to define clear goals that they can work toward and some specific level they can strive to achieve. Simply saying 'Improve this' is too vague. Try to set a particular metric, wherever possible, such as 'Finish this part of the project' or 'Learn how to do this specific job.' When the goals involve learning new skills, it would be best to provide the talent access to materials for study and, optimally, a mentor to help them.
Make Them Feel Included
Finally, ask your talent what they would like to see implemented in the company. Get them involved in the process. That way, you build in them a sense of belonging with the company. People love to see that their opinion matters. You should forward any ideas or suggestions they might have to the relevant people who will evaluate them and decide on implementation. End on a few motivating words with a pleasant and positive note. Make sure they understand that you have faith in their abilities and that they can handle the goals defined by the session. Motivate them to do their best.
All of this might seem simple, but that isn't always the case. Productively handling feedforward requires social skills that not everyone might have. It is also heavily dependent on the subject. You need to understand your talent, their current position, and their goals. Every single feedforward needs to be carefully crafted for each individual. Anything less will defeat the purpose of feedforward and might backfire.
Drawbacks of Feedforward
Of course, feedforward is not some perfect solution for every company's talent development. It can be challenging to implement because of the necessary removal of subjective opinions and judgments. That may prove challenging and can cause interference with the whole process.
Additionally, feedforward does not address previous mistakes or misconduct by its design.
While this focus on the future is more positive in its structure, sometimes, previous events need to be addressed to ensure they do not happen again. But incorporating this into a feedforward session kind of defeats the purpose of feedforward.
So, there needs to be another way to fix that.
Best of Both Worlds
Now, we probably know what you are thinking. Feedforward sounds great, but the drawbacks are worrying. Especially the part about not addressing previous mistakes and behaviors.
This is where you combine the aspects of both feedback and feedforward. Not at the same time, of course. That would be counterproductive. Instead, define regular intervals for feedforward. Make sure everyone understands that this will be “only” feedforward, not feedback. That way, they will not feel stressed before these regular sessions, and you can do everything we outlined above to focus purely on the development and wellbeing of your talent.
And, in the case that some event occurs that needs to be addressed, you can hold a small feedback session to make sure the talent understands the mistake and knows how to fix it. Preferably do it as soon as possible. In this way, you ensure that errors get corrected immediately, and you remove the dreadful wait for a feedback session that the talent often experiences.
By holding feedback and feedforward separated, you keep the benefits of both.
But additionally, in this way, you ensure a regular session of talent development while keeping feedback in reserve for when you need it.
It might take some experimenting to figure out precisely what works for your company, but keep at it, and always have the best intentions for your company and people in mind. That is the best way to ensure the growth of your business.