The importance of feedback for new hires

Maureen Collins

They're here! Now what?

Here's how to give employees feedback post-hire, setting a trend from the outset and not leaving everything till the dreaded performance review.

Recruitment and selection is not an exact science. Even when it provides exactly the right candidate for a job, it is only the starting point in the process of ensuring that a person performs to the best of their abilities.

Managing the performance of people is one of the most important roles you have to play as a business owner/manager, especially in the first few weeks and months of their employment. Even when a probationary period is applied before permanent employment is confirmed, performance must be managed closely from the beginning.

Does your employee know exactly what to do?

The first step in ensuring that a new recruit performs well is to make sure that he or she knows exactly what to do. This may sound obvious, but it is surprising how many businesses assume that new recruits will learn the ropes by osmosis or informally from colleagues. Still today, the only training that many people receive is to sit next to Nellie for a few days.

People need input at two levels when they join a company. The first is normally covered in an induction process and includes formal ‘signing on’ procedures as well as information about the background to the company and its culture. The second level is job specific information: processes, procedures, the standards of performance required and perhaps some technical training. Proper completion of this step means assessing whether or not the candidate has achieved the required level of competence.

Start with the positive feedback early.

Once you have told and shown someone what to do, and checked their level of competence, the second step in managing their performance should be straightforward. As soon as they start to perform the way you expect, you must give them positive feedback. This is the easiest step in the whole process. All it needs is that you notice the person's performance and take a little time to compliment them on what they have done. In practice, many managers feel that giving positive feedback is unnecessary: sometimes they simply may not be around to notice what people are doing on a day-to-day basis.

Whatever the reason, if you are not making use of positive feedback to shape and motivate the performance of your people, you are missing out on one of the simplest and most effective management tools. Even when performance is not perfect, positive feedback will encourage the person to improve.

Positive feedback shows that you notice people and care about how well they are doing. It gives a positive tone to relationships. Many managers make the mistake of only noticing people when they do something wrong which gives a negative, critical tone to their relationships. First impressions last. Giving positive feedback helps make sure that the initial and perhaps lasting impressions new recruits form of your company are good ones.

Correct mistakes as they occur.

The third step in managing the performance of a new recruit is to correct mistakes as soon as they occur. This means that you must observe the mistake, and then have the skill to give critical feedback without creating argument or conflict. Many managers lack these skills, and so this third step is often missed out.

The consequence is that poor performance may not be picked up or corrected until it has become an ingrained pattern of behaviour. Then you have to choose between tolerating poor performance and starting a disciplinary process.

Good performance management is essential from the moment a new recruit starts employment. If you use a probationary period, it provides a sound basis for confirming permanent employment, or a sound and defensible one for letting someone go. It then continues to be one of your essential management tools to help you provide feedback on performance and correct mistakes and motivate your people to continued high performance.

Maureen Collins has a B.Sc. degree in Psychology from Edinburgh University and over 25 years of management and consulting experience. In her coaching and workshops she shows people how to deal with conversations that are difficult, sensitive and potentially disastrous for careers and relationships. She has two published books: Conversations at work that get results shows how to give feedback and improve performance; How to handle conversations that scare you takes the Straight Talk principles into families and personal relationships. Get free Straight Talk Tips. http://www.straight-talk.co.za

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