Performance feedback conversations and their developmental relationship
Wright, Aisha Nicole
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Performance management is a building block for companies to achieve their strategic and financial goals. This ongoing process requires partnership and communication between managers and employees, which can be challenging to sustain. The purpose of this study was to explore manager-employee performance feedback conversations (PFCs) and their developmental relationship. An HR professional at Greystone led an action research (AR) team consisting of managers and individual contributors at all levels of the Consultancy Department in a two-year study impacting over 300 employees. In addition to working with the AR team, interviews were conducted separately with manager-employee pairs from other Greystone business units regarding their experiences with PFCs and their respective roles in the manager-employee developmental relationship. The three questions that guided the research were: (1) What are the challenges and benefits of utilizing action research to design and implement a set of interventions to enhance and sustain performance feedback conversations and developmental relationships? (2) What conditions are necessary for successful performance feedback conversations? and (3) What conditions are necessary to integrate performance feedback conversations into organizational culture? Qualitative data were generated using several methods, including anecdotal conversations, meeting notes, email correspondence, semi-structured interviews, personal journal notes, and organizational documents. The data were analyzed inductively and deductively using the constant comparative method (Ruona, 2005). The AR team followed Coghlan and Brannick’s (2010) AR cycle consisting of four basic steps for conducting action research: constructing, planning action, taking action, and evaluating action. In the AR cycle the AR team designed, they piloted and implemented four interventions for the Consultancy Department: a PFC guide for managers and online library, a performance review self-assessment, a development plan center, and an internal resume review webinar. In addition, the researcher conducted interviews – a fifth intervention – to explore PFCs and developmental relationships in depth. The study identified the elements that are necessary to facilitate effective PFCs and offered insight into the barriers facing managers who conduct PFCs, while the AR process illustrated how change initiatives can fall short of desired results. Opportunities exist to cultivate work environments that support PFCs and foster developmental relationships between managers and employees.