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Engagement through Effective Feedback

Constructive feedback is key not only to improving performance but, when used effectively, it can open up a dialogue leading to reflection.  The ability to reflect on one’s performance or particular behaviour can have a very positive effect on developing self-evaluation and sustainable self-improvement.

Effective feedback for improvement should identify the answers to three key questions:

Where? (current position)

What?   (development identified)

How?    (guidance/reflection)

Identifying specific areas for development in a descriptive, non-judgemental and fully inclusive manner by way of dialogic interaction, actively involves the appraisee in the process.  For feedback to be formative to future performance, it should communicate clearly what has been already achieved (where the individual is on his/her performance journey), what are the next goals and how they can be accomplished. 

With opportunities for reflection and self-evaluation, it becomes a motivational process where individuals are motivated to improve their performance as they are fully engaged and do not want to miss out on their prospects. The idea that ‘success breeds success’ has been explored by Keith Stanovich (1986) who says that this creates a performance “Matthew effect” through an analogy to the biblical passage, “For the one who has will be given more, and he will have more than enough.  But the one who does not have, even what he has will be taken from him” (Matthew 25:29).  This is also known as the ‘multiplier effect’, where success leads to greater success.

For these reasons, it is important to plan for constructive feedback that aims to improve employees’ engagement and reflection for improved performance and productivity.  Intrinsic motivation – motivation that comes from within, rather than from external sources, is best at developing individual performance because individuals are self-driven to improvement.  Therefore any feedback performance procedure should seek active involvement of the participants in the whole process so they are not just passive feedback receivers, but are actively engaged with what they encounter in order to become reflective and self-motivated.

As feedback is central to improvement, it should support developmental processes in a constructive way and focus on formative, rather than managerial aspects.


Stanovich, K.E. (1986). Reading Research Quarterly, 21(4), 360-407.

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