Conversations – The Currency of Development

by Beverly Kaye
Founder Career Systems International

Meaningful conversations about how your employees perform , the strengths they demonstrate, and the opportunities they have to improve – it’s the currency of development.

  • The boss who points out how effectively you dealt with a demanding project.
  • The colleague who debriefs after a call with a challenging client about how to be more successful in the future.
  • The employee who lets you know how you can better support her efforts.

It’s all information that can be mined and used by those who are hungry for feedback. But, what used to be a strictly human act is increasingly being delegated (or is it relegated?) to technology.

Technology-enabled solutions allow us to accomplish a tremendous amount of work remotely, individually, and without ever having to actually talk with other people. For some tasks, it’s a great tool. For others, it can become a total trap.

Each day there are new developments and ways to automate nearly everything… including feedback. Online survey tools allow you to gather the perspectives of more people in less time while offering anonymity (which some believe drives greater candor.) Then there are tools that offer online interactions designed to coach and provide ongoing feedback. The potential is exciting. The ability to scale this critical leadership function to allow full teams to interact transparently and collaboratively supporting, directing, coaching and providing feedback to each other online is nothing short of mouth-watering.

But (at the risk of sounding like a Luddite) are we using technology as a crutch? Let’s face it… gathering feedback is challenging. Looking someone in the eye as they share their perspective about your strengths and weaknesses can be unnerving. Is the solution to handle it electronically?Or might the solution be to take a deep breath and engage in a human dialogue?

What do you think? (I can handle the feedback.)

Comments (2)

  1. Matt Wenell - Reply

    June 22, 2017 at 7:48 pm

    Thanks for writing this, Beverly! I think your instincts on this are spot on. HR apps and automation can be very useful, but discussions about performance and development are always better as a live conversation. Text is a very limited medium. It’s worth the extra effort to meet (or at least connect by Skype or phone) and have a real conversation.

    As you mentioned, many employees (millennials in particular) are hungry for feedback — research shows they often don’t get enough. As leaders learn this truth, more and more are promoting “continuous feedback” rather than relying on traditional performance reviews. This is great… if continuous feedback really happens… or (to your point) if digitizing and automating the process doesn’t remove the heart and humanity.

    One area HR tech is particularly useful is helping leaders execute on their goals for continuous feedback. Managers with large teams or heavy workloads often fail to provide frequent and meaningful feedback, despite sincere intentions and effort. Check-in meetings may go on the calendar, but if only vague and generic feedback is provided, it doesn’t help anyone.

    Technology can’t and shouldn’t replace real conversations, but I believe it can be used to make it easier for managers to track progress, prepare meaningful feedback, and initiate those conversations more frequently. I’d love to hear more of your thoughts on this topic. If you’d like to connect “offline” to dive deeper, let me know!

    • Katie Wacek - Reply

      June 28, 2017 at 2:19 pm

      Hi Matt,
      Well I certainly can’t “fight you”….I happen to agree that the tech answer for feedback is absolutely not the WHOLE answer….may even cause more angst for the receiver.
      If the feedback is on something technical…and the issues and suggestions are black and white….I think that’s great.
      I am a firm believer that there is nothing like the ‘conversation’ that you talk about. Check out my Help Them Grow book….there are some good suggestions in Chapter 3….”Let Hindsight Lead the Way”.
      AND …..if you are looking for tools to teach more about person to person feedback….we have a great microlearning on that subject!
      Just ask!

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