Chartered Accountants and Professional Business Advisers


Feedback: Useful situations

Career development

A tested way to develop or appraise managers and leaders to improve capabilities and help employees realise their potential.

Employee surveys

Can have a material impact on the business financial performance as engaged employees work harder, smarter and for longer. Consider feedback from Joiners, existing employees (annually?), pulse checks for selected groups at relevant times and leavers.

Customers / clients

To aid product and service development in line with market needs and requirements, and to measure performance against customer expectations. Customer feedback via social sites is now more powerful than ever (e.g. Trip adviser).

Brand audit

How it is perceived by the public.

In meetings

Continually assessing the actions and reactions (including non verbal) of other participants., in sales and other meetings.


Role play assessment of real life situations.

Friends and family

In developing stronger personal relationships based on understanding and respect to overall longer term benefit.. Can be unsolicited. Also includes parents evenings.

Team building

To ensure members of a team are aware of each others abilities so that collectively they can play to individual strengths.

Continuous improvement

Feedback can bring about instant changes in systems or behaviour (often from those involved) or be invaluable in product improvements / enhancement.

After a pitch/proposal or project

To clarify the selection criteria on winning a sale and to uncover perceived advantages of the competition which may be countered in the future.

From external providers or suppliers or even the competition

Insights into your organisation compared with your competition.

Is feedback always a good idea?

Analysis of academic's experiments carried out between 1905 and 1992 revealed that in 38% of instances where feedback was obtained a decline in performance followed. This was irrespective of whether the feedback was positive or negative. Higgins regulatory focus theory followed: positive feedback improves performance in promotion focused situations (where people are doing things they desire or are working on a task which requires creativity). Negative feedback improves performance in prevention focused situations (where the task is being done out of obligation and requires vigilance).

In theory seeking feedback from customers /clients is worthwhile as it can create the opportunity to 'fix' the issue. Apple has found that if it's store managers call customers who have complained, those customers go on to spend more with them than the average customer.

Tips in seeking feedback

We've all heard the a variant of the phrase that a satisfied customer tells 3 friends whereas a dissatisfied one tells 3,000. certainly many people tend to focus on negative points when giving feedback and those involved need to be aware of this; it can be de-motivating for employees (especially those in promotion focused roles as above). Conversely, sometimes the process can make contributors realise how good or positive their experience of the product or service has been.

Care needs to be taken not to 'lead' too much in seeking feedback with open questions included. It is worth noting that a proportion is likely to be unfair or inaccurate - and that website feedback statistics are unlikely to take this into account.

Face to face feedback can be preferable to forms - and a more positive experience for those giving feedback. In a service provider / customer situation this can be a strategic discussion valuable to both parties, covering not just the quality of advice or products and the overall customer experience but also plans.

The frequency with which feedback is sought also needs care. Some upmarket hotels ask for it after every meal serving (to evaluate the staff on that shift and compare with others) but this isn't well received by guests seeking relaxation.

360 °Feedback

The process of 360° feedback involves getting feedback on your strengths and weaknesses ( or 'developmental needs' or 'opportunities') from your boss, those who report to you and you peers. Because you get feedback from everyone around you who knows you well you are hearing it from 360° around you. Done well, it can result in improvement in key areas that might have been limiting career development or causing conflict in a team. Done badly, it can create mistrust, anger and conflict - lowering overall morale.

It has become common place and has featured in episodes of The Office and Dilbert cartoons. Well done 360° feedback is good for individuals and teams and can accelerate the organisations growth. In theory the concept of getting feedback from all a round can apply to most feedback situations.

Implementation tips

Implementation tips include:

  1. Make sure the boss is involved and beliefs it is worthwhile. A programme instigated and driven only by HR is unlikely to achieve good results.
  2. Ensure the questions or tools are quite specific and address the issue of 'so what?' in other words that the output can be acted upon. Simply logging participants personality profiles is unlikely to drive much change.
  3. Encourage constructive feedback and educate participants not to advance personal comments that they wouldn't want to receive - even if true!
  4. Make sure that action is taken in relation to the feedback. Otherwise there is unlikely to be any behavioural change and no buy in to future feedback projects.
  5. Follow up and monitoring of the actions to be taken as a result of the feedback is essential to effect lasting change. This might need to be done quarterly over two years, for example,
  6. Feedback must be kept confidential and used for the stated 'improvement goal' - not for other purposes such as performance appraisal. there can be instances when anonymous feedback is appropriate.
  7. The feedback will identify strengths and these need to be acknowledged and nurtured as well as uncovering and 'fixing' weaknesses.

Feedback objectives

One research project revealed the use of 360° feedback as follows:

46% - development: your management people compared to the skills and behaviours integral to your business strategy

22% - appraisal

20% - talent management: on joining, regularly during and on leaving employment

11% - embedding values

2% - other