I am talking at #Agile2017 about giving meaningful, helpful, and humane, employee feedback. The secret is that the employee needs to be central.
The only person qualified to give advice to an employee regarding their career is the employee. That means we need to empower the people who work for- and with- us to analyze their career. If we can empower people to better their lives they will do more and do it better.
What if employees looked forward to receiving feedback? What if they found feedback valuable and able to improve their lives? What would that look like? How would we provide that environment? Our department asked these questions and the whole department swarmed to tackle the problem. The solution we came up with worked well in our context, and I also believe the lessons learned while figuring the answer out are valuable to others.
The first lesson we learned was that if we want to give meaningful feedback to individuals was that it had to be individual. That means we must do things to consider, protect, and appreciate, the single person who is receiving the feedback.
Our solution, currently, is to do a personal retrospective for the person. This retrospective is private, personal, confidential and facilitated by a peer who the person trusts.
It is important that the retrospective is personal and private. Without this security, there is no safety. Without safety, truth is limited, constrained and lost. The goal is to allow the employee to have real insight into how they can improve their career path, their entire career path, not limited to that within the company.
It is also important that this retrospective is facilitated. Facilitation gives the opportunity for the employee to explain their thoughts to another. The process of explaining leads to insight.
The facilitator is to listen, and ask questions only to gain understanding. They are not to judge or comment. They are not to burden the person whose retro it is with their own opinions. We decided to provide facilitation training for everyone who is interested in being a facilitator.
The facilitator is invited by the employee who is undergoing the retrospective. Invitation is important, as it signifies trust. It is just as important the invited facilitator be allowed to refuse without explanation. Not everyone is comfortable with facilitation.
The last thing to note about facilitation is that the facilitator will make mistakes. After all, these are not professional facilitators. Mistakes are okay. Even if they disregard all their training, just by being there for the retrospective, they will make the retrospective more successful.
The content of the retrospective is private and personal. The things talked about during this meeting need to be protected, unless there is a legal obligation. If not, we again lose trust.
The product derived from this retrospective is a set of possible goals. One or two of these goals will be decided upon and acted on. They will be shared with the director who will help to achieve the goals. He uses this information to understand the ebbs and flows throughout the department.
When a goal is not achieved, the director needs to know if the department hindered its progress, and if so, how. If a goal is completed the director wants to know how the employee felt about the goal, if there is more that can be done to improve upon the accomplishment, or if knowledge can be shared.
These goals, the retro, and information gained through this process, except where there is legal obligation, is disconnected from compensation. This frees us from the burden of creating an accidental game where the outcomes can become harmful.
The only reward is the ability to take an analytical look at your career and take steps to move it into a direction you want.
Please come to my talk, where I will talk in depth on this. I hope to see you there.