When conducting individual check-ins with your employees, do the two of you focus more on the past or the future? If you chose the second answer, your employees probably feel good about their jobs and experience a level of emotional health others lack. According to a news release from Florida State University, researchers found that forward-thinking employees sleep better, are more proactive at work and suffer less job-related stress, depression and isolation than their ruminating peers.
Looking Forward During Reviews
The very nature of performance reviews requires managers and employees to talk about past actions. Unfortunately, it’s all too easy for prior events and outcomes to dominate the conversation, leading to the negative emotions the FSU researchers surveyed.
“It’s natural and expected for employees to look back at things at work to see what went right, what went wrong and what can be improved upon,” Wayne Hochwarter, one of the FSU researchers, said in the news release. “But at some point, both the good and bad need to be whisked away and the future needs to be the priority.”
As CEB explained, it’s the manager’s role to make sure feedback sessions focus on the future. The company suggested focusing on a person’s capabilities, career interests and networks at the outset of these meetings to keep the conversation moving in a forward-thinking direction. Managers should begin by asking their staff about the skills they’d like to learn going forward, then make comments or suggestions as to what would most help the employee accomplish his or her goals. Then, managers should move the conversation to the employee’s career interests and discuss how the skills mentioned earlier will help this person with his or her ambitions.
Finally, managers and employees should explore the professional networks the person currently has and discuss what sort of connections are necessary in the future. For example, consider a salesperson in the software-as-a-service industry who wants to transition into a developer role. This person can start networking with members of the IT department, possibly through shadowing opportunities set up by his or her manager.
Still, past performance should be a topic of conversation at some point. After all, an employee will keep making mistakes if they’re never discussed, and one of the benefits of ongoing performance management is to address these issues as they occur instead of waiting months down the line. The key is not to spend too much time on the past so employees don’t become anxious. Talking about the future and laying out a path to improvement helps employees think positively about their jobs.