There has certainly been a lot of change in the world of performance management over the last few years. Companies are shifting to more regular development discussions, organizations are revising their rating and rewards processes, and employees are demanding feedback transparency in job expectations and measures of success.
More Feedback = Greater Success
These changes are happening quickly, and more studies are showing that companies that invest in performance management are experiencing a direct impact on their bottom line. Employees who receive regular feedback are shown to be more engaged and productive and less likely to leave. Companies who monitor performance and potential are having an easier time planning for leadership gaps and developing future talent, and managers who make themselves accountable for providing clear objectives and more in-the-moment feedback are experiencing greater team success.
But at the end of the day, performance management comes down to direct communication between employees and their managers, coaches, leaders, and the company. No matter how HR defines measures of success, the front-line of your company’s performance management strategy will be the delivery of feedback from your managers.
Giving Feedback is Easy – Giving Effective Feedback is Tough
We frequently consult with companies and HR on how to better train and equip managers with the skills needed to deliver good and balanced feedback. We have written several articles and numerous blogs on the topic. We have even built-in tools and resources within emPerform to help managers give better feedback – but feedback still remains a challenge for many managers. Giving good and effective feedback is simply tough for anyone.
One of the most effective ways to guide managers in giving clear, constructive and honest feedback is the START, STOP, KEEP-GOING framework. Its simplicity is what makes it so beautiful, and practically, it is one of the best tools we have used internally, and that our clients have used to frame feedback across the organization.
What is START, STOP, KEEP-GOING?
We don’t have an official definition, nor can we trace where it originated, but we first learned about it in Mark Effron’s book ‘One Page Talent Management’. It is used across many disciplines from performance management, to project assessments and even agile/scrum discussions. It is an easy action-oriented retrospective exercise designed to acknowledge success and propose plans for improvement. It is sometimes called START, STOP, CONTINUE, or DO MORE, DO NOT CHANGE, DO LESS. In regards to performance management and employee development, this framework:
- Gives employees and managers the opportunity to review how they are doing and identify improvements they can implement in the future.
- Makes it easier for managers to clarify issues and reach a consensus with the employee on shared priorities.
- Is action-orientated and provides momentum and energy for the employee.
- Empowers managers to continuously improve the way they lead, and employees to improve the way they work.
- Gives employees balanced feedback – the good, the bad, and the great.
This framework can be used when a manager sits down to complete reviews, conduct check-in meetings, or is regrouping with employees, and can apply to discussions around overall performance, select goals or projects, and even behaviors. It can also be used to provide a framework for 360° peer evaluators.
Here’s how it’s done:
What should the employee begin doing or do more? This aspect of the framework allows the manager to look ahead and identify activities that their employee will do, should do more, or should start doing in the coming future. This section can also identify behaviors that should be developed and increased to help the employee succeed. This might also include goals or tasks that are coming or are ready to begin. It is a great way to set the stage for something new and discuss what resources are available to help the employee excel.
What should the employee stop doing? This aspect of the framework looks backward and allows the manager to outline behaviors or actions that did not work or did not contribute to success for the employee or company. This might also include goals and tasks that have been canceled. This is the more critical feedback that is nicely sandwiched in the middle. Managers should outline clear examples and accounts of why things didn’t work and be prepared to discuss with the employee.
What should the employee keep doing? Identifies behaviors or actions that worked and that contributed to the employee’s success or goal attainment. These elements should be continued and developed to leverage their success. This is an opportunity to acknowledge success and reinforce behavior.
Where should you use the START, STOP, KEEP-GOING framework?
The beauty of these comment boxes is that it can frame smaller discussions, like weekly check-ins, or larger more in-depth discussions related to goals and development. Many of our clients include these 3 comment boxes alongside competencies, and some even use these as the questions asked to peer-reviewers in lieu of having 360° reviewers provide a ‘rating’ on behaviors. The important thing is that this tool is used anywhere where managers (or anyone in a potion to provide feedback) might struggle to provide balanced input that looks backward and forward, and also acknowledged achievements.
Words of caution:
Watch for Repetition
The framework itself is very simple but it can be tempting to re-frame and repeat the same points in multiple sections. For instance: “Start: sending emails to the entire team Stop: Forgetting to send emails to the entire team.” Managers should re-read their points to ensure there isn’t overlap because this often happens without intending to do so.
Beware of Bias:
No framework can guard against bias. Managers will still struggle to accurately populate each box unless they pay attention and document behaviors, accounts and results. The best way to deliver feedback and explain the ‘why’ of the input is to support it with specific examples. We encourage managers to keep detailed notes and records of performance on an ongoing basis, so they can reference key points and use when they are outlining the START, STOP, KEEP GOING.
Overall, if you are looking for a simple but highly effective way to ensure your company’s talent is getting balanced, action-oriented feedback, the START, STOP KEEP-GOING framework is a fantastic option. Not only is it very clear and easy to follow, but it also sets the stage for highly effective feedback conversations and performance discussions between managers and employees. Who would have thought that three little comment boxes would be one of the best performance management tools we have seen?