John Ainley: Most businesses fail the feedback test

While his team may not have seen off France in 2018’s FIFA World Cup final, Croatia’s Marcelo Brozovic can at least take some consolation that it wasn’t for a lack of effort, on his part at least. According to FIFA statistics, the midfielder ran further than any other player during the match, clocking up an impressive 11,645m – nearly 1km more than the closest Frenchman, Antoine Griezmann, who managed 10,760m.

Player metrics

Measuring the distance run for professional footballers is just one of the many statistics that international and club coaches now use to measure the effectiveness of their players. It is one element from a whole battery of metrics available to assess a player’s physical, mental and technical attributes to help a player both improve and for coaches to decide who should be in the team.

Football is not alone either in using this type of feedback with every top level sport spending significant resources in player analysis. International rugby union sides, for example, employ a number of analysts to record each player’s performance in both training and in match situations; developing tailored videos for each player to watch with specific recommendations around areas to improve.

If it works for sport, why not business?

If the importance of providing high levels of feedback is an accepted practice for elite performance in the sporting world, why is it less in evidence in the business environment? The best most businesses manage is a regular appraisal process with formal meetings held at periodic intervals. Unfortunately, there is still a certain degree of trepidation surrounding appraisals and many managers avoid giving honest, specific and direct feedback for fear of upsetting the employee. Often the appraisal feels more like a negotiation with the employee simply trying to get a good score to help boost their pay or bonus!

Ultimately this does no one any favours – not least the employee – and overlooks the critical importance of giving and receiving constructive feedback at every level of an organisation from the CEO down. Every one of us should aim for a feedback process that will help us to improve and address areas where we need to learn and be more effective. To achieve that, the appraisal system must become a much more honest – and regular – method of sharing feedback.

Of course, most businesses don’t have access to the level of metrics available to top level sportsmen and women but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be striving for ways to improve – just don’t expect every employee to do more than 11km in 90 minutes!

What methods have you tried in your organisation to generate honest, high quality feedback that can make a real difference to both employees and the business?