Content Dam De En Articles Print Volume 108 Issue 1 Practice Performance Management Feedback Supporting Long Term Employee Retention Leftcolumn Article Thumbnailimage File

Performance management feedback: supporting long-term employee retention

Jan. 16, 2018
Dental employers need to move away from annual performance reviews in favor of regularly providing feedback, both good and bad. This has proven to lead to happier employees and higher retention.

Rebecca Boartfield

Tim Twigg

In two previous articles, we wrote about the value of transitioning from annual performance reviews to goal setting. The firstfocused on why you should consider a change in overall performance management. The second outlined how to create goals for your employees. In this article, we will look at the critical piece of monitoring employees’ performance and providing important feedback.

Gallup identified 12 core elements that are the best predictors of employee engagement and performance.1 Here we highlight three as they relate to feedback:

  • In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work.

  • There is someone at work who encourages my development.

  • In the last six months, someone at work has talked to me about my progress.

Clearly, employees want to receive feedback from someone at work. Feedback is not an absolute cure, but it is fundamental and necessary. But before anyone can provide feedback, an employee’s performance must be monitored so the person’s superior knows what kind of feedback to give. Monitoring performance can be done in two ways—behavioral and quantifiable.

Ways to capture behavioral performance include direct observation, communication (asking the employee to account for his or her performance, one way or another), and feedback from other sources such as coworkers, supervisors, clients, and patients.

Quantifiable monitoring becomes easy when you have established set goals for the employee. If the goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time bound (SMART), as suggested in our previous column, then monitoring performance as it relates to a specific goal objectifies the feedback.

It’s important to remember that feedback also means positive. Sometimes employers get so wrapped up in what’s wrong that they lose sight of the fact that many things are going right. For constructive feedback in particular, focus on changeable behavior. What people say, how they go about their jobs, and how they interact with others can be managed and coached.

Ideally, the feedback process isn’t a one-way street. The more you can structure the feedback as a dialogue, the better the outcome. Here are a few helpful principles:

  • Timely—Do not wait to provide feedback. Use the next available time that is practical to provide feedback.

  • Specific—Refrain from using generic phrases such as, “You did a great job.” These are vague and won’t give the employee the necessary insight to know what should be repeated and what should be avoided.

  • Objective—This is particularly true of constructive feedback. It’s about the behavior, not the person. Describe what happened, what you saw, and how it impacted the client, team, and business.

  • Continuous—Both types of feedback should occur regularly in the employee-employer relationship.

In terms of goals that have been set, establish specific intervals when an employee’s progress will be measured and discussed. This will guide you in how quickly, and at what intervals, structured meetings should occur to discuss progress or the lack thereof.

As with any performance management system, focus on the future. We cannot change the past, but we can affect the future. Nobody wants to be “made wrong.” Doing so creates defensiveness. Future-focused conversations get away from “Let me tell you how wrong you’ve been” to “Let’s look at some solutions.” People take it less personally, and it removes the feeling of being personally attacked. Most people don’t like getting negative or constructive feedback and most don’t like to give it. It can be a relief for all parties to not be in this situation.

Future-focused feedback can contain the same constructive points, but can be done in a manner that doesn’t bash the employee with what went wrong that cannot be changed. We all know that when we’re receiving negative or constructive feedback, we tend to tune out the speaker and start developing responses in our head because we’re becoming defensive. Future-focused feedback allows the listener to be fully engaged.


Today’s successful performance management is more about future-focused feedback and goal setting as opposed to the dreaded annual performance review process. Following the suggestions and principles provided here will lead to higher employee engagement, reduced turnover, and longer-term employee retention.

Editor’s note: To find Ms. Boartfield and Mr. Twigg’s two previous columns referred to here, visit Search “Boartfield” or “SMART.”


1. Cuccureddu G. Gallup’s 12 Elements That Best Predict Employee and Workgroup Performance. DeMarque website. Published May 10, 2013. Accessed December 11, 2017.

Tim Twigg is the president of Bent Ericksen & Associates and Rebecca Boartfield is an HR compliance consultant. For more than 30 years, the company has been a leading authority in human resources and personnel issues, helping dentists successfully deal with ever-changing and complex labor laws. To receive a complimentary copy of the company’s quarterly newsletter or to learn more, call (800) 679-2760 or visit