Using STAR Feedback for Evaluation
Writer’s block always strikes at the worst possible moment, doesn’t it? When your performance review system calls for you to leave notes or comments on your employees, you can bet it’ll make an appearance. No matter how many different ways you Google synonyms for ‘good job’, the task of leaving those comments becomes much more daunting than it should be. Suddenly writing a genuine sentence or two for everyone on your team takes the whole day, and both you and your employees aren’t happy about the final result. Surely there’s a better way!
Remember SMART goals? An easy-to-remember template like that goes a long way to taking the guesswork out of setting goals and helping ensure that they work for you and your employees. Well there’s a tried-and-true guide for crafting comments as well, called STAR feedback. Let’s take a look at the STAR method and how it can jump-start your performance review system:
It helps to narrow things down a little bit. “Great job last month!” or “Way to go!” aren’t very helpful to your employees because they aren’t very exact. So the first thing to establish when giving STAR feedback is a precise Situation your employee faced or a Task they were given: “We were about to miss our monthly sales goal” or “The network went down in the middle of rush hour.” The more specific it is, the more personal your feedback will be.
Next, what exactly did your employee do? This could be positive or negative. Try to avoid generic phrases like ‘handled it’, ‘got things done’ or ‘dropped the ball’ — of course they did, but how? This is key to reinforcing ideal behaviors or best practices with your team, so if the same Situation/Task occurs again, nobody has to improvise and they know exactly what to do.
Finally, what was the direct result of that Action? How did it directly remedy the Situation or complete the Task? Aim for something more precise than ‘solved the problem’ or ‘completed the task’.
Seems easy, right? It is! And it makes a tremendous difference. Here’s an example of how comments can look before and after the STAR feedback method:
‘Steve helped us hit our monthly sales goal. Great work, Steve!’
‘Maria fixed the internet. Good job!’
‘Morgan dropped the ball with the new clients.’
‘We were about to miss our monthly sales goal. Steve spent some extra time calling potential clients and ended up landing two more deals for us. Great work, Steve!’
‘We lost our network connection right at the busiest time of day. Maria kept cool under pressure, followed the troubleshooting procedures and we were back up and running in no time! Good job!’
‘After signing some new clients, Morgan didn’t adequately prepare for their first meeting, and now the clients are having second thoughts.’
Making A Difference
By focusing on the specific Situation/Task, pinpointing the Action taken and directly tying it to the Result, your employees will know exactly what they did right or wrong and what the impact was. This can go a long way: Cambridge University describes feedback as the most important part of communication — and communication is the key to bringing out the best in your team!
Your performance review system is only as good as what you put into it, so say goodbye to generic comments that don’t tell your employees anything they don’t already know, and get past that writer’s block by digging into the specifics with STAR!