Enhance employee growth with these feedback structures

December 28, 2022

Consider the impact of feedback on your career up to this point. Maybe a piece of positive feedback inspired you to pursue a feat you wouldn’t have otherwise considered. Or perhaps some constructive feedback helped you refine a skill and earn a promotion. 

Feedback is the foundation of continuous growth and progression, and it becomes even more powerful when feedback structures are regularly used. These tools provide clear, specific guidelines on how to effectively communicate successes, opportunities for improvement, and build trusting relationships.  

The importance of structured feedback

Sure, unstructured feedback is perfectly appropriate in certain contexts—a praise party can be free-flowing while still being impactful. But when the feedback isn’t as simple as straight praise, models or structures allow you to deliver feedback clearly and effectively in a way that builds trust and improves communication. 

When structured feedback is leveraged consistently, it enables continuous growth and always-on progression. It fosters an environment where employees are motivated to improve, effort is encouraged, and results are acknowledged. 

Embedding continuous structured feedback into the company strategy can also reduce errors, enhance performance, and increase efficiency throughout the organization. Bad habits are broken faster, positive behavior is reinforced, and teams are equipped to work towards their goals more effectively. 

There are numerous feedback structures to choose from, and different situations may call for different structures. Let’s look at some of the most widely applicable and effective models. 

SBI

The Situation - Behavior - Impact (SBI) model is a simple structure that can help the receiver gain a better understanding of how their response to a situation affected other people, projects, or goals. It can be applied for both positive and constructive feedback, though it doesn’t involve specifying any outright behavior changes. 

Here’s how it works:

Situation: Provide clear, specific context around the situation you’re referring to. 

Behavior: Explain the behavior you observed (without guessing or implying about motives of the behavior). 

Impact: Describe the impact the behavior had on the project, the team, the client, etc. 

IDEA

IDEA stands for Identify, Describe, Encourage, Action. This structure is well-suited for constructive feedback because it factors in potential behavior changes and action steps. Nevertheless, it could work well for positive feedback, too. 

Here’s a breakdown

Identify the behavior you want to discuss. 

Describe the impact of the behavior. 

Encourage either continuation or change to the behavior. 

Agree on action steps moving forward. 

CEDAR

The CEDAR model is similar to the above options but adds two unique steps: one that offers the recipient an opportunity to share their perspective, and another that initiates a review of what was discussed to ensure alignment and understanding. Compared to SBI and IDEA, there’s more two-way interaction baked into the CEDAR structure. It’s pretty in-depth, which may be unnecessary for positive feedback, but it makes it well-equipped for constructive feedback. 

Here are the five steps:

Context: Lay out the key elements of the situation and behavior you want to discuss. 

Examples: Describe specific, clear instances of the behavior you’re talking about. 

Diagnosis: This is where you can ask open-ended questions to better understand the reasoning or unknown context around the behavior/situation. 

Actions: You and the recipient align on next steps at this stage. You can ask them about their thoughts and opinions, share some suggestions, or both. 

Review: Ensure that you and the recipient are aligned on what was discussed and the agreed-upon actions moving forward. This is your opportunity to ask the recipient what they heard in the conversation and how they feel about next steps. 

Pendleton

Originally introduced to focus on doctor-patient relationships, Pendleton’s feedback structure has since become a common model in the business world. This approach encourages active participation from both the giver and receiver of feedback. It focuses on reinforcing positive behaviors and recognizing opportunities for improvement, making it a great fit for simultaneous constructive and positive feedback using the following steps:

  1. Ask if the recipient is open and available to receive feedback. 
  2. Ask the recipient to provide their perspective and context about a situation or behavior that you’re discussing. 
  3. Ask the recipient to identify what went well. 
  4. Provide your perspective on what went well. 
  5. Ask the recipient what they think they could improve. 
  6. Provide your perspective on what could be improved. 
  7. Align on an action plan to make the agreed upon improvements. 

Sandwich

Perhaps the most widely known feedback structure of them all, the feedback sandwich is a classic. It’s a very basic method that starts with a piece of positive feedback, followed by some constructive feedback, and then another piece of positive feedback to complete the metaphorical sandwich. This method is best suited for communicating small, simple bits of feedback. If you need to talk through a situation or behavior in-depth or discuss a sensitive situation, this isn’t the structure for that. 

STAR 

Very similar to the SBI model, STAR uses different terms—Situation, Task, Action, Result—to examine the scope of feedback. It’s simple and well-suited for any kind of feedback. 

It works like this:

Situation/Task: Describe the situation and context that you’d like to discuss. From there, identify the specific task in question that you’d like to focus on. 

Action: Explain, in detail, the action the recipient took in the situation. 

Result: Identify the result of the action. Be sure to include any perspective that the recipient may not be aware of. 

Making the most of feedback

The role of feedback grows with people throughout their career. Senior employees do not receive the same type of feedback or apply it in the same way as employees just starting out in their career. The common thread is growth. 

When there isn’t a culture of continuous feedback, these conversations are significantly harder. Structures can make these important conversations more productive and easier to execute. Continuous practice builds trust and enables a growth-focused workplace. 

Pando can help you implement continuous feedback into your company strategy. Learn more about how our platform enables structured, clear, and fair career progression.

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