Can Reflection Improve Performance?

Thinking
Published April 18, 2017

There are many ways that smart HR / Talent Management divisions approach learning and development, but often the most successful are the initiatives that tailor their methods to the individuals.

For decades, a&dc has created and run development centres to enable an engaging and realistic diagnosis of strengths and development areas for clients.  At the end of a development centre, a vital component of the process is a feedback session where delegates are encouraged to reflect on what they did well and what they could have done differently.  We see similar conversations happening in monthly line management meetings and appraisals.  You may have experienced this yourself.  But why is it deemed so important?

Research into feedback and coaching has established that you are more likely to gain buy-in and commitment to change from an individual if you get them to feel ownership over their development areas.  Psychologists Bouskila-Yam & Kluger (2011) demonstrated the higher efficacy of a coaching style compared to direct, traditional feedback when it came to improving individual performance and personal goal attainment. This helped them to transform the appraisal process in the company where they did their research; the global drinks-machine manufacturer SodaStream.

This implies there is considerable power in personal reflection.  It suggests that people more easily attain their KPIs and goals if they personally reflect on their performance.

This is backed up again by research from Di Stefano, Gino, Pisano and Staats (2014).  They observed the influence of reflection by a group of employees at a technology call centre.  The participants were enrolled in training for a specific customer account.  The training consisted of some knowledge tests at various points.  Some of the delegates went through the training without taking any time to reflect (the control group).  Others replaced the last 15 minutes of each training day with an activity involving writing and reflecting on what they had learned (the experimental group).  After a month, the experimental group performed significantly better than the control group on the final training test (by 22.8%).

This suggests you can enhance personal learning from a training workshop by building reflection into the process.  Practically, it also means that we should provide tools to facilitate regular self-reflection at work.

Monitoring personal performance may already be a key objective.  But remember; not everybody is naturally motivated to do this.  In fact, some are so busy that they prefer (or feel pressured) to just get on with their job.  How certain are you that your employees are taking the time to reflect on their personal performance?

Remember, the experimental group in the training study spent 15 minutes reflecting instead of experiencing a part of the course, and they performed much better.  In stressful times at work, good managers should ensure their teams are still taking the time to breathe and reflect, no matter how much work they have going on.

To facilitate this most easily, it could be a case of simply creating a form or a workbook, where people can spend just 30 minutes once per month reflecting.  It can help you think about achievements in which you take pride, opportunities where you could have done something differently, and what generally frustrated you.  Try it today; it could make a dramatic difference on performance and well-being where you work.

Author: Jordon Jones

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