Improve employee feedback conversations with the Pendleton Feedback Model

Mismatched expectations between managers and their employees are one of the most common sources of poor performance, according to our team of HR analytics experts at intelliHR. The good news is that these misalignments can be easily fixed with a well-structured feedback conversation.

As part of our own continuous feedback approach used company-wide, we’ve chosen to build the Pendleton Feedback Model into our processes and feedback tools to encourage both our team members and customers to give and receive the most valuable feedback possible and keep employee performance on point.

Let’s take a look at what’s stopping many managers and employees from sharing effective feedback and how using the Pendleton Feedback Model can help shape and improve feedback conversations.

Barriers to effective feedback

You’ve likely been in a position where you needed to give employees feedback on their performance in the workplace. Although they can sometimes feel uncomfortable, feedback conversations play a critical role for HR leaders in understanding employee engagement, cultivating staff wellbeing, and creating a high performance culture.

What’s even more important is ensuring the quality of the feedback you’re giving and receiving is high. Effective feedback can mean the difference between having productive, satisfied, and fulfilled employees who trust your leadership and struggling with disengaged employees who lack confidence and don’t meet performance expectations.

However, there are several roadblocks that can get in the way of effective and valuable feedback being shared between managers and employees – whether written or spoken. According to comprehensive feedback research by NCBI and our intelliHR customer success team, these are the ones to watch out for:

  • Generalized feedback (not related to facts).

  • Lack of advice on how to improve behavior.

  • Lack of respect for the source of feedback.

  • Fear of upsetting colleagues or damaging professional relationships.

  • Lack of confidence.

  • Defensive behavior or resistance when receiving feedback.

  • Physical barriers (i.e. improper time, place or space).

  • Under preparation (not showing up ready for the conversation).

  • Personal agendas (letting ego get in the way).

What is the Pendleton Feedback Model?

As a framework for structuring effective and meaningful conversations, the Pendleton Feedback Model helps break down the barriers to giving valuable feedback by encouraging self-reflection and proactive problem-solving. What’s important to note is that rather than forcing a robotic and scripted feedback session, this model aims to guide a human conversation that empowers the employee. It can be combined with other forms of employee check-ins and feedback forms to provide a clear view of your employee’s wellbeing and performance.

How it works:

Step 1: The employee is invited to reflect on how they think their performance went, focusing on:

  • Firstly, what they think went well.

  • Then, what they think could be improved.

Step 2: Once the manager has listened to this, they then step in and address where:

  • Firstly, they agree with the employee’s self-assessment.

  • Then, most importantly, where they see any points of difference.

The conversation structure for both sides might sound something like this:

  • “What do you think went well?”

  • “What do you think could be done differently?”

  • “What could be further improved?”

  • “How can this be achieved?”

What are the benefits?

The Pendleton Feedback Model is proven to be highly effective in helping employees and managers get the most out of their shared performance feedback by highlighting and reinforcing positive behaviours, asking what could have been done differently, and guiding discussions on how to meet expectations and develop skills. The framework was purpose-built for supporting balanced and constructive feedback conversations that:

  1. Create a human conversation – Feedback is neither too personal nor impersonal; it’s simply sharing transparent, honest, and relatable information.

  2. Put the employee in the driver’s seat – The employee has the opportunity to reflect on their performance and then lead the discussion forward, covering their points first.

  3. Have the manager assume the position of coach – It places the manager in a support role that reinforces positive behaviours and helps to resolve issues.

  4. Help identify any mismatches of performance expectations between the employee and the leader – Participants get both sides of the story laid out clearly, whether that’s around underperformance or goal achieved.

How to apply the model to your performance management process

One of the biggest challenges to giving good feedback is a lack of preparation so we recommend using your HR software to structure the performance feedback experience from start to finish.

At intelliHR, not only can the Pendleton Feedback Model be built into your performance form questions, but we also send out employee self-reflection tasks a few days before a scheduled 1:1 check in. This not only gives the employee a chance to reflect on their performance in their own time, but also allows the manager to receive that reflection and proactively prepare for a good conversation ahead of time.

It’s then easy to fold this method into a continuous performance management process, whereby touchpoints with your employees are regular and feedback conversations can be scheduled around the time you send out employee self-reflections or other written performance assessment tasks.