The difference between feedback and feedforward

Discover the difference between feedback and feedforward

Although difficult to see at first glance, the difference between feedback and feedforward is evident. It is important to be aware of the differences to use these communication tools more efficiently for our teams’ progress. 

It is easier to identify them if we pay attention to them because both techniques are usually used together in the same episode of communication with the employee, either consecutively (first one and then the other) or in combination. Keep reading to find out more about the difference between feedback and feedforward. 

The difference between feedback and feedforward

Both processes have in common that they are “feedback” tools when it has already happened, and it is necessary to analyze it, interpret it, and draw conclusions about it. 

One of the most critical differences between feedback and feedforward probably refers precisely to this last point, the conclusions drawn. In the case of feedback, these conclusions refer technically to what has already happened, determining what part of the performance is correct and corresponds to what was expected and what part is incorrect and should be improved. Therefore, feedback looks at the past. 

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difference between feedback and feedforward

In the case of feedforward, the conclusions drawn are based on what has happened but look to the future: what should be done from now on, in what direction should performance be oriented in the future, what methodology or style should be adopted for projects that have not yet been completed or started.   

Improving team communication

The quality of communication within teams is fundamental. At work, we communicate on many issues related to the tasks we share, and one of the objectives of this communication must be, in short, to learn to work better. To achieve this, it is beneficial to know the main difference between feedback and feedforward to apply them in the performance service. 

1. Feedback messages

When we talk about feedback, formal performance reviews or more informal comments on an employee’s work results are a key context for managers to “give feedback” to their team members, as the saying goes. However, is giving feedback the only thing they do in these exchanges? Most likely not. Such communication would be of little use in promoting either improvement of poor results or the maintenance of positive results.

The most common is that the commentary on the play we alluded to at the beginning of this article contains two types of feedback, i.e., two types of messages following the execution of a task. The most famous is usually feedback, which consists of analyzing in more or less detail what has been done, tracing the processes that have been carried out, and evaluating the results to assign them a favorable or unfavorable rating. 

The case of favorable ratings is what we usually call giving employees job recognition, which is essential for strengthening relations with them and, most importantly, boosting their motivation. When it is impossible to avoid unfavorable ratings, it is crucial to give them constructively so that they fulfill their mission: to be helpful to the employee to improve their performance in the future by not repeating past mistakes. 

2. Feedforward messages

As mentioned above, it is unusual to comment on a task that has been performed without including messages aimed at tasks to be completed in the future, considering the learning acquired. This is where the feedforward comes in immediately after the feedback or is entwined with it. 

Let’s talk about the difference between feedback and feedforward. It should be noted that the latter includes all that information about how the work should be approached in the future, what aspects of what has already been done should be avoided, enhanced, replicated, or modified, and even messages in the form of emotional incentives. Just as feedback should not be limited to pointing out what has been poorly done but rather to congratulating what has been done well, the feedforward should be motivating and inspiring for the employees who receive it. 

difference between feedback and feedforward

Supporting emotional well-being in organizations

At ifeel, we strongly believe in the power of constructive communication to improve performance, increase motivation and protect employee well-being.   

To help them achieve this and establish good communication habits within the organization’s processes, our team of psychologists, experts in well-being at work, has created an emotional well-being service for companies that supports the entire team of a company, including those responsible for Human Resources.

These managers must ensure that the company’s final results are close to the objectives set. This is why it is essential to support them in guiding the relationship between the company and the employee and to ensure that it is as beneficial as possible for both. 

That’s why, through our service, you can receive personalized, data-driven advice on improving your teams’ psychological well-being. Are you part of your organization’s Human Resources department? Try our program now and find out how it could help you.

In addition, this program offers all employees a complete mental health care service that they can access in different ways depending on their needs. Those who wish can access an online therapy service with one of our psychologists, specialized in cases like theirs, or interact with one of our professionals to receive emotional support in a more specific circumstance that concerns them.

Of course, in our Resources section, you can find different materials, such as podcasts, HR Guides on various topics (e.g., employee experience or how to design a good HR strategy), or interviews with important HR positions. In addition, we have a Psychosocial Risk Factors Template, which you can use to comply with the requirements of the Labor Inspectorate.

We hope you found this post on the difference between feedback and feedforward interesting. If you would like more information about our emotional well-being program for companies, ask us, and we will contact your team as soon as possible.

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