Want an easy way to help your employees become more effective? Ask them to spend the end of each workday reflecting on their performance, research suggests.
A recent study found that “employees who spent the last 15 minutes of each day of their training period writing and reflecting on what they had learned did 23% better in the final training test than other employees,” the Harvard Business Review reports.
The study, “Learning by Thinking: How Reflection Aids Performance,” was conducted by Giada Di Stefano of HEC Paris, Francesca Gino and Gary P. Pisano of Harvard Business School, and Bradley Staats of the University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler Business School.
It found that employees who practice a skill and then reflect on their progress learn it better than those who just practiced.
If you have new employees or want a team-building exercise, you can use the “Dear Diary” technique, as the Harvard Business Review calls it, with your team. Employees simply spend 15 minutes or less at the end of the day writing one or two short paragraphs about how well they performed that day and what they learned. You can customise it by using a rating system, where they rate their performance on a scale from 1-5 or 1-10.
Asking them to share the results with you or the team can aid communication, but the researchers noted that employees who shared their results did not perform significantly better than those who only reflected by themselves.
To draw this conclusion, the researchers performed two experiments in a lab, where paid participants solved brain teasers. In both cases, the employees who were told to reflect on the strategy they used to solve the first problem did better than those who didn’t. Those who both reflected and explained their techniques to other participants also did better than those who did nothing extra but had essentially the same results as those who only reflected, within the margin of error.
Then the team decided to test their findings in a real-world setting. They went to Wipro BPO, a leading business-process outsourcing company in India.
At the end of employee training, Wipro gives new employees a test, which is graded on a scale of 0-100. The employees who took 15 minutes to reflect at the end of training for 10 days scored 23% higher on average than those who didn’t. Those who both reflected and shared their reflections with fellow trainees scored 25% higher than those who didn’t, but the team determined this difference to be negligible.
The research team notes that the findings can be used to improve employee performance even when they progress beyond trainees.
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