Feedback Instruments and Talks

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Feedback raises awareness, motivates high performance [28] and positively effects performance achievement [27]. Environmental sustainability studies in households show energy savings up to 20%, when feedback was provided (e.g., [29-31]). It also enhances the effectiveness of goal-setting because progress can be controlled and the final achievement realized and celebrated. Also in households, Becker [34] found that difficult goals with feedback three times a week about how much energy was consumed, was the only measure to reduce energy use significantly (15.1%). Easy goals and difficult goals without feedback did not lead to relevant energy conservation. Therefore technical as well as interpersonal feedback instruments and mechanisms need to be integrated into awareness and change processes as well as goal setting.

Reports and even better displays can be used to provide relevant information for comparisons of current and specified energy levels or certain energy related behaviors. The above-mentioned studies took place in households, however technical devices most often displays, which for example, indicate current or average consumption can also be used in professional organizations such as companies and plants. Displays have the great advantage that they can show status, progress and changes immediately. There are also other machines for human feedback systems, which are able to provide direct information for example, in different colors (white = little energy, blue = much energy) glowing electricity cords [45]. These devices create the chance to immediately modify behavior and change energy use patterns. According to behavior theory, immediate feedback is very desirable and most effective for behavior change due to direct reinforcement of sought- after actions.

Instantaneous as well as delayed feedback can also be given through interpersonal communication with oral praise or critical reactions of superiors, coworkers, customers or friends. It is also perfectly suited as feedback to change behavior within an energy awareness program of a company and could be established similar to the following example.

Between 2002 and 2004 the Deutsche Bahn AG carried out the project - EnergieSparen- with the aim of reducing the amount of energy use and CO -emission of passenger trains -46]- After instructions and driving training to preserve energy were given to the train drivers, the core instrument in the integrated change management process were data-based feedback talks by direct supervisors. Once a year, supervisors gave feedback according to data sheets, which indicated individual driving behavior and possible potential energy saving options. The results show, driving styles changed and 2.7% less energy was used after the first and 3.2% less after the second year of feedback talks [46].

Such feedback talks on energy conservation need to be installed as a continuous intervention following the first goal-setting talks. At the beginning of the program, it might be beneficial to have feedback talks more often than once a year for better guidance. After the energy awareness interventions and processes become familiar, goal-setting and feedback talks can merge into one measure.

The combination of setting goals and providing feedback is most effective, since not only goals with feedback lead to better results than goals alone but feedback by itself is neither as successful as together with concrete goals (see also [ 47]) . However, just as there are the SMART rules for goals, there are rules that should be followed while providing feedback, since their disregard can lead to counterproductive behavior. Feedback provider:

• feedback only if desired;

• directly address the person;

• remain objective (no nagging and insulting);

• name concrete examples (no generalizations);

• name positives and negatives.

Feedback receiver:

• let feedback provider finish talking;

• listen first and respond to what is important.

The direct superior, who provides and discusses feedback with his/her plant staff as well as sets the goals together, has to have knowledge about the above rules and the SMART- Formula. A brochure with information and guidelines can be passed out but depending on the qualification and previous soft skill experience, hands-on exercise in form of training is necessary to become proficient.

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