Reflection on Work Improves Career Performance

Need a sure-fire way to improve career performance at your organisation?

According to research conducted at Harvard Business School, “taking time to reflect on our work improves job performance in the long run”. 

How does this work? In their paper “Learning by Thinking: How Reflection Aids Performance”, authors Giada Di Stefano, Francesca Gino, Gary Pisano, and Bradley Staats argue that “learning from direct experience can be more effective if coupled with reflection”. In other words, the act of reflecting on our experiences can be a powerful mechanism, making learning more effective and even longer-lasting.

How does one properly ‘reflect’? By intentionally attempting to “synthesize, abstract, and articulate the key lessons taught by experience”. By so doing, workers in the study found that their experiences were more productive, and that they themselves were more confident in their ability to achieve a goal, translating into higher rates of learning and retention overall.

The Power of Reflection

‘Reflective Practice’ is a way of studying your own experiences to improve the way you work. In her paper “Reflecting on ‘Reflective Practice’” for the Open University, Linda Finlay writes:

In general, reflective practice is understood as the process of learning through and from experience towards gaining new insights of self and/or practice. This often involves examining assumptions of everyday practice. It also tends to involve the individual practitioner in being self-aware and critically evaluating their own responses to practice situations. The point is to recapture practice experiences and mull them over critically in order to gain new understandings and improve future practice.

Many psychologists, social workers, and health professionals are already educated in and engage in reflective practice. In fact, in Social Work Education, The International Journal Harry Ferguson notes that “Reflective practice is a core concept in social work and probably the most well known theoretical perspective across the entire applied professions of teaching, health and social care.”

However, while common in the health sector, many corporate organisations are yet to unlock the power of reflective practice.

“I don’t see a lot of organisations that actually encourage employees to reflect—or give them time to do it,” ​Learning by Thinking study author and Harvard Business School Professor Francesca Gino says. 

Why should companies make employee reflection a priority?

The practice of reflecting and sharing can lead to a stronger sense of self-efficacy, which can, in turn, lead to future success. “When we stop, reflect, and think about learning, we feel a greater sense of self-efficacy,” Gino notes.​ “We’re more motivated and we perform better afterwards.”

Reflection in Practice

How can you make reflection a practice at your organisation? Mentoring sessions can provide a critical space for employees to reflect.

Not only can mentees self-reflect and look at things they’re struggling with, what tools they regularly employ to solve problems, and where they want to improve, they can then communicate those things out loud and get verbal feedback from a mentor acting as a sounding board and/or advisor.

The study found that the act of not only reflecting, but sharing those reflective thoughts out loud helped workers perform even better. In fact, while the reflection group increased its performance on the final training test by 22.8% than did the control group, the sharing group performed 25% better.

Need some help getting started? Here’s 10 questions to help you reflect on the past 12 months

Harness the Power of Reflection Today

Ultimately, as Gino puts it, “When we fall behind even though we’re working hard, our response is often just to work harder. But in terms of working smarter, our research suggests that we should take time for reflection.”

What’s more, the benefits of individual reflection only compound when you have a mentor to assist in guiding it.

If you haven’t yet, it’s time to build a culture of mentoring at your organisation, and Mentorloop can help. Our solution is designed to get your mentoring program off the ground simply and efficiently, with tools to sign people up in minutes, create custom profiles, and maximise your effort to create data-driven mentoring matches.

Speak with one of our mentoring specialists

5 3 votes
Article Rating

Em is our Marketing Manager at Mentorloop. That's a lot of 'm's! | She is passionate about crafting messages, crafternoons and craft beer.

1 Comment
newest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

[…] can you harness the power of storytelling in your own mentoring relationship? Go back to the start. ​Reflect on your journey​ up to this point. Try to think of the moments of importance that led to you arriving where you […]