The art of employee feedback : an outstanding management tool!
It’s accepted wisdom that feedback motivates collaborators and helps them do a better job. Knowing this, it’s somewhat surprising to hear that Gallup found only 26% of collaborators strongly agree the feedback they get helps them do better work.
Most managers agree that feedback is an excellent tool for helping collaborators improve. But feedback is more than just praising good work; when a team member receives feedback is the most direct review that he can get, and it serves many essential purposes in a workplace. Whether you give to an employee or receive feedback, it can significantly impact workplace relations.
Over 70% of managers feel they don’t regularly review their collaborators. But some managers dodge feedback because they fear it will hurt morale and relationships, while some think it's not their role to provide feedback.
But employee feedback is a valuable tool that strengthens employee relations and benefits everyone in the long run. If the feedback mechanism is done right, constructive criticism can help to improve performance and build trust with management.
Yet, used well, employee feedback can become a vital tool and source of helpful information in engaging and motivating collaborators to reach their goals and drive a company forward. The question, or at least one of the questions, is how can a manager develop the art of feedback?
Why is employee feedback important?
Why is employee feedback so important to collaborators and their managers? At its simplest, employee feedback allows collaborators to see their performance and behaviors through the eyes of others. It helps develop self-awareness, a critical element of emotional intelligence, which in turn can help an individual become more effective at their job.
Concrete employee feedback also offers collaborators insight into being more effective in their roles. Besides, a feedback session can help collaborators see how they contribute to outcomes and overall organizational results, which most collaborators appreciate and strive for. It can also be considered one of the most critical performance quality raters.
Whether it is negative or positive employee feedback, if it's shared constructively and clearly, it becomes a catalyst for change, helping collaborators understand what is expected of them and what they need to do to achieve their goals. When they regularly review, managers can help an employee understand how their actions affect the team and workflow of a department and how they can improve performance. This instance can help them better understand their strengths and weaknesses, enabling them to work more effectively.
Employee feedback is essential for any team member who wants to improve. Although mistakes may be proof that someone is stretching themselves, it’s only by knowing that they are making mistakes that will learn and strengthen their skills.
In employee feedback sessions, managers should review an employee's performance in the short term with a discussion of goals, feedback on current projects or tasks at hand, feedback about the team dynamics, and feedback on longer-term career goals for more examples.
Employee feedback can also prevent bigger problems such discrimination, misconduct or anti-competitive behavior. It’s often only when explaining to an employee why their behavior was unacceptable that we can prevent future undesirable events.
How can you provide constructive feedback to your employees?
As important as constructive feedback is, many of us are nervous about giving it. The key of course, is to provide constructive employee feedback that’s supportive and will not create defensiveness.
On the one hand, employee feedback should be concise and clear. While meaning well, the too long or unclear feedback can quickly come across as a negative feedback loop or demoralizing.
On the other hand, your feedback needs to be specific enough for each employee to know exactly need to do next; some people feel lost with words like ‘’your performance was okay’’. But too much feedback can be overwhelming, so don’t use feedback as a random chance to nitpick or criticize them for things you perhaps didn't like.
If employee feedback is not constructive, the person will feel demoralized and demotivated by it. And It becomes unproductive feedback and can even be counterproductive to a manager’s goals.
To get the employee feedback flowing, ask collaborators open-ended questions about their assignments rather than ‘yes/no’ questions. Open-ended questions will require introspection from them [the employee] and encourage conversation.
It’s important to set some time aside to prepare constructive employee feedback. Gather feedback from colleagues, team members, and managers. It’s also best to ask for feedback on more than one project or task, so you get a better idea of their overall performance.
Think about why you are giving this feedback, what the consequences of the action were and how the employee might react to this feedback. Focus on gathering facts, not opinion and make sure your examples are specific.
Time it right
Employee feedback should take place as soon after the ‘event’ as possible. If it’s done on an email, give feedback as soon as you receive it. If the input is about a presentation or meeting, it should be given immediately after. It's necessary to ensure that feedback has maximum impact and that the employee (and yourself) remembers what was discussed and why.
However, you must take the time to prepare. Depending on the situation, you may wish to wait for the dust to settle a little, allowing strong emotions to calm. This allows all parties to be more objective.
In most cases, your employee will sense something’s not right. If you cannot be explicit, your feedback may come across as too subtle or vague. Using a ‘sandwich’ approach where you start with a positive and then slip in the constructive feedback can feel inauthentic.
Employee feedback has the greatest effect on collaborators when it's given directly after something happens rather than weeks later. This feedback is specific, concrete, and timely; it’s also not abstract feedback.
Keep it professional
Remember that employee feedback is not just a simple review; it informs your employee on how they can improve their future work. Strive to give feedback in a professional manner and don’t attack or humiliate them for their mistakes or poor performance. Your feedback should be strictly work-related.
Remember, employee feedback is a two-way process, so open up inputs for them to have an opportunity to ask questions or provide comments about your contribution.
Focus on behavior
Focus criticism on behaviors that the individual can change. This prevents the conversation from feeling like a personal attack and instead creates a focus on helping that person grow professionally.
Offer your collaborators positive returns about their performances when they're doing well, and recognize their accomplishments throughout the year. In fact, it will help them understand what they are doing well so that employee feedback can be given on areas of improvement without completely altering the tone of your conversations.
Employee feedback mustn't be seen as a one-off conversation but rather an ongoing part of how you communicate your comments to your collaborators. There should be two-way feedback so that the employee feels comfortable giving a return and asking questions about the feedback given to them.
It's crucial to keep the employee feedback session open-ended rather than closed-end. This will ensure that feedback flows continuously and doesn’t result in an awkward conversation for either party or a surprise feedback session down the line.
When the feedback delivered, talk to the employee about how you can work together to support them, such as with on-the-job coaching or more frequent one-to-ones. Simply asking, ‘what can I do to help you?’ turns the tables and gives the employee the opportunity to give feedback to you and can help strengthen your performance.
How does feedback impact employee engagement?
As much as we know that feedback impacts employee engagement, it’s interesting to understand the facts.
When employee feedbacks are delivered in the right way, collaborators will work harder and more efficiently to achieve their goals. Even if it's a negative one, it can still positively affect accomplishment. If you think about employee feedback as an opportunity to support your team rather than something you need to do, your comments sessions will become more productive.
In a 360 degree review, people have the chance to get feedback from different sources such as customer feedback for example. It is interesting to get both negative and positive feedback. This tool can be seen as an output signal to measure how you are percived by others.
A US study by Gallup found that collaborators who felt ‘ignored’ by their managers and believed they received zero feedback were twice as likely to be disengaged than if a manager focused only on their weaknesses.
Gallup goes on to say that although it’s counterintuitive, managers who focus on their employee’s weaknesses are improving those collaborators’ chances of being engaged. Some people prefer any feedback over no feedback at all, even if it’s criticism.
On the other hand, feedback given to collaborators in public over the ones given privately harms engagement. Collaborators feel their efforts are not appreciated because employee feedback is only given when they're falling short of expectations, which implies that it’s time for them to improve rather than do well. This leads to embarrassment and shame and affects engagement because collaborators don’t feel supported by their managers.
That’s not to say it’s fine for managers to only deliver negative feedback loop, far from it. As intuition would suggest, the best blend of positive feedback and developmental. And taking that employee feedback further – by providing recognition - makes that feedback work even harder. It improves happiness at work and links strongly to factors such as employee engagement and job retention.
10 ways to use employee feedback as your most powerful management tool
Ask employees for how they think they’re doing
By starting an employee feedback conversation with a question, you show the employee that you’re interested in their opinion. This turns what might otherwise become an ‘I talk; you listen’ situation into a conversation that helps both manager and employee understand each other’s position.
This approach can be especially helpful for managers who have developmental employee feedback to deliver; many collaborators will already know that they’re underperforming. By allowing them to take the lead with this discussion, managers can turn the feedback session into a coaching discussion which focuses on future actions rather than past wrongdoing.
Give corrective feedback in private
If you need to give corrective employee feedback, make sure you give your employee the benefit of doing so in private. Sharing criticism in front of co-workers can damage an employee’s sense of self-worth. They might start to feel as though they lack the skills needed to function successfully in their role, and that could impact their engagement.
They may also feel angry at being criticized in front of their colleagues, which will, in turn, reduce the effectiveness of the feedback. By giving negative feedback in private, you show collaborators that you respect them. This also supports a more positive company culture due to the way in which you role-model respect for other collaborators to copy.
Employee feedback is only helpful if it’s specific. Just telling someone ‘great job’ may be nice, but that’s where it ends – it’s just praise.
In contrast, going into the specifics of what it was that meant your employee did such a great job – perhaps the depth of analysis or a confident delivery – will tell your employee what it was you appreciated and help them replicate this behavior in the future.
Your feedback should focus on the act and not the person. Give examples where necessary to clarify it for them. They must hear it from you first so that they do not pick up your comments from other sources.
Be specific about what went well and why. Giving positive employee feedback can be opportunity to build them up as better performers, so it’s essential not to use feedback as a chance to nitpick or criticize them for things you didn't like to avoid a negative feedback loop.
Use feedback to set future objectives
The wonderful thing about employee feedback is the way collaborators and their managers can act upon it to strengthen their performance. This can help support the performance management process when it comes to objective-setting.
For instance, if an employee is always nervous when presenting to senior leaders, you can work with them to set objectives that will help them overcome this problem. This might include presenting more regularly and undertaking training.
We often forget what employee feedback is for- to improve performance in the future. So make positive feedback about the actions that should be taken next time or how they might go about completing something more efficiently.
The negative and potivive employee feedback process can therefore help to not only improve performance today, but also to lay the groundwork for future success.
Shorten feedback loops
Employee feedback is at its most valuable when delivered swiftly after the event. This way both the manager and employee will remember events more accurately and the feedback will have more impact.
The only exceptions? When emotions are running high. In this situation, you should wait (for no more than a couple of days) to let the dust settle. This will prevent the employee feedback session from becoming overwhelmed by negative feelings and allow it to be more productive.
Use comparative feedback to motivate employees
One study found that the most motivating type of feedback is when collaborators find out how they’re performing in relation to a slightly better performer. Like running a race and knowing you’re just a meter behind the other competitor, knowing you have the chance to ‘win’ by working that little bit harder can be incredibly motivating.
Furthermore, this comparison also doesn't have the potential to be demotivating. This is why it’s important not to set an unrealistic example or parameters – collaborators must know that their feedback is achievable and realistic. They should never feel as though they hold no chance of achieving employee feedback because then you risk demotivating them and leading to disengagement.
Use feedback with next steps to improve employee performance
Employee feedback can become incredibly powerful when combined with ‘next steps’ discussions. This way, feedback doesn’t just sit on the table between you two – it becomes a springboard for future success.
For instance, if an employee has received feedback that they lack confidence in meetings and their feedback shows they know all the steps required to successfully lead a meeting – this is where ‘next steps’ come in.
You can push them to lead a meeting on their own first and then give a return on how they got on. This feedback loop will make your input more impactful as it gives your employee a chance to improve their skills before you give them another one again.
By turning an employee feedback session into a coaching conversation, collaborators and managers can work together to create focused plans that will strengthen employee weaknesses and capitalize upon an employee’s strengths.
Listen to your employees’ feedback
Leaders who consistently ask for feedback are more effective. No-one is perfect, and a strong leader recognizes this. Collaboratorss may feel nervous about giving feedback especially if it is negative. Encourage collaborators to give you feedback by asking questions such as ‘what could I do to help you do your job better’ or ‘is there anything I could be doing better?’ will give collaborators license to share feedback with you.
Employee feedback surveys can be especially useful as they allow collaborators to air their views in a safe setting. However, simply allowing collaborators to give feedback isn’t enough. It’s also vital to show them that you have heard their comments and take them on board. Seeking to find out more about why collaborators have given certain feedback and asking what they would like you to change as a result demonstrates that their views are relevant.
Community panels can gather themselves to give you a global idea. For example, customer feedback could be a usefull tool to learn how you are perceived by unknown persons.
Praise effort, not ability
Praise your collaborators for their effort rather than their ability and they’ll be more likely to build determination and resilience, leading to better performance over the long term. Don’t tell your collaborators that they are great at their jobs - employee feedback like this provides no room for improvement.
Instead, talk for example, about what they did well and how they can do even better next time by providing them with the tools to work out with.
In a number of studies, Carol Dweck found that praising individuals for their natural talent makes them more risk-averse and more likely to be disturbed by setbacks.
Don’t withhold negative feedback
We’ve touched on the benefits of constructive, positive employee feedback a couple of times, but it bears repeating. By withholding negative feedback, you’re not helping anyone except yourself.
Obviously, negative feedback won't always be well-received. Collaborators may take feedback personally or find it especially challenging to work with the comments they have received if their self-esteem is not very high. However, withholding negative feedback will only result in your collaborators struggling further down the line as issues are allowed to go unresolved.
In as much as we all hate delivering negative employee feedback, evidence shows that collaborators want to hear it. And no wonder, well-delivered constructive feedback helps us grow professionally and become better at our jobs.
In order to avoid employee feedback being seen as a personal attack, it should be constructive and actionable. In other words, feedback comes from a place of 'you' instead of 'me'. The focus should be on your expectations, not the person. For example, "the feedback I’m giving you is because I think you can increase your engagement at meetings" rather than "you seem disengaged in meetings."
Repeating employee feedback helps; just alter the delivery slightly to reflect how the employee has improved or changed since the last time.
Employee feedback, one of the best performances quality raters, can certainly become an incredibly powerful management tool. With benefits that range from improved productivity to a stronger workplace culture, it’s one of the most important – and yet simple – management tools for any leader to develop.
When an employee makes a mistake, rather than ignoring it or letting them make the same mistake again, provide feedback. Explain what they did wrong and how to avoid making the same mistake in the future. Ensure your employee feedback is specific - you want to make sure they know exactly why their behavior was incorrect and what they can do to change it.
If you want feedback from your collaborators, ask for it! Rather than assuming what they think of the company culture or management style, ask them directly for feedback on how you can improve. Remember that feedback is a two-way street - while you may have something to say about their work ethic or performance, be open to feedback from your collaborators as well!
Good employee feedback can truly be a positive experience of learning for everyone involved. These benefits range from improved productivity to a more substantial workplace culture, making feedback one of the most simple yet powerful management tools available.
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