Feedback helps employees improve their workplace performance and develop their skill set. This development can help employees not only excel in their current position, but also perform well in future positions, especially if they’re promoted in your workplace.
However, not all feedback is created equal. Managers should think critically about how their feedback is delivered, because otherwise it may be ineffective.
Here are some questions to consider when offering feedback:
1. Giving feedback is a skill
2. When should you offer feedback?
3. What is the goal of your feedback?
4. How to give feedback
Feedback not only makes a huge difference to an employee's job satisfaction, it is essential to employee engagement. Developing the skill of giving effective employee feedback -- and encouraging other managers to develop it as well -- can really change company culture.
Giving feedback is a skill
Not all feedback can be helpful. In fact, certain feedback can damage an employee-manager relationship, like in the following situations:
- When you don’t have enough information
- When you critique what the employee cannot control
- When the situations seems to be dominated by emotions
- When your feedback is based in personal preference over performance
- When you don’t offer any solutions or alternatives
It’s important to understand the external limitations when providing feedback because you may realize that your constructive criticism may not be rooted in the employee at all, but in external factors, such as an employee’s disability or a client’s miscommunication.
Whether there is an ongoing office conflict with co-workers, or amazing employee performance, providing feedback often is a great practice. However, it’s all about the delivery. After you’ve considered the timing, end goal, type of feedback, and whether it’s worthwhile to give at all, you can properly provide effective feedback in an organized way.
When should you offer feedback?
Providing feedback in real time helps create and build a performance-oriented office culture. When an employee gets regular feedback, they know what behavior to change or strengthen before their annual performance review. If not addressed in the moment, the conflict can be brought up in the regular check-ins you should be having with your employee. Your employee might also ask for feedback after a project or during a one-on-one. These check-ins are also a good time for either the employee or the manager to follow-up on feedback, which encourages further honest feedback sessions.
However, be sure to deliver in a timely fashion. Not providing feedback in an adequate amount of time (such as within a week) can easily discourage an employee from requesting—and receiving—feedback in the future. How else will employees understand what they’re doing well, or what mistakes they might inadvertently be making?
What is the goal of your feedback?
Consider the end goal of your feedback. Using specific examples of behavior (rather than simply making a generalization) an employee should improve on or repeat is also important for giving effective feedback. Don't forget, your employee looks specifically to you, their manager, to guide them in the workplace. What employee behavior do you want to bring to light? Is your goal to change the behavior, or encourage it?
In fact, constructive feedback can become a goal the employee can work on. Employee goals can be rooted in productivity, efficiency, education, and personal development, such as in the following situations:
- An employee is often late for meetings, so they set reminders ten minutes before each meeting to arrive early
- An employee is unfamiliar with a new software, so they sign up for an online tutorial or webinar on how to use it
- An employee isn’t as friendly in their interactions with customers as they could be, so they read a book about customer service
How to give effective feedback
If your employee has set certain goals, or knows what accomplishments are expected of them on a regular basis, that can give you context for your feedback. For example, managers can provide insight on how a negative behavior is impacting a team. When providing feedback, explain how an employee’s habit may be impacting you, the team, and/or the overall organization.
If an employee overperforms, it’s also important to let them know with positive feedback. For example:
- If an employee lands another client by a referral from a current client’s satisfaction from their services
- If an employee meets deadlines earlier than they’re expected to
- If an employee creates their own processes for projects in a way that can be shared with the rest of the company
Additionally, avoid an imbalance of feedback. Make sure you aren’t giving too much critical feedback without positive comments on what the employee is doing right and excelling at.
Your praise should be rooted in observations. What is the employee good at? What are their strengths and talents? How do they support other team members? What improvements have they made since starting and/or their last annual review? Also, if a client has commented on a positive interaction with the employee, bring it up. A positive testimonial can be used in favor an employee later down the line, such as when they’re being considered for a bonus or a pay raise.
If negative, be sure to present the feedback in a constructive way. Avoid generalizing their behavior with phrases like “you do X all the time.” Instead, redirect feedback by replacing an undesirable behavior with a new one: “Instead of checking your email at the end of the day, check it at different points of the work day.”
A great opportunity to give an employee feedback is when they complete a project -- whether on their own, or with the team. If they doesn’t receive any type of feedback at all, they may be discouraged from giving another presentation -- but giving them feedback on what they did well and what they could improve on will encourage them to improve and perfect their work for next time.