How to give useful feedback

Recruitment Strategies
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Whether your direct report is an all-star employee, or isn’t on the right track, providing constructive feedback can be tricky. Read on for our top tips on giving feedback that makes an impact.

Feedback – whether it’s positive or negative – is important. It provides your employees with transparency on how they’re doing, helping to develop certain skills and ensure they continue on a positive trajectory.

Despite its importance, managers often find giving constructive feedback difficult. In fact, research from the leadership development consultancy, Zenger/Folkman, reveals that one-fifth of managers (21%) avoid sharing negative feedback. What comes as more of a surprise, however, is that two-fifths of managers (37%) don’t even use positive reinforcement.

It can be an uncomfortable process, being frank with an employee and identifying areas they could improve. But, with the correct tact and right intentions, outcomes can be positive as you help them to reach their full potential – a win for both parties.

We’ve put together our top tips for providing feedback that really has an impact.


Set regular appraisals

Developing a culture where employees receive regular systematic feedback is important. If your business doesn’t already, implement a scheme where all employees receive regular performance appraisals, whether they occur every three, six or 12 months.

Collect feedback from an employee’s colleagues, so you can provide them with a 360 degree view of how they’re doing. By setting regular reviews, your employees will able to refine their skillsets constantly to ensure that their next appraisal is a positive experience, rather than waiting until an intervention is necessary.

The appraisal process is good for employees that are giving feedback too; they’ll get in to the mindset of evaluating their peers, and understanding what they value in their team.

Create a feedback culture

Feedback doesn’t always need to take the formal route of an appraisal. Businesses should invest in a culture that promotes constant feedback, and enables employees to feel valued, and know exactly how they’re performing. In fact, research from PWC revealed that three in five workers want to receive feedback on a daily or weekly basis—which increases to 72% for employees under age 30.

According to David Clift, HR Director of Stepstone UK:

“Feedback can be delivered in numerous ways, and should really be given more frequently than an annual appraisal. Employees value a weekly or monthly catch up with their line manager, whether it’s for half an hour or 15 minutes, so that they can monitor their progress, and voice any concerns they have.”

You can develop this feedback culture even further. For instance, you can ask each employee if they want to share a success they’ve had at the start of each team meeting, and a concern that they have for the week ahead. This encourages your employees to think about their performance, to be congratulated by their peers, and to be more vocal about working conditions and tasks that might affect their performance.


Structure your feedback

According to Zenger/Folkman, 92% of workers believe that negative feedback, if delivered appropriately, is effective at improving performance. But that can be easier said than done.

If you want to give constructive feedback, whether it’s during an appraisal or a catch-up, it’s a good idea to prepare what you are going to say in advance. This will help you to avoid being overly negative and ensure the feedback will be useful to your employee.

Think of specific examples that demonstrates why they need to work on a particular skill – perhaps a project didn’t go as planned, a target was missed, or a presentation was poorly prepared – and how this impacts the rest of the team. Specific examples will provide more concrete evidence of where they’re going wrong, and how they can improve.

David believes the key is to provide balanced feedback:

“Be sure to mention their strengths and successes, but balance these against areas they could develop. Offer solutions to their problems, too, and collaboratively devise a plan that can get them back on track.”

For instance, if they struggle to meet deadlines, encourage them to communicate this with a buddy, so that together you can identify what tasks should be prioritised and which tasks the rest of the team can pick up.”

You need to convey the fact that they’re a valued member of the business, and you want to help them on their way to being an indispensable, all-star employee.”

Set goals and evaluate

To keep your employee on course for success, set goals for them to achieve in specific time frames. Whether it’s to work on improving a relationship with a colleague, bring in a certain amount of business, or take the lead on a particular project, by having goals in place, your employees will have more focus.

Make sure you find the time to sit down and monitor their progress, too. This will give them something to work towards, and encourage them to perform well in their next review.

Have an open conversation

It’s important to remind your employees that giving feedback is a two-way street. Encourage honesty, and create an environment where your employees feel comfortable in explaining how they really feel. If they’ve been missing deadlines recently, they might be stretched by other teams you were previously unaware of. By having an open conversation, you’ll be able to iron out these issues.

While giving constructive feedback isn’t the easiest task to take on, if you prepare your response in advance, get an action plan in place, and evaluate progress logically, you’ll help to get your employee back on track. And, if you create an environment where feedback is given constantly by managers and peers, employees will be able to reach their full potential.


Related Articles:

Honest conversations: How to deal with a tricky employee

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